Kunke returns to provide leadership to a talented group of juniors
CLACKAMAS - The Clackamas Cavaliers have reloaded and they expect to contend for one of the top spots in Three Rivers League boys basketball this winter.
Senior point guard Robbie Kunke is the only returning starter and the only player back with much varsity experience from a year ago.
But Kunke is joined by several talented athletes up from a jayvee team that went 18-7 a year ago. And transfers Elijawha Jones (5-10 junior, Benson) and Caleb Croteau (5-9 senior, Putnam) have added depth at guard.
The Cavaliers got a good indication that they could develop into a decent team over the summer.
'We played 50 games and we did pretty good,' said Clackamas coach Jeff Bair. 'We went to a national tournament in Los Vegas and beat some good teams.'
The Cavaliers also made some noise last week, when they dropped 10th-ranked Sunset 73-63, avenging an earlier loss. Led by 6-5 forwards Craig Seiler and Cody Cawthorn (15 points apiece), six Clackamas players scored eight or more points against the Apollos.
And the early success has come despite the fact that five players - Seiler, Matt Hendrix, Michael Young, Jake Mauermann and Ryan Baker - have seen only limited action, because they were a part of the Cavaliers' successful football team.
'We're still trying to put things together with the football kids,' said Bair. 'We hope to be ready by league.'
The Cavalier cage boss says that seven athletes will figure into his starting lineup, with the lineup changing, depending on the strengths of the opponent. Bair also believes he has a talented crew of reserves who will make contributions in most games.
The Cavaliers have five players on their 11-man roster who stand 6-4 or better.
'We don't have huge height, but we have good overall height,' Bair observed.
Players Bair expects to see starting action include: seniors Kunke (6-4 point guard), Hendrix (6-5 forward) and Cawthorn (6-5 forward); and juniors Seiler (6-5 forward), Young (6-0 guard), Mauermann (6-2 guard) and Jones (5-10 guard).
Curtis Papenfuss will add to the depth when he returns in late December or early January. The 6-4 guard/forward suffered an injury during a preseason practice.
And Mickey Swerzbin (6-1 guard) is another junior expected to see a considerable amount of playing time.
'This junior class is really solid,' said Bair. 'They had a lot of success as freshmen and a lot of success as jayvee players.'
Bair added, 'This group reminds me a lot of Oregon City last year. They're athletic, they shoot the ball pretty well, and they handle the ball pretty well.'
Bair says he sees the league title as a toss-up between talented teams from Lake Oswego and Oregon City, with the remaining teams battling it out for third and fourth.
'The rest of the league has gotten a lot better, so the league's pretty tough from top to bottom,' said Bair.
Bair said, 'I know we have the talent to compete. But with our inexperience at the varsity level, we have to work on mental toughness, on discipline and concentration for an entire game [in order to be successful at the varsity level]. I think this is the best conference in the state.'
The Cavaliers will have their work cut out for them in their season openers. They host defending state champion Lake Oswego on Thursday, Jan. 4, and they entertain Oregon City on Tuesday, Jan. 9.