The Eagles, the two-time defending Class 4A state champs, are as good as ever: Ranked No. 1 and running their win streak to 56 games.
Federal Way’s boys basketball team could sing you a ditty about success.
It would start softly with senior guard Rashon Slaughter providing the a cappella intro. Teammate Malcolm Cola, a 6-foot-7 post, would provide the bass and point guard Marcus Stephens would provide backup to harmonize the beat.
“Instead of The Jackson 5, we’re The Jackson 12,” said Slaughter, providing a quick sample of how he and his teammates sing — not rap — their conversations. “We could probably be a choir. I should be the leader, but we can all handle a few notes.”
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They’re not ready to record, but the way they effortlessly blend their personalities and style is just as rhythmic and unexpected on the court.
The team is on a 56-game win streak and has surpassed 100 points four times this season, which is more than the past three combined. Federal Way (13-0, 9-0 North Puget Sound League) hosts Olympic Division rival Auburn (9-6, 5-4) on Friday.
“We’re not setting the world on fire,” coach Jerome Collins said to temper impressions. “They ran extra (last week) because I wasn’t happy with the way we were performing. … We coach our guys like they have a job to do and do your job. It’s easy to develop poor habits, so we’re not coaching the opponent, your eye is on the prize. You know what it takes to win at that level and we hold your guys accountable to that standard all season long. You can’t deviate from that from the process of it.”
Naturally the prize is another state championship. But not just the one given out in March, all of the ones after that, too. The Eagles are greedy like that, intentionally forming a 12-player rotation to give everyone experience at various roles.
True, Federal Way graduated stars Jalen McDaniels, who plays at San Diego State, Christian Jones, who’s on the University of Washington’s baseball team and Washington State footballer D’Jimon Jones. But, the Eagles returned Stephens to the starting lineup. Cola is completely healthy after a suffering a knee injury last season, playing in the postseason at about 70 percent. And Slaughter transferred back after playing for Decatur the past two years.
“Coming back, it was like, ‘Hey, cousin!’” said Slaughter, who averages 18 points. “We automatically vibe. Also we’re seniors and are trying to just compete and win.”
Said Cola: “There are a lot of people, students, fans who will talk about us saying we’re great or not as good as we think. We tend to not listen to it. We know who we are as a team and we’re going to go out and just do it.”
The trio are the team’s leading scorers, Cola topping the list, averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks per game. Aside from scoring, the seniors have an elongated wingspan Collins praises in practice to get the team to understand how to manipulate their build or shortcomings to be successful.
“If you’re long and don’t use your length, you’re crazy,” he said at practice last week while working through defensive drills for when an opponent is in-bounding the ball.
Afterward, Cola’s face beamed when talking about how his long arms and skinny stature made him give up football to focus on basketball as a youth.
“The defensive end is my favorite,” he said. “It translates to offense all the time and gets everybody excited.”
Collins agreed, but was skeptical his players singing about it would get the same reviews.
“We’ll stick to basketball,” he said.