RICHLAND — Earl Streufert has coached a multitude of players in his 11 seasons at Richland -- and some pretty spectacular ones at that.
But he's not sure he can remember one who's earned the right to wear a Bombers jersey more than senior Colton McCargar.
McCargar may not be the most talented player ever to wear the green and gold, but his commitment to the Richland program has been second-to-none even before he joined the Bombers' freshman team in 2006.
He enthusiastically recalls the early days of Streufert's career, watching guards like Travis Buck and James York light up the scoreboard in front of a packed Art Dawald Gym. To this day, one of his strongest desires has been to bring those capacity crowds back to Richland.
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"I always thought it would be so cool to play in front of a huge crowd like that," said McCargar, a 6-foot-1 guard. "That's always been my dream."
Streufert can appreciate McCargar's grand vision, having played and coached in front of some big crowds himself under the legendary Jim Thacker at Walla Walla. More than that, he appreciates McCargar's efforts as a player.
"Of all the guys I've had, he's the kind of guy you hold up as far as what a program guy is," Streufert said. "You work and suffer through those tough times so that there's something at the end for you. He's always been that guy -- always positive, always looking to the future.
"It's nice to see him get rewarded for it."
McCargar has been one of the biggest surprises of the CBBN in the early going, leading the Bombers (8-0) in scoring at 20.1 points a game. He is one of just three CBBN players averaging over 20 points a night along with Gary Winston (26.8) of Walla Walla and Malachi Roberts (24.9) of Eastmont.
But the numbers are no surprise to Streufert or McCargar's teammates, who watched him develop his game and find his confidence during the offseason.
"He had a really good summer. He was coming for sure," Streufert said. "I didn't know it would be that many points that fast, but you could see he was ready to go."
Actually, the transformation began toward the end of last season, just before the Bombers reached the 4A Eastern Regional at Toyota Center.
McCargar was expected to play a more significant role on last year's team, but a lack of confidence and some defensive weaknesses kept him from fulfilling his potential. But by the time the playoffs rolled around, McCargar had found his stride.
Part of his emergence was learning his place on defense, which plays a primary role on any Streufert team. McCargar found that many of Richland's offensive opportunities resulted from strong play on the defensive end.
Once he discovered that balance, the numbers began to come -- 23 points in a 73-42 win over Wenatchee the opening weekend of the season, a career-high 25 in a 65-58 win over Southridge the next week and then 24 points on successive nights the following week in wins over Hanford and Eisenhower.
He's proven a deadly 3-point shooter -- he hit five in a 76-59 win over Ike on Dec. 19 -- and isn't afraid to take the ball in the clutch.
"Yeah, I always want the ball," McCargar smiled. "I think there are a lot of guys who want that this year. They want to step up and be that guy, and that's good for us."
Streufert's teams are often marked by unselfish play, and this year is no exception. The Bombers have five players -- McCargar, Garrett Gallinger (12.5), Dylan Radliff (10.9), Tanner Dunn (10.1) and Calvin Douglas (9.9) -- at or close to double figures. But McCargar has had the hot hand of late.
"He's our main shooter right now," said Radliff, another senior guard. "He moves well without the ball and makes good cuts. ... He creates his own shots."
As far as playing in front of a packed Art Dawald Gym, McCargar may very well get his wish Saturday when Richland hosts Kamiakin (8-0) in a battle of unbeatens. It's a highly anticipated matchup for the Bombers, who lost to the Braves 71-65 at home last February.
"That always stings when a rival comes and beats you on your home court," McCargar said. "But we've got to play Eastmont (today), and they're a really tough team. So we've got to focus on that first."