Skyler Gillispie will never forget the call.
He was on his way to a coaching clinic at the Dan Dickau Basketball Academy when he found out he had just been named the new Camas High School boys basketball coach. In the blink of an eye, life for the 22-year-old would never be the same.
“It all happened so fast, I haven’t had time to think about it,” Gillispie said. “When I got the call, I was completely shocked. I had no idea it was going to be me.”
A basketball player growing up, Gillispie graduated from Hockinson High School in 2007. While working on a master’s degree in teaching at Concordia University in Portland, Ore., Gillispie has been coaching kids in the Dickau academy and the Amateur Athletic Union. He also coached the Hockinson junior varsity and C-teams.
“It’s fun to win games, but there has to be a lot more to it than that or you’ll drive yourself crazy,” Gillispie said. “The relationships you build with the kids are more important. A lot of the coaches I had are my role models, and they put me on this path in my life. I want to do the same for these kids.”
By word of mouth, Gillispie discovered the opportunity of a lifetime in Camas. Former head boys coach Scott Preuninger resigned to spend more time with his family. Gillispie didn’t know if he was qualified for the position, but he couldn’t just pass it up.
“I was definitely going to try for it and put my best foot forward,” Gillispie said.
To the players, Gillispie seems like a natural fit.
“I like his intensity and enthusiasm for the game,” said senior center Kyle Friend. “He’s a young guy, so he has a lot more energy.”
The Papermakers are making their new coach look like a winner. On Wednesday in Camas, they defeated Skyview 53-46. Three Papermakers scored in double figures. Friend led with 15 points, Austin Dubbay added 12 and Trent Johnson netted 11. Camas also went 1-1 this past weekend at a tournament in Spokane. Johnson delivered 15 points to help the Papermakers beat Mead, Ore. 49-40.
League opens Tuesday, Dec. 13, at Kelso. Camas then goes to Fort Vancouver Dec. 16 and hosts Washougal Dec. 20.
“I want us to be a defensive first team who finds a way to put the ball in the net,” Gillispie said. “We should be able to take advantage of our size on offense, but defense is our number-one priority.”
Standing at 6 feet, 6 inches, Friend is one of the tallest players in the league. Dubbay and Austin Vaughan are both 6-foot-5, Tyler Hallead is 6-4. Tyler Verbout is 6-3, Nate Culver and Tyler Macrae-Smith are both 6-2, and Anthony Fallin and Brandon Nguyen are both 6 feet even.
Last season, Friend helped the Papermakers win their first league title in 49 years.
“I’ll never forget the day we cut down the nets,” he said. “It’s one of those moments I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
“I would love for these guys to be able to experience something like that,” Friend added. “It’s my last season. Might as well make the best of it.”