OLD OREGON LEAGUE BOYS WIDE OPEN
By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
The Jordan Valley basketball boys went 10-0 in the Old Oregon League last year, but the Mustangs have graduated several of their top players, so a league title could be in the sights of any number of OOL squads.
Wallowa rejoins the OOL after a four-year absence, while a young Cove team is a year older, and Powder Valley had a huge turnout.
The Cougars have a huge amount of turnover on their team as they return to the Old Oregon League, as they graduated five seniors from last year.
Wallowa went 5-9 in the Wapiti League last year and 10-13 overall. Coach Gerry McLain said the Cougars this year will be young and inexperienced, Only starters Randy Spaur and Caleb Pringle return from last year.
McLain said the Cougars won't have a true post player (Pringle is the team's tallest player at 6-foot-2.). "We're going to be a guard and forward team," he said.
Also returning to the team are seniors Kyle McDaniel and Andrew Long, who just joined the team this week.
Coming up from the junior varsity squad, or returning to varsity after a one-year absence are guard Wes Walker, forward/guard Ryan Harshfield, and guard Dustin Byers, guard Jeff Kendall and forward Chris Williams, who he expects will go back and forth between JV and varsity.
Another varsity player, Patrick Green, will be out for probably a month recovering from a football injury.
The Cougars varsity squad will probably only have eight or nine kids. That means a lot of heavy minutes for everyone.
"There's not a lot of depth. Everyone's going to have to be in good shape," said McLain.
The Cougars begin their season Friday with a road game at Pine-Eagle.
The Badgers went 7-3 in the Old Oregon League last season, but they graduated a couple of reserves and four starters, including first-team all leaguers Brody Turner and Justin Heffernan.
However, coach Blake Jones will have a huge squad. A slew of players from the Badgers' 10-1 football team that made it to the state semifinals has come out for basketball, as well.
Jones said the kids' success on the football field does give the basketball team an advantage in intangibles. Jones said many of these kids either hadn't come out for basketball before or hadn't played hoops for years.
"It (success) definitely transfers over. This is a group of guys that knows how to win," he said. In addition to these boys being simply very athletic, "it's a whole bunch of kids with heart and hustle."
Coming out for basketball this season are Thompson's football teammates Cody Taylor, Todd Baxter, David Dozhier, Thomas Weems, Arden Perkins, Kaycee Shroyer, Rick Stevens and Danny Kerns. Also on the team is a sophomore 6-3 post player Sheldon Heffernan.
Jones said that while perennial basketball powerhouse Jordan Valley has graduated some of its top players, he expects the Mustangs to still be tough, along with Crane.
Cove was a young team last year which went 3-7 in the Old Oregon League.
There were 10 freshmen and sophomores on Cove's varsity squad last year. Most of those freshmen and sophomores are back, a year older and more experienced.
The Leopards bring back four starters Justin Marler, John Pfel, Andy Altenburg and Josh Pfel, as well as Chris Taylor, who saw a lot of playing time last year.
Also returning are Jason Hagey, Tanner Marshall, Russ Hurst, David Mills, Jake Locken and Tom Van Nice.
"We've got a lot of experience," said coach Todd Gorham. "The kids were thrown to the fire last year."
Those young players struggled at first, but then got hot at the end of the season.
"We won three out of our last four games. We're looking to pick up where we left off," said Gorham.
Gorham doesn't expect Jordan Valley and Powder Valley to be as dominant as in the past because both teams graduated a lot of players. He thinks just about any team in the league is capable of winning the title.
"Top to bottom, it's real competitive. The gap's really narrowed," he said.