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Winter sports preview: Canby boys basketball

The Cougars, whose roster took substantial hits due to injury and graduation, will try to push the pace this season.


by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Jace Cates (left), shown during last year's league game at Lakeridge, will have an expanded role on the Canby boys basketball team this season. The junior played with the I-5 Elite club squad during the offseason and has improved at both ends of the floor.Standing on the sideline during the football team’s league game at Lake Oswego in early October, Canby boys basketball coach Craig Evans wondered aloud about the wellbeing of his own program.

Indeed, the injuries that plagued the Cougars on the gridiron will also have an impact on the hardwood this season.

But Evans, who is entering his fourth year at the helm, hopes his players learned from their experiences on a football team that overcame its health woes to reach the state semifinals.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs and be playing our best basketball in late February,” Evans said. “If you learn anything from the football team, it’s that you want to be playing your best ball at the end. People can blame injuries, but you’ve got to get through that. (The football team) stuck through it and stuck with the game plan.”

Injuries notwithstanding, the basketball Cougars will attempt to get back to the state playoffs after missing out last year for the first time since 2009-10. They finished with an 8-16 overall record and a 3-7 mark in the Three Rivers League, which produced the top-ranked team in Class 6A (Lake Oswego) as well as the state champion (West Linn).

Whereas last season Canby relied on stingy half-court defense and carefully executed offensive sets that often went through graduated guard Coby Cates, Evans said his team will try to play more of an up-tempo style of basketball this year.

Evans hopes a faster pace will help the Cougars generate offense after losing Cates, who was the third-leading scorer in the conference last year with an average of 16.13 points per game.

“We’re gonna try to push the ball a little more with more of an open floor plan to try to spread it out, get (players) in space, try to hit the open guy and hit some shots,” he said. “Last year, we were limited in our shooters. Coby was our main shooter, and we really had to run through our sets to get an open shot.”

The Cougars will still get production from Cates — Jace Cates, that is. The 6-foot-3, 185-pound guard/forward, who is Coby’s younger brother, spent the offseason playing for the Portland-based I-5 Elite club team and is primed for a strong junior season.

He served as a spark off the bench last year, averaging 4.92 points per game.

“He’s really improved in his offensive and defensive skills,” Evans said. “Being in the gym everyday, his shooting improved, his ball-handling, his team defense — he’s being aware, and he’s reacting a lot quicker.”

Jordan Sanders, meanwhile, is Canby’s most experienced frontcourt player and figures to make key contributions. He showed promising signs in the paint last year, averaging 6.14 points per game.

Sanders will go a long way in boosting the Cougars on the block as they move forward without graduated senior Sam Stelk, who averaged 11.83 points per game last season.

“Having a 6-6 guy in the middle is always nice,” Evans said. “He’s always been a nice presence. And his basketball IQ is very high.”

Austin Taylor will also have an expanded role this season, Evans said. The senior’s experience will likely come in handy on a squad that lost starting point guard Cody Sibel to graduation.

Canby has a significantly different roster than it had even during summer-league play. Returning players Sam Bodine (ankle) and Devon Fortier (knee) are out for the season. Potential contributor Jordan Parker transferred to Lafayette Christian Academy in Louisiana.

The Cougars’ preseason slate is highlighted by a late-December trip to San Francisco for the Leo LaRocca Sand Dune Classic at St. Ignatius High School. League play is scheduled to begin Jan. 17.

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AT A GLANCE

CANBY BOYS BASKETBALL 2013-14

Coach: Craig Evans (fourth year)

Last year: 8-16 (3-7 in the TRL); lost to Forest Grove in the 6A play-in round

Key players: Jace Cates, Jordan Sanders, Austin Taylor

Key losses: Coby Cates, Sam Stelk, Cody Sibel, Konnen Bell, Trevor Sievers, Devon Fortier (injury), Sam Bodine (injury), Jordan Parker (transfer)

First home game: 7 p.m. Dec. 10 vs. Thurston

Outlook: With a lineup dramatically altered by graduation and injuries, Canby will try to push the pace on its quest for a playoff berth after missing out last year for the first time in coach Craig Evans’ tenure.

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SCHEDULE

12/6 So. Eugene tourney 7:45 p.m.

12/7 So. Eugene tourney 2:45 p.m.

12/10 THURSTON 7 p.m.

12/13 Roseburg 7 p.m.

12/17 Forest Grove 7 p.m.

12/20 SHERWOOD 7 p.m.

12/26 St. Ignatius (CA) TBD

1/3 McKay 7 p.m.

1/7 MILWAUKIE 7 p.m.

1/10 Grant 7:30 p.m.

1/14 WESTVIEW 7 p.m.

1/17 Lake Oswego * 7:30 p.m.

1/24 Oregon City * 7:30 p.m.

1/28 LAKERIDGE * 7:30 p.m.

1/31 WEST LINN * 7:30 p.m.

2/4 Clackamas * 7:30 p.m.

2/11 LAKE OSWEGO * 7:30 p.m.

2/14 OREGON CITY * 7:30 p.m.

2/18 Lakeridge * 7:30 p.m.

2/21 West Linn * 7:30 p.m.

2/25 CLACKAMAS * 7:30 p.m.



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