Cleveland, Roosevelt, Jefferson lead pack starting next week
How tough is the PIL 5A in boys basketball?
Cleveland is 8-1 in the preseason -with its only loss to 11-0 Century - but Warrior coach Tom Beatty knows he can't take anything for granted when league play begins Tuesday.
'We could lose every game in league,' Beatty says.
Roosevelt finished second in the state last year, and Jefferson took sixth. This season, Cleveland has joined them in the early top-10 rankings. Madison also looks strong, and Marshall, the other PIL 5A team, is capable of pulling off more than one upset.
'It's the toughest league in the state,' Beatty says.
Cleveland wraps up nonleague action at home tonight against Crescent Valley, then kicks off the league schedule Tuesday at home against Madison.
The Warriors are small -their starters average 6-1 -but scrappy.
'We have a lot better chemistry this year,' senior guard Davari Harrison says. 'All my friends from (Hosford) middle school are here. In all my years at Cleveland, this is our best team.'
Harrison dropped 26 and 28 points on South Albany in two Cleveland victories, and 6-3 junior Johnel Gray leads the team with 15 points per game. But 6-1 junior Zach Minden, 6-3 senior JaQues Kahey, 5-10 Chris Graves and 6-0 senior Jesse Rushen also have either paced the team in game scoring or hit double figures.
'It's a very unselfish group,' Beatty says, 'and they play good defense, good team ball. It's a good group to be around. Nice kids.'
• Traditional power Jefferson appears to be the team to beat, though, in PIL 5A -and the Democrats have established themselves as one of the best teams in the state at any level.
The Demos' only loss was 71-61 to 6A power Oregon City in the Les Schwab Invitational -with coach Marshall Haskins home sick that night with the flu.
The Demos have a blend of smooth seniors and promising sophomores. The veterans are 5-11 Henry Williams, 6-0 Kalonji Paschal and 6-6 Tyrone White. The sophs are 6-7 Terrance Jones, 6-6 Terrance Ross and 6-7 Noah Kone.
'Kalonji and Henry have been unbelievable,' Haskins says. 'I'm not sure I've taken them out of a game, unless they've been in foul trouble. And Tyrone was player of the game in three of our four Les Schwab games.'
But just wait till the sophomores get a bit more experience.
'Two years from now, they'll all be monsters,' Haskins says. 'I would see us being top 10 in the country. Those guys will all be 6-7 to 6-9, and two or three of them will be rated among the top 100 players in the country.'
Jones, 215 pounds, and Ross, a 190-pound wing, are seeing the most action so far. Haskins calls Jones 'a Magic Johnson type who can play all five positions.' Ross also can handle point-guard duties, not that the Demos lack for skill there, with Williams, Paschal and White also capable of running the offense. Kone, 175 pounds, plays in the post.
The Demos have been starting Williams, Paschal and White on the perimeter, with 6-2, 210-pound senior Jordan Black in the post.
It sometimes looks as though Jefferson lives and dies with the 3-point shot, but Haskins says there is more to it than that.
'Everyone thinks that's what we rely on, but we really don't,' he says. 'When teams can't play you man-to-man, they use zone, and that means the only thing that's going to be open is the 3-pointer, because even if you penetrate, they suck in defensively and you kick it out.
'We want to fastbreak and take open looks, and once we get into the halfcourt we try to get the ball inside, which we've been doing pretty well.'
Haskins says the Demos are 'better prepared' for league and postseason play this year than they were last season.
'We had to indoctrinate three transfers from Benson last year, and we had a lot of kids who weren't used to being Jefferson,' he says. 'And our kids will be more ready mentally, thinking we could lose the league.'
Not that the Demos didn't come close to doing something really big last season.
'You give us six free throws that we missed in the last 20 seconds of our two Roosevelt losses, and we probably win state,' Haskins says.
• Wilson goes into PIL 6A league play with a 6-3 record and hopes of making it a three-way race with Grant and Benson. The Trojans open Tuesday at Lincoln, which is 1-9 but also a playoff contender.
'I think we're pretty good,' coach Scott Aker says. 'We have a good combination of size and quickness, and some shooters.'
Mario Gill, a 6-1 senior guard, leads Trojan scorers at 17 points per game. Point guard Gage Aker, a 6-3 senior, has chipped in 10 per game. Posts Derrick Hayes (6-4 junior) and Darryl Finley (6-7 senior) are averaging nine points per outing, and 6-2 sophomore Trevor Ritchie and 6-7 junior Ryan Robertson have been starting at the wing spot.