Dec 25, 2013
The Raleigh Sanderson Spartans bring a bit of history with them on the hardwood as they make their 19th all-time appearance in the HighSchoolOT.com Holiday Invitational but their first since 2003.
The Spartans competed in the field every year from the inaugural 1972 tournament through 1980 and returned to play in 1982, 1983 and 1984. The team also made the field in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2002 and 2003.
The Spartans have finished third in their bracket three times in history and have a 14-35 overall record in invitational play. Head Coach Mike Shaw thinks this year’s Sanderson team has a chance to improve that all-time mark.
“I think we’re as good as anyone in our area,” Shaw said. “We take it as a challenge and a great opportunity for our team to be on the big stage with these nationally-ranked kids. We’re not going to be intimidated by them.”
While Shaw’s squad has not enjoyed a high level of basketball success in recent years, senior experience is the key difference between the 2013 Spartans and other Sanderson teams of the past, according to the coach.
“I’ve got guys who have played together forever,” Shaw said. “I have 11 seniors, and of those 11 seniors, six of them go all the way back to middle school. We have really good chemistry and these kids know each other well.”
On the court, Sanderson is led by 6-foot-6, 185-pound small forward Parker Fennema. An Army recruit, Fennema has started on the Spartans’ varsity team since he was a freshman. This year, he is the team’s leading scorer and leading rebounder.
“He’s a very special player because he is very smart,” Shaw said of Fennema. “He picks up things quickly and has an extremely high basketball IQ.”
The Spartans are also led by seniors Will Judy, Ellis Oakley and 6-foot-7 forward Hunter Kuehn. All three players have been on the varsity team since their sophomore years.
“We are going to come out and play to our strengths,” Shaw said. “We have improved and experienced guard play on our team, and we will rely on our experience to surprise some teams.”
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