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Pacers look even better than coach Nuss first expected

Only two players who saw significant time at the varsity level last year are returning this winter for the Lakeridge boys basketball team. That statistic alone would probably lead most people to believe that the Pacers are in for a long season.

But coach Dave Nuss is excited about his team and feels that it should make the playoffs in a very competitive league.

Although only guards Brian Luevano and Joe Cramer return, other players who have taken a season or two off for various reasons have come out for basketball again this year and the result is a squad that still needs to gel, but is loaded with potential.

'We have a lot of talent. We're just trying to get everyone on the same page and we're making a lot of progress,' Pacer coach Dave Nuss said.

Luevano and Cramer will anchor the team's back-court this year along with point guard Brett Klitz.

Klitz has long been a stand-out lacrosse player and Nuss is very pleased at how he has looked in early practices so far.

'(Point guard) was definitely a question mark for us. Brett runs the offense very well. He gets the ball up the floor quickly and can penetrate. It's great to have him back out,' Nuss said.

Another huge question mark for Lakeridge prior to the season was who would fill its post position. With the graduation of both Kenneth Rice and Daniel Brady, the Pacers figured to be lacking height this year.

But 6-foot-9 Graham Moredock came out for the team this year after taking a season off and his contributions will be key to Lakeridge's success.

'Obviously losing Ken and Daniel left us needing a presence inside. Graham is a great passer out of the post and we're excited about his size,' Nuss said.

Two other players who saw limited varsity action last year also return and should make a big impact on the team.

Kenan Ozgur is 6-1 and is one of the team's most versatile players.

'He's only 6-1 but he can play the post for us. He jumps well and knows how to use his body,' Nuss said.

Andrew Mertz also returns and his 6-5 frame will bolster the Pacers' inside game even further.

Lakeridge features a bit of everything this year. Although they have obvious height down low, the team also possesses some solid perimeter players and outside shooters.

'Earlier in the year I thought depth was going to be a problem for us but we have more guys who can play that I originally thought we would,' Nuss said.

Tyler Larsen is one of the team's best shooters and Nuss will look for him to provide a spark on offense coming off the bench.

Josh Little, another player who is coming back after a year off, has arguably the best vertical leap on the team and is another strong outside shooter.

Alex Gay, a transfer from Lake Oswego, is also a terrific athlete who played well for the Pacers' football team this year and will see time for Lakeridge this year.

'He's a really smart basketball player,' Nuss said.

A huge key to Lakeridge's success this year will be the team's chemistry with all of the new faces. The Pacers will look to play an up-tempo game while still maintaining a very solid presence on defense.

'We'll play some man-to-man and utilize a full-court press at times. I'm hoping that our defense becomes a strength for us,' Nuss said.

In the team's jamboree, the Pacers lost a pair of close contests to Beaverton and Sunset but played significantly better in the second of the two quarters which was encouraging to Nuss.

Once again, the Three Rivers League appears to be loaded. While Lake Oswego, the defending state champions, are ranked first in the state again and Oregon City is not far behind at fourth, the rest of the league appears to be wide open.

'Clackamas is always tough and West Linn is probably going to be better but I think we're a playoff team,' Nuss said.

The team's opener was played on Wednesday against Wilson but results were not available at press time.

The annual Lakeridge tournament will be held from Dec. 18-20 and the team also will play a tournament at Summit High School after Christmas.