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Youth and inexperience will slow Lions basketball

The team are sure to miss the toughness brought by last year's senior class.


by: JOHN WILLIAM HOWARD - St. Helens senior Tanner Long looks around a defender during practice on Wednesday morning. Long is in his third year as the team's point guard, and will be a major asset toward the squad's success this season. Just about any coach who is faced with a young team will say the same thing: we’ll be successful because of our athleticism and by playing hard on defense.

It’s the exact situation that Jerry Allen, head boys basketball coach at St. Helens High School, will try to overcome this season, as the team reels from the losses from last years’ senior-heavy squad.

“They work hard, and they’re committed to me and they’re committed to one another,” he said. “That will go a long way.”

The only player who saw extensive time last season is Tanner Long, who led the team from the point guard position. The 6-foot-1 senior has had to make the adjustment from last year’s team, which was full of players with several years of experience. Now that the team is missing the seniors, Long has been forced to make the transition.

“He struggled a lot this summer because those seniors are gone,” said Allen. “That made it real difficult on him, but he’s trying to get the younger guys to understand what he wants. Just little things like that.”

Defensively, the team this year is far different than last year’s group. The squad last year had a certain toughness, though they lacked discipline. This year’s team lacks the toughness, and is inexperienced, which will make for an “interesting” season, according to Allen.

The key now is waiting for the young players to step up and fill some of the roles left open by the graduating seniors. Returning players like Gage Bumgardner and Corey West saw the floor last season, but not a lot of time, and so the coaching staff expects someone to emerge.

“We’ve been asking them every day. Somebody needs to step in that spot, who is it gonna be? Who’s gonna be the other guy?” said Allen, who put much of the pressure of having success on the ability of the upper classmen to connect with the youth on the team. At one point, Allen stepped back and asked his seniors to critique the younger group on an offensive play they had just learned, opting to let the upperclassmen take a leadership role.

“The seniors (are key),” he said. “The seniors giving those youthful guys confidence. The senior leadership is going to be critical, and how well they accept constructive criticism. Coach Allen can be kind of a mean person at times. Pretty demanding. Them not dropping their head when they make a mistake, or understanding the mistake and not making the mistake again.”

As far as the league is concerned, Allen couldn’t say how things might shake out. The league is deep with solid coaching top to bottom, and any number of teams could make a run. Parkrose will be strong, he said, as will Wilsonville, Sandy and even Liberty could make some noise.

The idea isn’t to look at where the Lions sit in the league standings, but instead to focus on themselves and competing in every game. The wins will come if the team is aggressive and playing hard.

“I’m not taking any game like a gimmick,” said Allen. “We’re gonna come out and play every single game like it’s the last one.”