New coach, new system, same expectations

New Ferndale head coach Jason Owens has implemented a new, faster-paced offense

By Kevin Doucette
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Ferndale senior Austin Honeycutt plays defense against a teammate during a recent practice. Honeycutt was one of the Northwest Conference’s top scorers last year, averaging nearly 20 points a game. Although Honeycutt hasn’t had a breakout game in the new style of offense, he will certainly be a high-impact player this season again for the Golden Eagles. (Kevin Doucette/Ferndale Record)

Ferndale senior Austin Honeycutt plays defense against a teammate during a recent practice. Honeycutt was one of the Northwest Conference’s top scorers last year, averaging nearly 20 points a game. Although Honeycutt hasn’t had a breakout game in the new style of offense, he will certainly be a high-impact player this season again for the Golden Eagles. (Kevin Doucette/Ferndale Record)

FERNDALE — If you have watched or listened to any of Ferndale’s first four non-conference games, or even just been to a single practice, it’s clear the 2015-16 Golden Eagles boys basketball team is very different from last year.
After last season’s head coach, Monte Walton, parted ways with the Golden Eagles, Ferndale hired Jason Owens. Owens was Ferndale’s C-team coach for the last four seasons and has been involved with basketball in Whatcom County for more than 20 years.
Walton’s system was a slower-paced offense centered around two of the Northwest Conference’s top post players; John Weg and Austin Honeycutt. Weg and Honeycutt are now seniors and learning a much different system.
“Keep the ball moving,” Owens said several times to his players during a Monday practice. “If you count in your head to one and you still have the ball, you are doing something wrong.”
While Honeycutt and Weg are still the heart of the Golden Eagle offense, speedy junior guards Sky Freeman, Riley Hunt and Dane Larson will be key for the new-look offense to be successful.
Larson was sidelined last season due to injury, but Owens said he will be a player to look out for this season. Like Honeycutt, Freeman is a familiar name to Ferndale sports fans. Freeman was major part of the Golden Eagles’ strong secondary in football this season, and his quickness will be an impact on the court this year as well.
Freeman has been one of the top scorers for Golden Eagles basketball through the first four non-conference games. Honeycutt, an NWC first-team selection a year ago averaging nearly 20 points a game and likely an early frontrunner for NWC MVP, has yet to have a breakout game, but Owens said his time will come.
“Austin and I have talked a lot and he understands his scoring doesn’t always mean wins,” Owens said of his 6-4 star senior. “He has sacrificed a lot, but it’s not a bad thing. It is for the team, and he will have a breakout game. He is a great player.”
Owens’ new system will also prevent opposing teams from keying in on Honeycutt and force them to focus on the whole team, because of the speed of play.
The Golden Eagles are 2-2 in non-conference play to start the season and they beat Sedro-Woolley 58-48 Tuesday. They were coming off a 16-point loss to Lynden Friday.
In their first game of the season, the Golden Eagles lost by six to Burlington-Edison, but shot only 28 percent from the floor. In their loss to Lynden, they had one bad quarter. Owens said his team and been right there in every game and he expects to have another strong season.
“They like this new style,” Owens said. “They are committed to it and they are putting in the effort.”
The Golden Eagles will travel to Anacortes Friday for their second straight away conference game and final conference game of 2015. The Golden Eagles will open up 2016 with three straight conference home games beginning Monday, Jan. 4, against Squalicum.
Ferndale finished 8-4 in league last season and qualified for the postseason where they went 1-2. Owens said he knows this team has the ability to go far this season.
“Come January, I expect us to be playing at a high level,” Owens said. “We are very capable of making a run this year. It all depends how well we can mesh together. The 3A teams do not look as strong this year and we have a great opportunity.”