Curtis Eccles knows the balance of power in his driveway is on the verge of shifting 100 percent the other way.
Curtis, the Hoquiam High School boys basketball coach, has been playing his son, Bryson, one-on-one in basketball since as long as the latter can remember.
As expected, dad had a significant advantage during the early years. Over the last few years, however, wins have become harder to come by.
“I have to bring my A-game every time now,” Curtis stated. “I think it’s probably still 50/50 right now, but he’s going to beat me next year. He now has three inches on me. We’re even now, but starting next year he will be beating me every time we play.”
Curtis is in his 12th season at the helm of Hoquiam’s program. He has led Hoquiam to multiple league titles and five state tournament appearances, including back-to-back state trips the last two seasons, highlighted by the squad’s sixth-place finish in 2016.
Bryson has been along for the ride every step of the way – beginning in his younger years as the team’s waterboy and eventually becoming a starter this season as a junior.
The 6-foot-3 Bryson starts at one of the forward positions for the Grizzlies, a year after he split time between varsity and JV.
Curtis can only blame himself for Bryson’s emergence on the court and his newfound ability to best his dad in one-on-one showdowns as he has coached his son every season save for Bryson’s two years playing at Hoquiam Middle School.
“He’s just very knowledgeable about the game,” said Curtis, who was also his son’s AAU coach during Bryson’s elementary school years. “He has a high basketball IQ. He’s very aware of his court presence in regards to making smart plays and passing and how he positions himself with rebounding. From a coaching standpoint he’s really made great strides this year to become one of our full-time starters.”
That’s from the coaching side of things. On the proud parent front Curtis beams even more when discussing his son’s involvement in Hoquiam basketball.
“We really have a great coach/player relationship,” Curtis said, “but there’s that time when we come home and I have to put on a different hat, which is that of dad. I couldn’t be prouder of him as a parent. He’s really put in a lot of hard work and dedication to improve this year, and it’s showing on the court.”
One cherished tradition the father and son duo have adopted is riding home together from the school following a game.
“We live about 15 minutes away,” Bryson said about the ride home, “and we will talk about the game the entire time. It doesn’t matter if we won or lost, we will break everything down, talk about what we did right and what we did wrong. I think we help each other out. Those rides mean a lot to me.”
Curtis stated having his son play for him was like having another coach at home, which leads one to wonder if Bryson has any plans to continue the family tradition.
“Honestly,” Bryson said after a long pause, “I see how much work goes into coaching. My dad puts in a lot of work. I think I’ll just stick to playing.”
Hoquiam, which features just one senior starter in leading scorer Victor James, a 6-1 forward who averages nearly 16 points a game, is once again heading to the postseason, having locked up the No. 3 seed out of the 1A Evergreen League.
The Grizzlies, looking to secure a place at the state tournament for a third straight year, open the 1A District 4 tournament on February 9 against the No. 2 seed out of the Trico. Hoquiam will play at either Seton Catholic or Stevenson with a 7:00 p.m. tipoff.
The top three teams out of the district tournament wrap up a spot at the regional round of state. The Grizzlies are the defending district champions, having defeated King’s Way Christian, 64-61, in last year’s finals.
Two years ago Hoquiam stumbled in the district semifinals before winning consecutive loser-out games to punch their ticket to the next round.
They built plenty of momentum towards the end of the regular season by winning three out of their final four league games, including a 69-66 victory at Forks.
In addition to Victor James and Bryson Eccles, Hoquiam’s lineup also features 6-3 sophomore post Matt Brown, who is second on the team in scoring at 13.8 points per game, junior forward Payton Quintanilla and 6-5 sophomore post Rayyon Dayton.