From left to right, Nitika Kumar, Joelle Buck, Sela Heide and Jenae Usselman. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

From left to right, Nitika Kumar, Joelle Buck, Sela Heide and Jenae Usselman. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Heaps of height, team togetherness on the hardwood

Mount Si girls aim to reach league playoffs.

Getting players to believe they can be successful.

That’s one of the things that Mount Si girls head coach Jason Marr is bringing to the hardwood as the Wildcats tip off their basketball season.

The second-year head coach wants the players to build off what they experienced last year and take that next step to achieve improvement and grasp a 4A KingCo playoff spot. That’s the team’s common goal as they set forth into preseason action, focused on playing together to win throughout the whole journey.

“It’s about building trust with the kids, it’s about building good habits on how to win. So last year was kind of paving the way. We’ve been working hard for the last year or so,” said Marr, who was the fourth coach in five years when he entered the Mount Si hoops scene last season. He and the girls have been working on creating consistency and changing the culture since then and are ready to get back into the fray.

Although the Wildcats finished 6-14 last year, Marr said they were competitive and lost four to five games either on a last-second shot or within eight points.

Leading the way this season will be captains Jenae Usselman, Nitika Kumar and Izzy Smith along with a plethora of solid players like Sela Heide, Joelle Buck, Gwen Aasland and more.

Senior Usselman begins her fourth season on varsity and will showcase her athleticism, Marr said of the district-champion javelin thrower and state qualifier. According to Marr, junior point guard Kumar handles the ball well, junior 6-foot-8 post Heide will create mismatches and should have a stellar year and junior forward Buck is also a good ball-handler and shooter.

Kumar said the team is more experienced this season and she’d like to help the unit become more structured and mold the Wildcats into a playoff-caliber squad.

“Feed Your Destiny” is the boys and girls’ rallying cry to reach their goals.

“I think it really symbolizes just not to look at our past — I think by feeding our destiny we’ll be able to do a lot better,” she said.

Heide, who has been getting some attention from NCAA Division I colleges, likes what she sees on the court and enjoys being in the gym with her teammates.

“This year, we have a lot of length, which is great, and we are planning on using that to our advantage. Lately it’s just been about building our team chemistry a lot, so that’s just been getting stronger,” she said.

Usselman is also excited about the team’s height — there’s five girls 6 feet or above — and what the Wildcats can achieve this season. She’s spent the fall working out with both the basketball and track and field squads, but now it’s “full-force” hoops. It’s been a lot of running, she said with a laugh, but she and her teammates are ready to roll.

“I would say my role on the team is really to get everyone working together and become a family,” said guard Usselman, adding that every Wildcat player is crucial in helping the squad reach its goals.

Mount Si beat Interlake, 52-26, to begin its season on Nov. 30 and Heide led the squad with 19 points and nine rebounds. Kumar had eight points and four steals and the team created 34 turnovers on 23 steals.

Mount Si girls schedule

Dec. 3 at Monroe, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 5 REDMOND, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 7 MERCER ISLAND, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 11 at Eastlake, 6:30 p.m.

Dec. 14 at Newport, 7 p.m.

Dec. 15 ISSAQUAH, 7:15 p.m.

Dec. 19-22 Phoenix Tournament

Jan. 4 at Woodinville, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 5 SKYLINE, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 9 BOTHELL, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 11 EASTLAKE, 6:30 P.M.

Jan. 12 INGLEMOOR, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 16 NEWPORT, 7:15 p.m.

Jan. 18 at Skyline, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 25 at Issaquah, 6:30 p.m.

Jan. 29 at North Creek, 6:30 p.m.

Molly Wilbourne controls the ball while Joelle Buck defends during practice. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Molly Wilbourne controls the ball while Joelle Buck defends during practice. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Head coach Jason Marr gives instruction during a recent practice. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Head coach Jason Marr gives instruction during a recent practice. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

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