Eatonville boys begin hoops season with new coach, hopes

Eatonville boys begin hoops season with new coach, hopes

Eatonville boys begin hoops season with new coach, hopes

Basketball season has arrived, and the Eatonville Cruiser boys basketball team will be missing a staple who has roamed the sidelines for the Cruisers for more than 20 years: coach Mark Swartout.

Swartout announced last March that he was stepping down from a program he had guided for 24 years, handing the reins over to T.J. Cotterill.

“I’m incredibly grateful for this opportunity, but you can’t replace people like Mark and Karen Swartout,” Cotterill said. “When I first met with players in April, the common theme was how close many of them were with them. That’s one of the marks of great coaching is the relationships you foster, and that’s been so crucial to our staff over the past eight months — building trust and buy-in.”

Cotterill will try his best to fill Swartout’s big shoes as he takes over a program fresh off a 1A Evergreen Conference title. The Cruisers were the Southwest Washington District runners-up and made their first state tournament since 2004.

Cotterill was an assistant last season for the Fife Trojans girls program and, before that, he was a boys basketball assistant at Puyallup High School from 2019-21.


Filling out the staff

A few former Cruisers will join Cotterill’s staff to help him out this year.

“I love the people we’ve added to our staff,” he said. “Travis Klumpar is our varsity assistant, and he already had a lot of great relationships with the program’s families to go with an outstanding run as a former Eatonville player. He’s a fantastic positive role model to go with his basketball knowledge. We also added Josh Bennett, another former great Eatonville basketball player who brings a ton of passion for basketball and building this program, and Wayne Fulmer has so many ties to the youth programs in the area [he also coaches at the middle school], which seemed like a perfect fit to bring his basketball knowledge and have him able to help take our style of play and skill-development philosophies in the high school program back to our lower levels. That’s one of the themes of programs that compete for state titles year after year is having great alignment with their youth programs. So, it’s a big point of emphasis for us.”

Eatonville will return four of the five starters from last year’s squad. The fifth starting position will be a hole to fill with the graduation of the 1A Evergreen Conference MVP Reilly McIlraith, who led the Cruisers in scoring with 17.1 points per game.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we believe we have eight players who could all score in double figures depending on what the opposing defense is giving us,” Cotterill said. “I don’t know if we’ll see many players more athletic or more skilled than Shay Brannon this year, quicker than Walker Bruun, or stronger than Kyle Cox, but I’ve seen a lot of great players over the past decade of being in locker rooms at the Tacoma Dome. The ones that have gone the farthest in the state tournament are those who can rely on and trust their teammates. The best teams are the ones that can go to anybody, any night. Don’t be surprised if one night is Shay’s night but the next is someone else’s. Most of these guys have played together since they were in the second grade. They have the trust and confidence in each other to be that kind of selfless team.”


Four starters returning

Eatonville’s four returning starters are:


Guard Shay Brannon, 6-foot-5, senior

Last year: 13.6 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.9 steals

• 1A Evergreen Conference first-team all-conference in 2021-22

• 2A South Puget Sound League honorable mention in 2021 spring


Guard Walker Bruun, 5-9, senior.

• 5.6 points, 1.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 2.0 steals


Guard Griffin Clevenger, 5-9, junior

• 3.1 points, 1.7 assists, 1.7 steals


Point guard Kyle Cox, 6-6, senior

• 7.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.9 blocks

• 1A Evergreen Conference second-team all-conference in 2021-22

• 2A South Puget Sound League honorable mention in 2021 spring


One player the Cruisers will miss is senior Jake Wood. Wood averaged 7.5 points and 6.7 rebounds last year for Eatonville and was a 1A Evergreen Conference honorable mention pick in 2021-22. He is out for the season with a knee injury he suffered during the football season.

Top newcomers to the varsity squad that Cotterill feels will contribute are senior Shane Taylor and juniors Hunter Klumpar and Cyrus-Mark Nueva.

The Cruisers will kick off their 2022-23 campaign Saturday when they welcome the Morton-White Pass Wolves for a non-league contest. The game will tip off at 7 p.m.

Along with their regular-season schedule, they will also travel to Ketchikan, Alaska, to play in the annual Clarke-Cochrane Christmas Classic tournament, Dec. 28-Dec. 30.


2022-2023 Season Schedule

• 7 p.m. Dec. 10 vs. Morton-White Pass High School

• 7 p.m. Dec. 12 vs. Rochester High School

• 7 p.m. Dec. 15 vs. Castle Rock High School

• 7 p.m. Dec. 17 vs. Cascade Christian School

• 7 p.m. Dec. 19 at Morton-White Pass High School

• 7 p.m. Dec. 21 vs. Orting High School

• 7 p.m. Jan. 6 vs. Montesano High School

• 5:45 p.m. Jan. 7 at Rainier High School

• 7 p.m. Jan.11 at Tenino High School

• 7 p.m. Jan.13 vs. Hoquiam High School

• 7:30 p.m. Jan.16 at The Northwest School

• 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at Elma High School

• 7 p.m. Jan. 24 at Montesano High School

• 7 p.m. Jan. 26 vs. Tenino High School

• 7 p.m. Jan. 27 at Orting High School

• 7 p.m. Jan. 31 at Hoquiam High School

• 7 p.m. Feb. 2 vs. Elma High School


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