New-look Titans ready to defend boys basketball title
Nov 29, 2018 12:59PM
● By Josh McFadden
Olympus basketball star Rylan Jones (shown here going in for a layup against Bountiful in the state tournament) returns for his senior season to lead the Titans in defense of their 5A state title. (Photo by Blake Williams.)
By Josh McFadden | firstname.lastname@example.org
The Olympus boys basketball team will have one huge target on its back this season.
The Titans enter the 2018–19 campaign as defending Class 5A state champions. Not only did Olympus capture the 5A crown, but they ran away from it while blowing away the competition.
Olympus went 27-0 last season, outscoring foes 84-27 per game. The team had just one victory by fewer than 10 points: a four-point victory over Bingham early in the season. In the state tournament, the Titans won their four games by at least 27 points.
But this is a new season, and longtime head coach Matt Barnes, who enters his 22nd year at the helm of the Olympus program, knows that.
“Last year was tremendous; it was a lot of fun,” he said. “But we approach this as a whole new year.”
The Titans must replace sharp-shooting Harrison Creer, who averaged 18 points and nearly two three-pointers a game. Jacob Dowdell and Spencer Jones also departed. Those two combined for 19 points a game. For most teams, losing that kind of firepower would indicate a rebuilding year. But most teams don’t have two players like Rylan Jones and Jeremy Dowdell.
The dynamic seniors were both All-State performers last season. Jeremy Dowdell averaged 20.7 points per game and connected on nearly four three-pointers an outing. Jones, who has committed to play at the University of Utah next year, put up some amazing all-around numbers as a junior. Last year, he averaged 18.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 9.9 assists and 2.9 steals per game.
Barnes expects the same type of production out of Jones, if not more so. He also is looking forward to seeing what he does as a leader.
“We need Rylan to step up as a great senior leader,” Barnes said. “He’s going to lead by example and continue to make everyone else around him better.”
Barnes expects some of last year’s less heralded players to make a big impact. Noah Bennee and Jack Hollberg, who were standouts on Olympus’ region championship football team, will settle into more prominent roles this season. Barnes said Bennee, who is very athletic, “adds a good dimension to the team.” Max Calton will hold down the center position, and Caden Kuhn and Zach Alder will see more time on the court this year.
“Our younger players have a great opportunity to step up,” Barnes said.
As the Titans aim for a repeat performance of last year’s title run, Barnes and his players know every opponent will be gunning to take down the defending champs. Olympus also has a challenging schedule that includes a season opener against Pleasant Grove on Nov. 27 as well as games against Sky View and Corner Canyon. Olympus will compete in the Utah Elite 8 tournament Dec. 6–8.
“Repeating is going to be difficult,” Barnes said. “We have a hard schedule. We have a bull’s-eye on our back, and that adds extra motivation for other teams to end our streak. We need to step up, perform and meet the challenge. Expectations are high, but that doesn’t put on extra pressure; the pressure is always there. The kids relish the challenge.”