Gladstone guys aim to make some noise
With only three players returning with any amount of playing time from last year, little was expected of this years Gladstone High School varsity boys basketball team this season.
But the Gladiators have been impressive, winning seven of their first 10 games, holding their own with some of the top teams in the state, and earning a 13th-in-the-state ranking.
I have to admit Im a little surprised weve done this well, said Gladstone 6-5 post Skyler Bradford, the lone returning full-time starter from last year. But we have a lot of players who work hard. They are working harder than the seniors did last year, and weve got better team chemistry. On and off the court, we all get along together.
Last year an experienced, senior dominated Gladstone varsity boys basketball team won the Tri-Valley Conference title, but lost to state finalist North Marion in the round of 16 of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Bradford says he believes that, even with their lack of experience playing at the varsity level, this years team can surpass what last years team did.
Our goals are to get to the state tournament and win a state championship, Bradford said. And I confidence in us reaching that goal. We just have to come out every game and play with intensity. Play hard and give it our all for four full quarters. Come out and play as a group, and play hard.
The players new to the varsity are not without talent. They finished last season with a 23-1 record, winning every game after a season-opening loss to cross-town rival La Salle.
We played as one, said Devin Neer, a 5-10 senior who was a playmaking guard on last years jayvee team. We were fast and we were physical. Playing on varsity isnt that much different. Its a little faster, not much. And the atmosphere is different bigger crowds. Thats about it.
Bradford says this years varsity doesnt have the speed that last years team had. But he says the team has more depth and more versatile players. And they execute a lot better in the half-court game, he insists.
We have people that come off the bench and can play wing, point guard and post, said Bradford. Last year we only had people playing post coming in off the bench.
In my mind were deeper [than last year], said Gladstone head coach Cody Aker. Weve had multiple games where Ive played 10 guys. That was one of the nice things about last years jayvee team. Everyone played a lot.
This years Gladiator varsity includes six seniors: Bradford, Neer, 6-6 post Nick Brown, 6-3 wing Bryce McNabb, 6-0 wing Robbie Knewitz and 6-3 post Deion Fields.
Bradford, Brown and McNabb are the only players who saw significant playing time on varsity a year ago.
Rounding out this years varsity roster are: juniors Jose Rodriguez (6-3 wing), Quinn Carl (6-2 wing), Briggs Tatom (6-2 wing), Jordan Watts (6-2 wing) and Keaton Hogan (6-3 post); and sophomore Lyric Warren (5-10 point guard).
Bradford, Brown, McNabb, Rodriguez and Warren have been starting most of the preseason.
Brown and Bradford have been the go-to players on offense, averaging 18 and 15 points respectively.
The Gladiators have demonstrated potential in preseason, taking fourth-ranked Seaside down to the wire in a 46-45 loss and giving sixth-ranked Valley Catholic a run for its money in a 48-41 loss. They were up by 12 points heading into the fourth quarter of their loss to Seaside.
We slowed down and didnt push ourselves like we could have, said Neer. We learned from that game that we cant let up in the fourth quarter. We did the same thing in our game with Valley Catholic.
Aker said he sees the Tri-Valley Conference title chase as being wide-open, with Molalla, Crook County and hopefully his Gladiators being the top contenders.
He insists, There is no favorite to win the TVC.
Crook County returns three players who garnered TVC league all-star honors last year: seniors Seth Kessi (6-5 post), Blake Bartels (6-2 guard) and Garrett Harper (6-2 guard).
Madras returns two players who received league all-star recognition seniors Bryce Rehwinkel (6-6 post) and Sean LeRiche (6-4 post).
Gladstone plays Banks on the road on Friday (Jan. 15) in its final tuneup for the league season.
The Gladiators begin league play on Tuesday, Jan. 19, playing Crook County (6-6) on the road. They have a home game with Madras (1-9) on Friday, Jan. 22.