TIGERS LOOK TO MESH LEADERSHIP WITH YOUTH

November 22, 2003 12:00 am
INSIDE PRESENCE: La Grande's Ben Pettit (44), who was a big contributor as a freshman last year, will do much of the Tigers' inside work this season. (The Observer/File photo).
INSIDE PRESENCE: La Grande's Ben Pettit (44), who was a big contributor as a freshman last year, will do much of the Tigers' inside work this season. (The Observer/File photo).

By Raenelle Kwock

Observer Staff Writer

Senior leadership will be a huge factor for the La Grande boys basketball team.

La Grande coach Aaron Mills said returning players Kelly Moore and Tyler Tucker have been getting the younger players motivated and are patient with them.

"I think (their leadership) will make or break us," Mills said.

The Tigers lost a lot of experience — six seniors — off last year's squad, which finished 13-15 overall, 8-4 in the Greater Oregon League. They were the third-place team in the GOL last season, winning a first-round playoff and making it to the state tournament.

Mills said the Tigers should finish toward the top of the league this season, even though they are inexperienced.

"I think our strengths are our aggressiveness and willingness to work hard and play as a team," Mills said.

He said the Tigers do not have a veteran bench, so the starters will have to play a lot of minutes.

Mills said the Tigers will "not run teams to the ground," and instead will play possession basketball and good, hard defense.

"I think the kids will work and execute precisely," Mills said.

He said it will take them a little longer to where they want to be because of the inexperience, but the young players are catching up and learning skills.

"Our team chemistry is really good," Mills said.

He said those familiar with the Tigers will see they are a hard working squad, and they will be better than what most people think.

"We should drop off talent-wise, we should, but the young kids are better and will surprise people," Mills said.

In addition to Moore and Tucker, there is another senior, Shaun Cederholm, who played basketball his sophomore year.

The juniors consist of Rick Anderson, Cory Steele, Jeremy Hamill, a transfer from Elgin; Russell Hurst, who transferred from Cove; and Chris Lowry, who is recovering from an ACL injury and should return once league starts.

The sophomores are Kevin Bomberger, Jim Townsend, Trent Evins and Christian Siltanen.

Sophomore Ben Pettit, a big 6-foot, 6-inch post player who saw a lot of time down the stretch last year, is also back.

The Tigers begin their season by hosting Pendleton Dec. 5.