CALDWELL — Most basketball players’ fathers watch their kids from the stands.
But for Vallivue boys basketball players Nick Fitts and Jordan Moran, their fathers have an up close and personal view.
Garrett Fitts and Eddy Moran are assistant coaches for the Vallivue boys basketball team. The father-son duos have played a vital role in the revitalization of Vallivue boys basketball. After a seven year absence, the Falcons (18-7) are back in the state tournament. Vallivue plays Burley at 8 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the 4A State Boys Basketball Tournament at Borah High School.
“I don’t have any kids, so I live vicariously through them,” Vallivue head coach Ryan Lundgren said. “It’s a healthy relationship for all and it helps Nick and Jordan take their games to a higher level.
“Seeing the connection they all have with one another is really special. One day, if I’m lucky enough to have a son to coach, I look forward to it because of the comradery I’ve seen them build with their kids through basketball.”
The father-son coaching relationship began early on for Nick and Jordan. The seniors both received basketballs from their fathers the minute they were born. And when the two were old enough to play, their fathers started coaching them.
Eddy started coaching his son at Vallivue last season when Lundgren hired him shortly after taking over the program. Garrett and Nick followed suit this season when the two transferred in from Melba.
“We love it,” Nick said. “No matter how many times we butt heads, we still love each other. We always try to listen to them. We’re grateful for it and it’s actually really fun.”
Nick and Jordan, though, are not the only father-son duo on this year’s team. Joining them are Mario and Dominik Betancourt. Mario is an assistant coach for the Falcons, while his 6-year old son Dominik is the team’s water boy.
Dominik started attending every practice this season with his father, and following Vallivue’s road trip to California in December, the decision was made to make him the team’s official water boy. But he’s also been known to make a run to the snack bar and anything else the team might command. And according to his father, he does it all with a smile.
“He loves the role he’s been given,” Mario said.
“He loves getting the guys water and any little thing the team needs he does. The kids and all the coaches just love having him around.”
With their fathers watching closely from the bench, all three sons have enjoyed great seasons for the Falcons. Nick is averaging 17.4 points, 3.2 assists and three rebounds per game this season. He’s also shooting 40 percent from behind the arc and 81 percent from the free throw line.
Jordan has started in every game this season and is averaging 7.2 points and 3.2 rebounds per game. And in addition to being one of the best water boys in the state, Dominik has greatly improved his ball handling skills in practice.
“It’s just been an absolute privilege to see him progress from where he started to where he’s at now,” Eddy said. “When he had 22 points in the first half versus Emmett last week, as a coach it was great, but as a dad to sit there and watch that, it’s something I couldn’t even describe.”
It’s also worked out really well for the team, as the Falcons have enjoyed a turnaround season. After failing to win more than 11 games in a year for the past six seasons, and failing to make the state playoffs, Vallivue racked off 17 wins in the 2016-17 campaign.
Included in Vallivue’s wins this season was a 64-62 victory over Emmett in a 4A District III Tournament elimination game without two of its starters due to a suspension for a bench clearing altercation in the previous game against Bishop Kelly. A 44-36 win over Skyview sent the Falcons back to the state tournament after more than a half a decade away.
“It’s amazing. It’s been so long. I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” Jordan said. “I remember sitting on my bed talking to my father about going to the state tournament. So to be able to go with him now is an incredible feeling.”
But the Falcons are not simply satisfied with making the dance after such a long hiatus. They want to bring home the fourth state championship in program history. Vallivue’s last title came in 2008 at the 5A level. And with so much family on one team, now seems like the perfect time to bring another championship home.
“Winning state would be amazing. It really would,” Garrett said. “For all the hours of work to culminate into a championship would probably be the most special memory my son and I have ever had together.”
OTHER 4A LOCAL TEAMS
BISHOP KELLY KNIGHTS
State seed: District Three champ
Coach: Ryan Kerns
Players to watch: G Max Rice, jr.; G Bronson King, sr.; G Jacob Russell, sr.; PG Dan Sabala
Notes: Qualified for state for the fifth year in a row and eighth time in nine years. … Is the two-time defending state runner-up, losing to Preston in ‘16 finals and Rigby in ‘15. … Uses a five-guard lineup to push the pace and ramp up its defensive pressure. … Averaging a classification-best 65.0 points per game. … Rice (18.2 ppg) is the son of Boise State coach Leon Rice. … The 6-1 Russell led the 4A SIC with 7.1 rebounds per game. … Won two state titles, the last in 1998 at the 3A level.
State seed: District Three runner-up
Coach: Alex Maxwell, first season
Players to watch: F Caden Stevenson, sr.; F Reece Robinett, sr.; G David Kofoed, sr.
Notes: In state for the third year in a row. … Won the 4A SIC regular-season title. … Only losses in 4A have come to Bishop Kelly (0-3 vs. the Knights). … Stevenson led the team this season in both scoring (10.3 ppg) and rebounds (5.5). … Robinett and Kofoed added 9.9 and 6.8 ppg, respectively. … Won its only state title in 1965 at the 2A level and last reached the finals in 2004.