FAIRBANKS-The Lathrop Malemutes enter their 2015-2016 campaign with a lot of goals. The senior class wants to get out of the first round of the state tournament and reclaim the MAC after losing the regional title for the first time in years to West Valley. They'll aim to that under new head coach Matt Wilken who replaces Hall of Famer Milo Griffin. But Wilken has been in the program a long time.
"A lot of these kids I've been coaching or helping coach since they were in fourth grade and so there's not a lot of transition as far as that goes. They know me. I know them. They know my pet peeves and what I expect of players," Wilken said. He also talked about taking over the program of his alma mater and former coach. He was Griffin's assistant coach the last few seasons.
"There's a lot of great things that Milo did when I played for him and through the years with me helping him and it's just carrying on some of those things. Giving it may be my own particular touch and my own spin on things of course."
The roster is all in the family. The Maiden brothers, Glenn and Garrius and the Wilken boys, Matt's sons, Evan and Mason, are veteran returners. Sharpshooter Jeremiah Handy will look to make an impact as he moves up from JV. Center Kobe Milk aims to make his debut this season after suffering a back injury in the offseason. The floor general for this year's team remains All-Conference point guard Gabriel Howard.
"We were losing some players, some key players from last year, mostly the seniors and then some transfers so I want to keep this program moving and hopefully lead us to state again," Howard said.
Lathrop will start their season with their annual Silent Night game against Eielson-a tribute late Lathrop basketball coach Joe Tremarello. The crowd stays silent until a team scores 10 points.
"Silent Night is something we look forward to of course, it's like, something unique and cool that we're pretty much the only one that does here," fellow team captain and senior forward Evan Wilken said. "For us it's a big deal to get to 10 points first."
Lathrop and Eielson tip-off on Friday night Dec 18 at 6pm on Joe T Court at Lathrop High School.