As the 2017-2018 high school basketball season reaches its climatic end with state tournament play in Tacoma, Yakima and Spokane this week, prep teams will be looking for that intangible advantage that might push them past an evenly-matched opponent. Sometimes all it takes is one moment, one play that sparks a squad, captures a game’s momentum and makes the difference between winning and losing.
And often that moment is a slam dunk.
While the athleticism of high school players has increased over time, seeing a high-schooler dunk during a game is still somewhat of a rarity – which makes the impact of the shot that much more significant.
This season, Mountlake Terrace Hawk senior Khyree Armstead has played to make that type of an impact. The 6-foot-4 forward has shown the ability to get above the rim, stuff the ball through and send his Hawk teammates and fans into a frenzy.
“It just hypes everybody up because fans aren’t used to seeing it,” Armstead said. “The more you can dunk, the more you can get the atmosphere going. That can turn a game around.”
Armstead has attempted (and made) a dunk in nearly every Terrace game this season and has no plans on hesitating when given the opportunity to dunk as the Hawks take to the floor of the Yakima SunDome starting on Wednesday, Feb. 28, for the WIAA 2A Boys Hardwood Classic.
Terrace Coach Nalin Sood recognizes the impact a slam dunk makes on players and fans, but also puts the shot into perspective when it comes to the scoreboard.
“For a coach, it’s two points,” Sood calibrated. “For the kids and the fans, it’s about four to six points. That’s pretty obvious.”
While a slam dunk is worth no more points that a lay-in or short-range jump shot, Sood doesn’t slow down Armstead from attempting the feat. Sood smiles and calls it “a high-percentage shot” – and even if Armstead fails to convert a slam attempt, Sood still sees it as the outward sign of the inward attitude he wants his senior to play with during games.
“I’m not going to argue with the aggressiveness and that mentality in going up and doing that,” Sood explained. “You want the two points as a coach, but more than anything I can’t teach aggressiveness and that’s the mindset of some of the kids – and Khyree especially.”
Sood also called Armstead’s ability to elevate and dunk during games the result of the senior’s work ethic throughout his high school career.
“It’s a credit to how hard he’s worked; he’s put it the time,” Sood stated. “His body has matured over four years, as any kid; but he’s put in the time to increase his hops to become a better athlete. So it’s a credit to him.”
After developing the athletic skills necessary to reach above the 10-foot rim with a ball 29.5 inches in circumference – and getting the green light from his coach to pursue the shot when available – Armstead hopes to continue to slam dunk and affect games during this, his final week of high school basketball.
“I just want to dunk the ball every time. It gets me hyped up; it gets my teammates hyped up,” Armstead said.
The Mountlake Terrace Hawks take on the Liberty Patriots in a WIAA 2A State Boys Basketball Tournament loser-out game on Wednesday, Feb. 28, at 7:15 p.m. at the SunDome in Yakima. To view the entire 2A state boys tourney bracket, click www.wescoathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2476&sport_id=3.
–By Doug Petrowski