Tigers ready for new season
Third-year head coach Mark Carollo is in for something new — having a team back that he’s spent some minutes with.
When Carrolo took over the La Grande basketball team two years ago, he had 12 seniors on the team.
He started from stratch in year two, but he’s hoping that this season will be a continued step in the right direction.
“With four returners coming back, that’s always nice to see,” Carollo said. “We are expecting a lot, but with that being said, we need to get better as individuals. We still have a long way to go and a lot of work to put in.”
The Tigers went 9-16 last season, but did make it to a Class 4A play-in game, losing to South Umpqua 65-57. Two La Grande players from the Great Oregon League all-league team graduated —John Bodfish and Kaleb White.
Brandon Dall, a first-team selection, and Tyson Wicklander, a second-team selection, return to the hardwood this season.
Carollo is ready to see what the players he has coming back will be able to do.
“Troy (Williams) and Tyson are going to be great senior leaders this season,” Carollo said. “They’re starting to understand the game really well.
“There are a number of returners coming back that are going to play a big part in our success this season. So, it’s tough to single out any one kid. All have showed great signs of improvement.”
Along with Dall, Jake Powell, Kurt Boyd and Brandon Cedarholm are expected to make a big contributions to the scoring this season.
“I know what we have right now,” Carollo said. “I don’t think myself or the boys are satisfied with that. We’ll continue to push the envelope, and hopefully get the most out of everyone.”
The one area that the Tigers are lacking is height. La Grande will have a tough time matching up with bigger post players. But, Carollo is trying to address that the best he can.
“We don’t have a lot of size,” Carollo said. “That’s definitely something we need to think about. It comes down to getting in the right position, and we work on it along with all the new stuff we’re trying to put in.”
The GOL looks to be open this season for the taking, with teams gunning for Baker City, the league champion from last season.
The Bulldogs went 7-2 during the league schedule and 15-7 overall. La Grande dropped all three meetings with its rival last season.
Ontario came in with an identical league record as La Grande at 5-4. Ontario finished the season 14-10, and La Grande ended Ontario’s season with a 54-52 win.
The teams will have to wait until the end of January to see who will take the top spot.
Carollo is expecting a battle.
“Baker is always tough,” Carollo said. “Every game, you don’t know what you’re going to get. Ontario returns some great athletes to the floor. Mac-Hi had a new coach last season, and they did pretty well. The first year is always tough. I expect them to be better this season with some returners coming back.
“We just have to worry about ourselves and what we can do to get better. Hopefully, everything else will fall into place after that.”
La Grande has battled what all teams across the state have battled — less time to prepare.
The OSAA pushed back the start date for the winter season by a week.
Carollo admitted that the team is a little behind where he would like it to be.
“We miss a lot of things so far,” Carollo said. “Just because we’ve tried to be particular in a few areas that we’re really trying to get better at this year. So, we’ll go into the first game pretty rough looking. But, as long as the team gives me a great effort that’s really what I’m asking for.”
La Grande will open the season tonight at Pendleton at 7:30 p.m.