Vikings rebuilding around three talented juniors and two up-and-coming freshmen

With a new facility under construction, the Forest Grove boys basketball team wasn’t able to find a lot of elbow room in the gym during pre-season practices. Often, the freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams all had to practice together at the same time.

The lack of quality practice time does not help the Vikings, who are a young team this season with two freshmen, two sophomores, four juniors and three seniors.

“We look awfully young,” Forest Grove coach Greg Evers says. “We didn’t have a chance to get this varsity crew by itself a whole lot. We were young anyway, but we’re playing young. We’re not only young, we’re green, too.”

The Vikings will have some talent, though.

The key to the team will be Michael Garcia, a 5-foot-5 junior point guard. Garcia has tenacity, ball-handling skills, an ability to shoot and a motor that has been refined on the cross country course.

“The main focal point of our team is Michael Garcia,” Evers says. “He’s a returning honorable mention all-conference kid. We win a couple more games last year, he’s probably on the second team all-conference. He’s very small at 5-5, but quicker than snot and can shoot.

“Michael is going to be one of the better players in the league this year as a junior,” Evers added.

The Vikings will also have two other juniors to help Garcia in Zac Collins and John Cirlincione.

Collins “is getting bigger and stronger,” Evers says. “He’s a 6-2 post for us. He’s a little bit undersized, but he’s strong and he’s quick and he’s athletic.”

Cirlincione “is a 5-11 wing with great athletic ability who can play multiple spots for us,” Evers says.

Forest Grove will also have two talented freshmen with 6-5 Ben Godfrey and 6-2 Taylor Jensen.

“The two freshmen that we have are seasoned kids for being freshmen,” Evers says. “They pass the eye test — one is a 6-5 post, the other one is a 6-2 point guard, long armed, maybe not as quick as you want at that position, but very heady and a very good player. They will have some growing pains for sure. But, they’re going to be good for us when it’s all said and done.

“They’re going to swing and play some JV, but they’re going to be a part of our game plan. We want those kids to play as many quarters for us as they can on any given night.”

Evers is confident in the Vikings’ athleticism and ability to stretch out the court with their speed. He is hoping that shooting will also be a part of Forest Grove’s strength.

“I’m hoping that we can shoot the ball,” Evers says. “We’re not going to be as big and strong inside as we have been in the last couple of years. But, we’re going to be quicker and be able to do more passing and running.”

For a time, Evers says that the youth of the Vikings will dictate his expectations of the team. That said, he still expects his players to grow each day and he expects that growth will mean a better season than last year, when Forest Grove went 7-18 overall and 2-12 in Pacific Conference play.

“(Expectations) will kind of get evaluated as we go,” Evers says. “It doesn’t change my goals of having a better win-loss record and a better season than we did a year ago. We’re still going to be more successful.

“We’ve got to make sure that our youngsters are taking as big of steps as possible even though we know that they’re going to be baby steps.”

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