New Plymouth High School
Conference: 2A Western Idaho Conference
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Head Coach: Mark Van Weerdhuizen
Years as Head Coach: 9th Season
Record Last Year: 6-17
State Titles: 1993 - Greatest Championship Team Ever.
Cody Fernley (Sr)
Riley Harris (Sr)
Lah Say (Sr)
Connor Buck (Sr)
Caleb Johnston (Sr)
Trey Lavender (Sr)
Levi Nesbitt (Sr)
Returning Players with Honors:
Harris (2nd-Team All-Western Idaho Conference); Fernley (Honorable Mention All-Western Idaho Conference)
Key Players lost from last year:
Clayton King, leading rebounder/best post defender
Written by: Will Hoenike
Last season was uncharacteristically flat on the basketball court for the New Plymouth Pilgrims. After practically putting the state tournament on its annual schedule – New Plymouth qualified for state 12 times in 13 seasons from 2001 to 2013 – the Pilgrims missed state for the third consecutive season in 2015-16 after going just 6-17.
After seeing its football team reach the quarterfinals this past fall, undoubtedly the fans in New Plymouth are anxious to see their team return to the top of the Western Idaho Conference standings.
Ninth-year head coach Mark Van Weerdhuizen sees some interesting pieces on his team and anticipates a rebound this season.
“We have a lot of returners and some guys I have coached for three years,” Van Weerdhuizen told the Preview. “We still have a lot of room to grow, but I saw great strides from players in how they conducted themselves in their respective fall sports.”
The team will have to replace departed senior Clayton King, the team’s leading rebounder and top post defender last season. But the Pilgrims do return a solid backcourt and wings with players like Cody Fernley, Riley Harris, Lah Say and Caleb Johnston.
Fernley is coming off a dynamic football season and Van Weerdhuizen sees him as a potential break-out player on the hardwood. Harris, the last of the Harris brothers to come through New Plymouth, is back for his senior season and has shown good shooting ability. Johnston is a good wing defender and Say, the former refugee, has found a home in New Plymouth and shown a penchant for pressuring the basketball defensively.
Van Weerdhuizen says there are opportunities for new faces to earn playing time but the nucleus remains with his seniors. Beyond the group listed above, Connor Buck, Trey Lavender and Levi Nesbitt also return for their senior seasons.
“We need to take care of the ball and be consistent on offense,” Van Weerdhuizen said.
One area that is critical for growth in New Plymouth is the post. The team struggled last season scoring inside and rebounding.
“We were really small last year and really struggled getting points in the paint,” Van Weerdhuizen explained. “We need to do a better job of that this year. (Also) need to do a better job on the defensive glass. A good defensive possession is negated when the opposition gets a putback.”
The Pilgrims will take an early-season road trip to eastern Idaho, facing Firth and Shelley in non-conference play, before setting in to WIC play. Rival Melba is a team to watch in the WIC and Cole Valley Christian returns a strong core of players, but Van Weerdhuisen warns fans not to sleep on anyone in the conference.