Timberwolves take aim at the top spot
Boys basketball: With strong returnees, and a healthy Mick Bies, Tualatin has high hopes
TUALATIN - The Tualatin High School boys basketball team has its sights set.
And those sights are set high.
With Pacific Conference play set to soon start, the Timberwolves know where they want to be when league play comes to a close.
'We hope to contend for the league championship,' Tualatin coach Rick Osborn said. 'You have to be lucky to get to the state tournament, but, with the experience we have from last year, that's our goal.'
The Wolves look to have a strong group of returning players back from last year's squad that had an overall record of 9-16 while placing fourth in the Pacific Conference standings with a league mark of 6-9.
In addition to the returnees from last year's team, Tualatin also will have back senior wing Mick Bies (6-foot-3), who missed the 2006-2007 season due to injury.
'He would have been an all-league player last year,' Osborn said of Bies. 'He's both an inside and outside threat. He's very difficult to guard.'
While he wasn't able to play at all last year due to the injury, Bies stayed with the team the entire season, sitting on the end of the bench each game.
'He did all he could,' Osborn said.
Among the top returnees for Tualatin is senior wing Matt Losli (6-4), who earned first-team all-Pacific Conference honors last year when he averaged 11.6 points a game in league play.
'Matt changes the game by being on the floor,' Osborn said. 'He can alter a game even if he doesn't score. He can guard the other team's best player no matter what position he plays. He improves our team defense two-fold.'
Losli is one of three players, along with senior Jordan Highland and junior Taylor Hart, that were also part of the Tualatin High School football team that reached the Class 6A state championship contest, meaning that they got off to a late start to the basketball season.
'It's a balancing act with the football players,' Osborn said. 'It's always a good thing when they come in with the winning attitude. But we're fortunate with the schedule that we don't start league play until Jan. 11.'
Also back for the Wolves from last year's varsity team are junior posts Brandon Troxel (6-5) and Anthony Freeman, Jr. (6-6). Troxel averaged 9.0 points a game in league play last year, earning honorable mention all-league honors.
'They were sophomores last year, but they each played a lot of minutes,' Osborn said.
Troxel and Freeman, like many of the Wolves, also appear to be bigger and stronger this season.
'That was a point of emphasis we had,' Osborn said. 'We wanted to improve our physical strength, and I think they all made gains in that.'
Highland (6-4), who had a strong finish to his junior year, and junior Alex Murray (6-0) will each see time at the point guard spot for the Wolves.
'They had some good competition for the point guard spot over the summer,' Osborn said.
Hart (6-6) will rotate with Troxel and Freeman, giving the Wolves good depth at the post. Junior Eric Kjemperud (6-2) can also play some in the post.
'He gives us some explosiveness there,' Osborn said.
Two other seniors, Jordan Barendse (6-2) and Xavier Reed (6-0) should also end up playing key roles for the team this year. The rest of the Tualatin varsity roster includes junior Brian Symonds (6-1), junior Josh Ellisen (6-4) and sophomore Kenny Parsons (6-4).
Versatility looks to be a team strength going into league play.
'We can approach a game with multiple sets,' Osborn said. 'We can go with four guards, or with two posts. We're a good outside shooting team and we have a lot of different ways to attack people. I would also like to say that defense can be a strength.'
As for the Pacific Conference this year, Osborn sees a tough battle ahead for the top spots.
'As usual, Canby, Tigard and McMinnville should all be pretty good,' he said. 'And Newberg worries me a bit. They can spread you out and make you pay. But, always, you have to talk about Canby. Tigard will be tough and, hopefully, we'll be right up there also.'
The Wolves will open league play Jan. 11 at Canby.