Prep boys' basketball: Koelliker provides steadying force for Davis

Koelliker is Darts' leading rebounder this season.
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Kaysville • It was quiet in the gym at Davis High, save for the basketballs bouncing and sneakers screeching at each of the hoops lining the gym. In the corner, Braden Koelliker worked on his mid-range game, alternating shots from each side of the top of the key.

The 6-foot-7 Koelliker long has been able to do the things necessary of an impact post player. But as he drained jumper after jumper, it became clear the senior had added a new wrinkle to his game.

After averaging 5.9 points last season, the second-year starter now has a mid-range jump shot, complemented by an ability to put the ball on the ground to go one-on-one against defenders.

"I feel like I can mix it up in the paint, so stretching out my game has been huge for me," Koelliker said. "It's made me a better player, so I focus on that a lot."

Koelliker's newfound versatility has yielded results five games into the season. He's averaging more than 11 points, and the senior even has knocked in a pair of 3-pointers.

"He didn't look to shoot as much his junior year," Darts coach Jay Welk said. "But this year, he's looked to do that a little more. He has the ability to stretch the defense a little bit."

At the same time, Koelliker's status as a presence in the post never has wavered. He's leading the Darts with more than seven rebounds per game, and he's been effective defensively against impact big men from the opposition.

"That's the expectation we have for him, and he understands that," Welk said. "He understands that, the responsibility that falls on him to come in and be consistent, night in, night out."

As one of the team's two player-elected captains, Koelliker has become the Darts' leader. When asked, Koelliker didn't downplay that aspect of what he brings to the Darts and emphasized that his teammates have made Davis an easy team to lead.

"I think leadership is huge. I think teams can fall without leadership," Koelliker said. "So I feel like, even though I was voted team captain, there's plenty of captains on this team, and it shows, not through their words but through their actions."

Davis has a well-rounded roster. Cole Hally, who is 6-7, complements Koelliker in the post, and the Darts have a bevy of impact guards, including Jesse Wade, Abel Porter and Zac Fuller, who all are averaging double figures in points.

But Koelliker brings it all together, enabling the Darts to take advantage of their strengths.

"I think you have to have a good balance," Welk said. "But you have to have that presence inside that can defend and hold people defensively. He really brings that to our team."

Five games in, the Darts look like contenders in Region 1. They've started 5-0 with wins over Riverton and Alta, and their balance means they can absorb a poor performance from any one player on a given night.

While Koelliker acknowledges the Darts have the talent, he insists there's a long way to go for them to reach their potential.

"We're definitely a good team," Koelliker said. "But I think we're improving. We have potential, for sure . We've just got to go out and prove that potential."