MEAD — Walker Korell is a crowd pleaser.
It's not vanity, either. Korell simply understands how a raucous student section can impact a game. And nothing sent the Mead High student section into a frenzy more often last season than Korell launching a high-arching deep ball in a close rivalry game.
For his encore performance as a senior this season, Korell has a new kind of air show planned. Hopefully this year, it won't just be the ball soaring towards the rim. Korell himself, all 6-foot-4 of him, expects to be playing above the rim as often as possible.
"Last year I settled for a lot of threes," Korell said. "That was fine and that helped us at times. But what a lot of coaches have told me is that I can help more by attacking the rim. I hit the weight room, increased my vertical and my durability. They want me to be aggressive and my coaches are telling me to dunk the ball whenever I get the chance."
Korell had a handful of dunks last season but he mainly played the role of outside shooter, hitting a team-high 45 3-pointers as a junior guard. He shot 43 percent from behind the arc, which was ninth best in Class 4A. Korell was also second on the team in scoring, averaging 14.6 points per game, and returns as this year's expected scoring leader.
His play has already drawn attention from several Division-II college programs, including multiple teams in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, and Korell made a real effort this offseason to be more explosive as a senior. Apart from getting more looks, Korell is focused on his team's goals in 2015-16.
"Everybody's hungry to win this year so practice has been great so far," Korell said. "We've set some pretty high goals this year like winning conference and make a run in the playoffs and we're ready to work for it."
Speaking of playoffs, the Mavericks weren't in them last year. They felt they deserved to be.
Despite compiling a 15-8 record and finishing third in the Tri-Valley League, Mead was perhaps the most controversial bubble team that went unselected for the 4A state tournament bracket. Three teams the Mavericks defeated during the regular season made the tournament ahead of them. Missing out on the tournament after reaching the Sweet 16 in 2013-14 left a bitter taste in the Mavericks' mouths that has lingered to this day.
"We have talked about it a lot," Mavericks head coach Darin Reese said. "But we put ourselves in that spot by dropping a couple games that we probably shouldn't have. We all believed that we were good enough to be in that 32. It's been a huge motivating factor and it's shown in the gym and in the weight room this season. We don't want to have to that feeling again."
The Mavericks will open the season on Tuesday against Longmont-area rival Silver Creek.