Wakefield’s Dominique Tham, left, blocks a shot against Mount Vernon last season.
Connection File Photo
Ask Tony Bentley whether this year’s Wakefield boys’ basketball team will look similar to the successful Warrior squads of the last two seasons and the head coach will mention four graduated seniors who cannot be replaced.
Ask Bentley about star forward Dominique Tham and the coach will say last season’s 5A North region Player of the Year will need to learn how to become a senior leader. Bentley also mentions that Tham will have less talent around him than he had each of the last two seasons.
As the conversation continues, however, it becomes clear that while Wakefield might have a different look on the court, the Warriors have the potential to make a run at a third consecutive state tournament appearance.
Wakefield’s success starts with Tham, a 6-foot-4 force at both ends of the floor. The senior enters the 2014-15 season with 812 career points. He can dominate in the paint, as well as step out and knock down mid-range jumpers. On defense, Tham has blocked 215 shots, using his long arms to wreak havoc on opposing shooters.
Tham showed how dominant he can be during a game against Mount Vernon late in the 2013-14 season, when he scored 31 points, grabbed 23 rebounds and blocked eight shots.
“There’s everybody [else], and then Tham,” Mount Vernon head coach John Wiley said after the game. “He had a heck of a game. Our game plan was to put a body on him because we know he roams from elbow to elbow and camps out in the paint, it just didn’t work.”
Bentley said Tham needs to improve his leadership skills.
“He’s going to have to be more of a leader,” Bentley said. “Domo was the junior last year and [his teammates] were seniors. Even though it was Dominique’s team, those seniors were the leaders. He’s going to have to learn how to be a leader.”
Bentley said the Warriors will have an answer if opponents focus on shutting down Tham.
“We saw a lot of junk defenses late in [last season’s region championship] run,” Bentley said. “... We’ve got some other guys, so if you want to double team Dominique Tham, you’re going to leave Marqua Walton open for a [3-pointer]. Pick your poison.”
Walton, a 6-foot-1 guard, returns for his senior season and is one of the team’s top perimeter shooters. Bentley said Walton’s size, strength and confidence have improved as a result of playing receiver for the school’s football team, which produced a historic 2014 season, including its first winning record since 1983 and first-ever playoff victory.
Xavier Cooper, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, enters his third season on the varsity.
“I’m looking for some good things out of him on the boards,” Bentley said.
Deng Nhial, a 6-foot-3 junior forward, missed more than 10 games with a broken wrist last season. Bentley said Nhial, had a great summer and is the “most athletic kid in the program.”
For the second consecutive season, Wakefield will have a transfer starting at point guard. Last year, it was senior Kyle Davis, a former Washington-Lee guard who was a pass-first director of the offense. This year, sophomore Alan Treakle, a transfer from West Potomac, will start for Wakefield. Bentley said the 5-foot-8 Treakle can score as well as distribute the basketball.
Senior guard Jordan Allen, who spent most of last season on the bench, has the chance to be another perimeter sharpshooter for the Warriors.
Wakefield will open the season with a road game against T.C. Williams at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 5. The teams will wear throwback uniforms for their annual Parker-Gray/Hoffman-Boston contest.
Wakefield’s first home game is Dec. 12 against Stuart.
Bentley said he figures to receive each opponent’s best effort as Wakefield tries to win its third consecutive conference/district championship and reach the state tournament for the third straight season.
“There is definitely a target on our back,” Bentley said.” ... We can’t take any plays off.”