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PREP FOCUS: Demos 'ready' for Schwab; Generals eye another challenge

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Grant High guard Darren Kennedy and the Generals take a 5-0 record into their biggest challenge yet as they face Rainier Beach in the first round of this week's Les Schwab Invitaitonal at Liberty.Jefferson and Grant go into this week's Les Schwab Invitational undefeated -- and perhaps facing their biggest challenges of the boys basketball season.

Jefferson (4-0) will meet Lake Oswego (6-0) in Friday's second of eight first-round games at Liberty High. Tip-off is 10:30 a.m.

Grant (5-0) takes on powerful Rainier Beach of Seattle, ranked No. 9 in the nation, in Friday's 8:30 p.m. nightcap.

The 16-team, 32-game tourney runs through Monday.

"We're excited about the Les Schwab. We're ready," Jefferson coach Pat Strickland says.

"We've been having nightmares about Rainier Beach, but we're really looking forward to the challenge," Grant coach Paul Kelly says. "They have seven or eight D-I -caliber guys. But there's only one basketball, and it has to be shared. If we can keep the game close, maybe we can get them in a situation where they're not comfortable."

  •  The tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. Friday, with Tigard facing Central Catholic, last season's Class 6A runner-up.

    The noon game is 2013 5A runner-up Churchill-Sunset. The Lancers are 3-0 this season. Sunset is 3-2.

    At 1:30 p.m., 4-2 Jesuit takes on 2-4 Timberline of Lacey, Wash. Timberline's marquee player is 6-7 swing Donaven Dorsey, who has signed with the Washington Huskies

    The 4 p.m. match-up is Beaverton (2-2) against Bishop Gorman, the nation's No. 23-ranked team and a perennial force from Las Vegas, Nev. Bishop Gorman has two big men who figure to be top-20 recruits in 2015 in 7-foot Stephen Zimmerman and 6-10 Chase Jeter. Zimmerman is the country's No. 2-rated junior.

    At 5:30 p.m., defending Class 6A champion West Linn (3-3) plays South Eugene (3-2), which is led by 6-6 Yale-bound wing Eli Lininger.

    The 7 p.m. game features Clackamas (5-1) against Whitney Young of Chicago, which arrives as the No. 34-rated team in the country.

  •  Jefferson has early-season victories over Jesuit 67-63 and West Linn 75-66 among its credentials, with three main floor leaders in 6-3 senior guard Silas Melson, 5-9 junior point guard Kadeem Strickland and 6-3 senior wing Devaunte Paschal.

    "We have great leadership from those three," Coach Strickland says. "Those are three All-City guys, and each one has a really good strength. Kadeem is obviously a better ball-handler, but Silas is the best shooter of the three, and Devaunte is probably a little better rebounder -- but they all do a little bit of everything and are pretty much interchangeable, and all three play really good defense.

    "I feel like Jefferson has the best backcourt in the state, at any classification."

    The Demos have a supporting cast, too, that includes 6-4 juniors Quintus Hall and Gabe Garrett.

    And Jeff can go with size by using 6-11 junior Greyson Smallwood and/or 7-0 senior Sundi Edwards.

    Smallwood, who played for Lincoln last year while attending a charter school, began his prep days at Central Catholic. He grew up in Hong Kong and doesn't have a lot of basketball experience.

    Strickland says Smallwood can do big, big things.

    "Not only on the next level," Strickland says, of college hoops, "but on the next level after that."

    He's 200 pounds, "if that," Strickland says, and :is still picking up the tricks of the trade. His father works for Nike and he was stationed in Hong Kong for seven to 10 years, so Greyson hasn't played a lot of basketball and didn't play much till he came to the states about six or seven years ago. But he is going to be a big part of what we do. His athletic ability is unmatched. He can touch the top of the square of the backboard.

    "Greyson controls the pain," Strickland adds. "He easily could be starting anywhere in the state, but he's a new guy still learning and getting back in full swing after some ailments."

    Edwards also is earning more playing time with the Demos.

    "This is only his second year playing, but I haven't seen a big guy make the strides he's made," Strickland says. "Last year, we liked to joke that he couldn't chew gum and walk at the same time -- but now he's blocking shots and learning how to position himself defensively to help us there and with rebounding. He'll probably see more action when we get into league play."

  • Melson is averaging more than 20 points per game, Kadeem Strickland is scoring about 17 per outing and Paschal is at about 13 per contest, but defense is what the coach says will give the Demos a chance to capture their second consecutive 5A title. If they get it, Jefferson will have won five of the last seven state championships at that level, as the Demos and the rest of the PIL prepare to move up to 6A in 2014-15.

    "We want to leave 5A with a bang and come into 6A with a bang," Strickland says.

    He says moving up in classification won't hurt the Demos' program.

    "I don't think it will hinder us getting players, because every college coach in America has been into our building to recruit our kids, and we have the recipe to help our kids go to Division I," Strickland says.

    This year's team is off to a good start toward defending its title, forcing more than 15 turnovers a game, while committing only about nine.

    "Jesuit is always going to be a tough game, whether it's the first, middle or last game of your season," Strickland says. "And we beat a very good West Linn team in a hostile environment at their place, where we fought through a little adversity.

    "We've been making steady improvement, game by game. We've done some good things. We still have a long way to go."

    As for 5A competition around the state, "Churchill is arguably a top-five team regardless of classification," Strickland says. "West Albany will be formidable. Sherwood, Wilsonville and Mountain View also are up there."

  •  Grant comes into the Schwab Invitational with a relatively young and inexperienced team, but with a 59-58 home victory over Jesuit and four other wins by a total of 35 points.

    "We've been challenged every game," Coach Kelly says. "We've got the toughest schedule in the state."

    Senior captain Deiondre Bird, a 6-6 wing, leads the Generals with 23 points and 11 rebounds per game. Last week, Southridge focused its defense on stopping him, and while he had only six points, he collected eight rebounds and seven assists, and Grant won 48-38.

    "He can impact a game without scoring," Kelly says.

    Junior guard Darren Kennedy, who is 5-9, and 6-4 senior wing Dylan Leonard are among Grant's other main components.

    "Our goal is to win our league and get ready for the state playoffs," Kelly says.

    As for this week, "We're going to be on display for the country and state to see that we develop good players."