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LO boys begin new era

Now that Kevin Love and Ernie Spada have moved on to bigger things, a number of boys basketball teams around the state will be eagerly awaiting a chance to pay Lake Oswego back for all of the poundings the Lakers dished out during the four previous years.

That's not what most Laker fans wanted to hear, especially since coach Mark Shoff welcomed back only one starter from last year's team. But Shoff doesn't mind being in this position at all, especially since the Lakers will be better than most people expect.

'It will be nice not being the hunted for a change,' Shoff said earlier this week. 'This year, we'll have the bow and arrow.'

Without question, the Lakers will look much different than the teams that Love and Spada led to the state title game each of the last three years. But, just because the Lakers will be almost entirely remade this year, it doesn't mean that they'll be a bunch of pushovers.

When Love was in the lineup there was never any uncertainty about who would get the ball each time down the floor. And, if Love found himself surrounded by four defenders (which was often the case), Spada was more than capable of knocking down the outside shot.

'The biggest difference now is we don't have guys like Kevin and Ernie. They made up for a lot of things,' Shoff said.

Now, the Lakers will do most of their scoring by committee, although senior Elliot Babcock-Krenk has demonstrated that he can be the go-to guy when necessary.

That might sound odd since Babcock-Krenk earned his accolades in the past by being a defensive stopper. But, with the graduation of four of last year's starters (which included Love, Spada, Landon Ainge and Taylor Marr), Babcock-Krenk has assumed the team's leadership role almost be default.

But the team leader is still adjusting to his new role. That was apparent during the first period of Monday's jamboree, when Babcock-Krenk attempted only one shot while the Lakers were out-scored 27-12 by Sunset. But things changed drastically later that evening when he scored 14 points (or two-thirds of Lake Oswego's output) in a 21-14 decision over Beaverton.

Babcock-Krenk was the team's high scorer several times during summer-league competition, and now he looks comfortable from anywhere on the floor, even the three-point line.

When Lake Oswego opens its regular season on Friday against Benson, Shoff is hoping to see the Lakers team that showed up against Beaverton on Monday. He definitely doesn't want to see a repeat of what happened against Sunset, when players spent a lot of time standing around, maybe waiting for Love to reappear.

'We were like a deer in the headlights against Sunset,' Shoff said. 'I guess that's why you play jamborees … But we're still trying to figure out what we are as a team.'

One thing Lake Oswego won't be is really tall. The Lakers do have 6-foot-7 junior Max Jacobsen holding down the center position. He'll definitely be a force in the this year in the TRL and maybe even beyond.

'I'm not expecting Max to be Kevin Love but I think he can be one of the best posts in the state,' Shoff said.

With Lake Oswego's four-guard offense, Jacobsen will have to carry a lot of the inside load for the Lakers.

Running the point for that four-guard offense will be sophomore Marcus Anthony, who posted a couple of 20-point performances during summer-league play. He was probably Lake Oswego's best all-around player on Monday.

'He's got some great individual talents … and he's one of the fastest guards I've had since Salim (Stoudamire),' Shoff said of his point guard.

Aside from Jacobsen, Cody Randall will be Lake Oswego's tallest starter at 6-2, although he plays much bigger than that. The key to his game is his hustle, although he's also capable of being a double-digit scorer.

'He's sort of our energizer,' Shoff said of Randall. 'When he's playing well, he's all over the court.'

Rounding out the starting unit will be senior guard Nick Halberg, who is a good outside shooter with a high basketball IQ.

'He's a bright kid who understands the game,' Shoff said Halberg. 'And if opponents leave him open, he'll score. He'll score whenever the opportunity presents itself.'

The first player off the bench will likely be junior guard Nick Rulli, who hit a pair of three-pointers in the jamboree. That was a pretty impressive feat considering the fact that Rulli hadn't practiced yet this season with the basketball team.

In fact, both Rulli and Halberg had been unavailable to the basketball team until this week because of their commitments to the Lake Oswego football team, which advanced to the state quarterfinals before being knocked off last Friday by Sheldon.

Being short-handed at the start of the season is nothing new for the boys basketball team. It seems to happen every year because of the number of kids that play football and basketball.

'That's the nature of the beast around here,' Shoff said. 'But you don't win a (basketball) title in December.'

Typically, Shoff likes to use a seven-man rotation, which means one of the key reserve positions is still up for grabs. At this point, the leading candidates for that seventh spot are 6-8 senior Josh Sweigart, 6-5 junior Mike Brady and 6-7 sophomore Billy Reader. Also vying for playing time will be junior guard Scott Leddy, junior guard Catlin Blyth and freshman wing Max Livingston.

With the departure of Love (who is starting at UCLA) and Spada (who is starting at Humboldt State), it's not surprising that most prognosticators are picking Oregon City to win the TRL. But Shoff isn't ready to hand over the trophy just yet.

'I'm hoping we can give Oregon City a run,' the coach said. 'I'd be disappointed if we weren't one of the top two teams.'

It will be interesting to see how things develop, because 'we're asking five kids who didn't have a big role last year to step up and play big roles this year,' Shoff said. 'But they're all good kids who work hard and have great attitudes. Now we'll see what we can get out of it.'