Ready for some Kayhi Kings basketball?

Coach Eric Stockhausen has the roster set and the Kings will play their first game of the 2021-22 season on Thursday in the Doc Larson Roundball Classic tournament at Wasilla High School.

As the season starts, Stockhausen is focused on developing the Kings’ potential with the goal of peaking during the Region V and state championship tournaments in March.

“I like our returning nucleus a lot,” Stockhausen said in a Tuesday interview with the Daily News.

Josh Rhoads and Zach Hanchey are returning seniors on the varsity squad, with Joeben Lorenzo, JJ Parker and Clayton Olstad returning as juniors. Junior Archie Dundas and sophomores Andrew Kleinschmidt, Bubba Williams and Jared Rhoads had varsity and JV playing time last season. Juniors Albrim Zhuta and Jack Zink are moving up to the varsity squad, which also will include senior Kyle Congdon — who played this past season with the Region V 1A champion Thorne Bay High School team — and freshman Marcus Stockhausen.

The Kings’ JV roster comprises Trey Colbert, Jason Lorig, Quinn Hudson, Thomas Teal, Lukas Vest, Jace Booth, Kyler Secrest, Taryn Perez, Pehja Hudson, Jonathan Scoblic and Yeil Bryant-Guthrie.

The coaching staff includes Darryl Simons, Dennis Parker and Amos Hudson. The manager is Simon King.

Nine members of the Kayhi varsity are traveling to Wasilla for the Doc Larson tournament, said Stockhausen. The Kings will have three games over three days, starting with a matchup with Colony High School at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, followed by contests with Bartlett High School at 4:30 p.m. Friday, and Wasilla High School at 7 p.m. Saturday.

“It’ll be great, ” Stockhausen said. “These are three top programs — Colony and Wasilla specifically — that have been highly successful at the region, the state level, for the last decade.”

The tournament provides Kayhi with a chance to play traditionally strong teams with a fresh look very early in the season.

“We haven't played anybody we don't know in a long time in a game that matters,” he said. “So when you know the level going in, you're ready for it. Well, we don't know exactly what these other teams have for athletes. We don't know what new schemes they may be doing. So the learning curve is going to be very large.”

The learning curve — working on improvement week to week — is important facet of a Kayhi program that develops differently season to season, based upon the makeup of the squad in a given season.

Programs like Colony and Wasilla have some top-to-bottom programmatic things they do every year and thus will be further along  earlier in a given season, according to Stockhausen.

“And that's where a program like ours, that takes what we have and then adjusts to what we have, we really don't start hitting stride until February and March,” he said “And that's always the goal — is play your best ball in March.”

He pointed to the upcoming game against 2021 state champions East Anchorage High School on Jan. 12 as the type of quality opponent he likes to schedule early in a season as a measure of Kayhi’s progress. He noted that Kayhi had played East early during the Kings’ state championship season of 2019 — and lost to East by 12 points and 35 points in one January week.

Coming out of that experience, “we knew what we had to do, because they were the best, and falling down in January helped us get up by March.”  

Considering the current Kayhi roster and its substantial number of returning players, Stockhausen said the team’s strengths are obvious, and there’s a lot of room for growth.

‘We're bringing a lot of carry over, but there are some little things that got lost over the last nine months that are going to take a while to pick back up,” Stockhausen said. “We want our identity to be one of a solid defensive team. And right now we're not all on the same page — but no team is, two weeks in.”

So, the Doc Larson tournament will be a great first test to see how Kayhi compares to some of Alaska’s other quality basketball programs, and a lesson in what work needs to be done to improve.

“It’s all about the process for us,” Stockhausen said. “ So we could win all three games (this week) and we could lose all three games and none of that truly matters. It's what we do in response to how we played.

“... Sometimes success can lead to complacency,” he continued. “So it doesn’t matter, the keeping score. You want to win, but it has nothing to do with your end goals — and that's to be in the state tournament, trying to win a championship. It's all part of the process.”

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Kayhi notes: The 2021 Clarke Cochrane Christmas Classic is scheduled for Dec. 28-30 at the Ketchikan High School’s Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.

The boys bracket includes Kayhi, Metlakatla, Unalakleet, Hydaburg, Petersburg, Hutchison and Wilsonville (Oregon). The girls bracket includes Ketchikan Varsity, Ketchikan JV, Metlakatla, Homer, Palmer, Valdez, Petersburg, and Hutchison.