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By Andrew McClain If you happened to be standing outside of Sam Carver Gymnasium on Saturday, Oct. 20 at around 2 p.m., you might have noticed some distinctive sounds implying that men’s basketball is on its way back to the court. The screech of shoes grabbing at hardwood, shouts to communicate defensive assignments and the telltale “thump-thump” of a basketball being dribbled up the court were all in evidence as the men’s basketball team took to the court for their annual Blue-White scrimmage. In the case of a regular season game, the most important aspect of the story is which team won, and why. However, in a pre-season intra-squad scrimmage, those details take a back seat. That’s not because it doesn’t matter who won. It’s because “winning” isn’t the point of the Blue-White scrimmage.

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Western Washington University men's basketball player Siaan Rojas shoots a free throw at the Blue-White scrimmage on Oct. 20, 2018 at Carver Gym. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin
Or rather, the point is to show the school that the entire program is winning together. The fact that a single basketball program is able to field two teams that put on as competitive a show as they did in Saturday’s game is a sure sign that their program is on the right track. Their passing was crisp and occasionally inventive, like one particular play seen early in the first half. Senior co-captain Siaan Rojas drove to the rim to draw the defense towards him, then kicked a behind-the-back pass to the open player at the free throw line. The play didn’t result in points for the Blue squad, but it did result in a quality chance for points. This early in the season, that’s already reason to celebrate. Assistant Coach Atitavo Jude, who acted as co-head coach for Blue squad during the scrimmage, seemed to agree. “Good idea. Good effort,” Jude could be heard saying from the sideline while clapping his hands after the play. Flashes of the Vikings’ defense looked solid as well. Being an exhibition game, the atmosphere was more relaxed, but there were sparks of intensity that showed the Vikings’ potential to be a defensive force in the coming season.
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Western Washington University men's basketball player Siaan Rojas passes the ball at the Blue-White scrimmage on Oct. 20, 2018 at Carver Gym. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin
The Vikings help defense on pick and rolls and their ability to switch assignments on the fly to cover open players looked smooth. It takes good communication to help facilitate those kinds of defensive efforts, and it was on full display during the scrimmage. The scariest part of their game, though, looks to be their transition offense. Someone should probably check their shoes for wings, because these boys can fly. Between rim-rattling dunks, circus layups and stop-on-a-dime pull up jumpers, both squads combined to score 17 points on fastbreak opportunities. There were even several chances for more fast break points that saw shots missed or defensive efforts stymie the attempts. According to redshirt freshman D’Angelo Minnis, who hit an eye-popping six of 11 from behind the arc, transition play is something the team enjoys. “We love to get out and run,” Minnis said. He also credited his teammates with doing the pre-season work necessary to be properly conditioned for that style of play. It takes a lot of energy to run the length of a basketball court for 30 or more minutes a night, especially for big players like senior redshirt and seven-footer, Logan Schilder. Schilder showed impressive mobility. The senior redshirt hustled to close out on perimeter shooters without hesitation and made smart decisions in the paint on his box out assignments instead of relying solely on his height to rack up his game-leading 14 rebounds. That performance on the boards, along with an efficient shooting effort, saw Schilder end the game with a double-double as he added 18 points to the scoreboard as well. Another redshirt, junior Leif Anderson, racked up 18 points from deep on .600 shooting efficiency. Anderson also set up shop at the free throw line, hitting 7 out of 8 free throws to lead all scorers with 27 points at the end of the game. In the end it was the Blue squad that took the win, coming out on top with a final score of 102-96. The difference maker appeared to be three-point shooting percentage. Both teams shot from distance in volume, taking more than 30 three-points attempts, but the Blue squad hit a blistering 51.4 percent compared to White squad’s 33.3 percent from behind the arc. Rojas said performances like the ones they got from their redshirts has him excited for the future of the program. Rojas, who scored 17 points and was one rebound shy of notching his own double-double, acknowledged that there will certainly be growing pains throughout the season. Regardless, Rojas projected confidence in his team’s ability to overcome any obstacle they might encounter. “We just have to stay together and stay positive,” Rojas said. The Vikings have three more exhibition games before the start of the regular season. They’ll play their first game away against California State University. Tip-off will be at 5:30 p.m. on Friday Nov. 9 in La Jolla, California at the Rimac Arena.


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