Six seniors return to the Lakeridge boys basketball team this year on a team that coach Dave Nuss believes will be in the thick of a tough battle for playoff positioning in the Three Rivers League.
The team has started the season 1-2 with a win over Reynolds and losses to Summit and Central Catholic and Nuss knows that his squad is only going to improve.
'We're playing like it's early in the season. We've done some good things but we definitely need to get better,' Nuss said.
Two of the leaders on this year's team will be brothers Michael and Chris Hoch. Michael is a returning sophomore who had success at post last year while Chris is a senior who has been the team's leading scorer so far.
The Pacers have plenty of height and athleticism on the team this season. Along with the Hochs, James Higgins has been a big role player.
'He has improved tremendously. He gives us a lot of energy defensively,' Nuss said.
'We have a lot of guys who are over 6'2 and four guys over 6'4. Most of our points have been coming from inside this season,' he added.
That is a bit of a departure from Lakeridge teams in the past that have relied heavily on outside shooting.
Ben Nelson and returning point guard Trevan Hertz will help the Pacers with their outside shooting and with setting up the offense. Hertz is one of the team's better shooters and defenders.
'We have been more guard-oriented in the past and we've struggled a bit shooting so far. We're going to need to hit those shots to be successful,' Nuss said.
The Pacers will also look to press teams on defense and move quickly up and down the court on fast breaks.
Lakeridge will have its work cut out for it in league this year. Lake Oswego is a top-10 team and there doesn't appear to be any automatic wins.
'Right now you have to give L.O. the nod and from what I've seen, Oregon City can score the ball. Clackamas has a couple kids who can shoot the lights out and West Linn got a transfer that makes them a contender,' Nuss said.
To gear up for that tough league schedule, the Pacers are playing some very strong non-league foes.
Lakeridge takes on Jefferson later this week and the Democrats are expected to be one of the best teams in the state at any classification.
The Pacers will also host their own tournament next week and open up play against a strong team from Camas, Wash.
'The non-league schedule is challenging and that's only going to help us,' Nuss said.
Nuss also likes how well the team has gotten along so far.
'It's just a really great group of guys. I'm having fun coaching them and they have good chemistry,' Nuss said.