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Crusader boys' basketball impressing in preseason


by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit forward Ryan Bay has improved his overall game for the Crusaders who have started the year 3-2.

The return on the Jesuit boys’ basketball team’s potential has been nothing but positive in the early stages of the preseason.

Retooling their backcourt, while adjusting their offensive strategy, the 2013-14 Crusaders haven’t missed a beat from last year’s fifth-place finish at the state tournament. Jesuit’s gone on the road twice in unfriendly territory against 5A power Jefferson and 6A contender Grant and come out tested and encouraged for what the Crusaders hope is an even better season.

“A realistic goal for us this year is a state championship,” said senior guard Daniel Nelson. “We work hard in practice every single day. It’s going to a dedication and responsibility from all of us to put in time on our own, and do the things coach wants us to do. If we can do that, follow his gameplan and work hard, then I think we have a real chance.”

“We just want to work hard, get better every day and see what happens,” said head coach Gene Potter. “I think we’ve proven we can be competitive with anybody we play against. But, whether we can get over the hump or not, we’ll have to wait and see.”

Jesuit came up short against Jefferson 67-63, and Grant, 59-58, in a pair of road contests that could’ve gone either way. Potter said he liked the way the Crusaders moved the basketball and made the extra pass against a duo of Portland Interscholastic teams that pride themselves on the defensive end of the floor. Additionally, the veteran head coach applauded his team’s communal defensive effort in the early going of the season, saying the Crusaders can take a lot of good away from the early losses.

“We’re just going to have to learn from both,” said Potter. “That’s going to help us in the long run, as long as we continue to stay confident, and know we’re doing the right things. Once you get into Metro League play and we’re going on the road I think it’ll reap its rewards then.”

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit power forward Henry Mondeaux is getting back into the basketball swing of things after football season. Mondeaux started for the Crusaders last year.

After losing Xavier Coleman and 2012-13 Metro League player of the year Khyan Rayner to graduation, the Crusaders are thin in experience in the backcourt. Yet, senior guards such as Nelson, and Jack Bell and junior Reid Bucy have stepped in and accepted their roles both as offensive generators and defensive stalwarts.

“As a team, we’re still building,” said Bucy. “We’ve been working really hard in practice and we’re taking everything as a learning experience right now. We’re pushing toward the next game.”

“We’re really getting after it in practice and pushing each other every single day,” added Nelson. “We’ve had some tough losses, but they’re early in the season. They’re learning experiences that are only going to help our team.”

Junior wing Ryan Bay and senior post Henry Mondeaux return to the starting lineup for Jesuit—who took fifth at the 6A state tournament last season. Bay is a 6-4 swingman who’s approved added strength to his frame, which has led to better, stronger finishes at the rim. Senior Jack Nadelhoffer can stick the three ball consistently from the outside, and at 6-foot-7, is long enough to help Mondeaux monopolize the boards.

“We have one physical guy in Henry, and pretty good length from our other guys,” said Potter. “We try to limit touches inside, pressure shots. We don’t have a shot blocker like we did a couple years ago. But I think we can contend inside.”

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Jesuit boys basketball coach Ken Potter said the Crusaders have held up well in the preseason with strong defense and passing.

Jesuit’s always been a team that prefers to get into its opponents defensively and pressure the ball perpetually for 32 minutes. Without a shot clock in Oregon high school basketball, Potter believes controlling the tempo defensively can speed teams up and make them play faster than they desire.

“Defense is mainly hustle, and I think we hustle like crazy,” said Bucy. “We just need to play a little bit smarter and do the little things that make defense so great.”

The Crusaders like to get everybody touches on the offensive end and have never solely leaned on one go-to star for production. With Coleman and Rayner running the show, Jesuit was more of a pick-and-roll, dribble-drive team, whereas this year’s version will need to share the ball, set good screens and create more off both ball and man movement.

“For me, you watch ESPN and see all the individual highlights, but I like to see the extra pass that leads to the basket,” said Potter. “I like to see the backcut, the great screen to get your teammate open or seeing things that happen two passes beforehand and anticipating something great. To me, that’s pure basketball. It’s a team game, and in the long run, the best team is the one wins, not the one with the best individuals.”

Nelson said the Crusaders are bringing the diligent effort every night, but they’re still working on getting everybody on the same page.

“We play better when we’re playing faster,” said Nelson. “We can really attack, but we have the ability to slow it down and go to our motion offense ,which we work on all the time.”

Jesuit was one of three Metro League teams to advance to the 6A state tournament last year.

And, with Sunset, Beaverton and Southridge all looking loaded and primed again, Potter expects another free-for-all dog fight when Metro League play kicks off in January.

“I know you have to show up every night ready to play, or you’re going to get beat,” said Potter. “I think that shows up when we get out of league. Traditionally, we’ve been an incredibly strong conference, and I think it’ll continue to be.”