Dick’s Nationals Preview: Rainier Beach

With Louisville commit Shaqquan Aaron and three other starters back, Rainier Beach could make a run at a top 10 FAB 50 ranking after finishing at No. 43 last year.

Louisville commit Shaqquan Aaron isn’t the only wing on the Rainier Beach (Seattle) roster who can run, defend, and score. The Vikings hope their up-tempo style will lead to a quality showing in New York.

We take an in-depth look at all eight teams competing at the 2014 Dick’s Nationals in New York and continue our series with sentimental favorite Rainier Beach of Seattle, the only public school participating in the event.

Related: Dick’s Nationals Team & Individual Records | No. 1 Seed Montverde Academy | No. 3 Seed Northside Christian Academy | No. 4 Seed Huntington-St. Joseph Prep | No. 5 Seed La Lumiere | No. 6 Seed Oak Hill Academy | No. 7 Seed Findlay Prep | No. 8 Seed The Sagemont School | Dick’s Nationals Field Set

Team: No. 2 seed Rainier Beach (Seattle)
Record, FAB 50 Rank: 29-0, No. 2 (No. 1 West Region)
Head Coach: Mike Bethea (459-105)
Key Players: Shaqquan Aaron (6-7, Sr., G/Louisville), David Crisp (6-0, Sr., G/Washington), Elijah Foster (6-6, Sr., F), De’Jounte Murray (6-5, Jr., G), Dujaun Piper (6-6, Sr., F)
Dick’s Nationals History: This will be Rainer Beach’s first appearance and it will be the only public school in the field. The WIAA granted the Vikings a waiver to compete. “I’m pleasantly surprised from all the support we got from the school district,” coach Mike Bethea said. “There is no question about it, all the support we also got from the community helped make it happen. It was a surreal moment.”

Road To Dick’s Nationals: The Les Schwab Invitational in Oregon is where the Vikings served noticed they were legitimate FAB 50 national title contenders. It’s pretty safe to say if they did not participate, and dominate, at that tournament, they wouldn’t be going to New York. Rainier Beach handed FAB 50 No. 24 Jefferson (Portland, Ore.) its only loss of the season with a 90-72 quarterfinal win. In the semifinals, the Vikings got past No. 5 Whitney Young (Chicago) 89-80 and in the championship game, Rainier Beach was hitting on all cylinders as it routed No. 14 Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) 95-67. All three of those clubs went on to win state titles and many veteran observers whose opinions we trust were really impressed with Bethea’s club. Some of those same evaluators were not overly impressed with Beach in its 65-60 win at the Hoophall Classic over a battle-tested Bishop O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) club that spent some time in the FAB 50. Needing to win the WIAA Class 3A state tournament in order to clinch a spot in the Dick’s Nationals, the Vikings defeated Eastside Catholic (Sammamish, Wash) 47-45 in the title game. Dujaun Piper clinched the state title on a 8-foot jumper with 5.1 seconds remaining.

Inside Scoop: The Vikings sometimes look like world-beaters — and other times look average. Coach Bethea is confident his club will rise to the level of competition it will potentially face at the Dick’s Nationals. “When you play the same team over and over, and you’re winning games by 30-40 points, that will happen sometimes. The kids are really looking forward to the trip and they got a bit of a chip on their shoulder.” Before the Vikings overanalyze what Findlay Prep or any other team is capable of, Bethea wants to make sure they are playing their brand of basketball. Beach scores approximately 97 points per game and it wants to play at that tempo in New York. In order to do that, the Vikings have to rebound the basketball and take advantage of their ability on the wings. “I think teams are surprised by how well we defend and how quick we are up and down the court,” Bethea said. “Plus, on offense we got 6-foot-7 guys that can play point guard.” The catalyst on defense is Piper, who Bethea says will draw the assignment on the opposition’s toughest check — whether he’s 5-foot-9 or 6-foot-9. “He’s a shutdown defender.”

Versus Findlay Prep: Rainier Beach’s opponent is about as talented as any team in the country sans No. 1 seed Montverde Academy. If Findlay Prep’s players are all on the same page, Rainier Beach will have to play like it did against Bishop Gorman in order to win. David Crisp (21.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 4.0 apg) burst onto the scene with 33 points versus Bishop Gorman and 29 versus Whitney Young, so look out for his stat line for an indication of how this game will flow. De’Jounte Murray (18 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 8.0 apg) has a 6-foot-9 wingspan and if he has a solid rebounding game and can cause problems on the defensive end against either Findlay Prep’s Kelly Oubre or Rashad Vaughn (whomever Piper isn’t guarding), Rainier Beach has got to like it chances. The key inside will be the play of Elijah Foster because Rainier Beach doesn’t have a true big man and that’s an area Findlay Prep will attempt to exploit. Foster does all the dirty work, so he must avoid foul trouble. Shaqquan Aaron (21.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 7.5 apg) is Beach’s best overall player and is a tough check because of his length, shooting touch and scoring ability. If Aaron facilitates for teammates when he draws extra defensive attention, Rainier Beach will be in good shape. Aaron’s ability will create an advantage somewhere on the perimeter, it will just be a matter of finding the correct spots. Bethea understands what type of teams he’s going up against, “I’d be fooling myself if I wasn’t worried.” On that note, he hopes a silver lining to this event will give his team an advantage. “With Nate Robinson and Jamal Crawford playing for the Knicks, we’re hoping to be the sentimental favorites,” Bethea said. “If would help us to feed off the crowd.”

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Filed under boys basketball event, team rankings

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