2013/14 starters Jace Cates and Austin Evans will likely lead the Cougars next season.

by: JEFF GOODMAN - Austin Evans attempting a lay-up against Forest Grove last season.

Calendar-wise, the dog days of summer were still on the horizon, but for Canby boys basketball, summer league reached its conclusion on Tuesday, June 24. In Canby’s penultimate game of an 18-game schedule, the Cougars defeated Oregon City 75-60 at home. Though a couple starters weren’t on the hardwood, it was apparent who will be Canby’s go to guys next season: 2013/14 starters Jace Cates and Austin Evans.

“Both of them are going to be our guys,” Coach Evans said.

Cates in particular bid the summer league a-dieu in spectacular fashion, despite starting out cold from the field.

Cates missed five straight shots and three of four free throws during a stretch in the first quarter.

“Jace is a shooter. He’s a scorer. He’s been working camp all day today. His legs probably just took a little bit to get going,” Evans said.

The Cougars also couldn’t break away from the Pioneers. The game was tied 17-17 heading into the second quarter.

Even if it is a lay-up, some say a shooter just needs to see the ball rush through nylon to get hot. Cates performance would prove as a useful test sample for these theorizers.

To open the second quarter, Cates made a sharp cut to the hoop, received a pass and converted a lay-up. After that, he was lights out. A combination of six three-pointers, a couple long two’s and some plays at the rim culminated in a 32-point performance from last year’s second-team all-leaguer.

“My teammates just told me to keep shooting, get open and create opportunities to score. I really just have to hand it to the team and coach Evans,” Cates said.

Evans, a rolling junior, added a solid game as well, commanding the offense from the point guard position, breaking a multitude of presses and traps from Oregon City and even putting his body on the line in attempt to force a charge. He also made his mark on the scoreboard, making a high-difficulty, two hand floater over a group of Pioneer defenders, knocking down a three-pointer and getting to the rim a few more times.

“Austin is a great point guard. He’s got a lot of playing time under his belt,” coach Evans said.

Also, long and athletic soon to be sophomore Austin Kirkwood showed off his potential on the boards and around the rim against Oregon City.

“He’s a very good player. He’s a gym rat, which I like. He started JV last year and swung up a little bit. This year, he’s going to play significantly for us,” Evans said.

Though Evans, Kirkwood and a few other players contributed for Canby, the team seemed to lack scoring punch when Cates was off the floor. Coach Evans said Cates’ offensive responsibility will lessen once the whole team is together.

“I think the pressure will be off his shoulders a little bit more, but when it comes down to, ‘we need a bucket,’ we’re going to go through Jace,” he said.

Cates, a rolling senior, may have enough strain on his shoulders as it is trying to impress college coaches and earn a scholarship.

“I’m just trying to get a scholarship to take some weight off my parents back because college can be really expensive,” he said.

Though he said he doesn’t let it affect his performance, he’s reminded of this pressure when he isn’t partaking in productive activities.

“When I’m eating a bag of chips I’m thinking, ‘maybe this isn’t what I should be doing right now to reach my goal,’” he said.

However, as far a working hard is concerned, Cates seems to be doing all the right things. Cates said he’s in the gym working on his game four hours per day.

“He’s a gym rat. He’s working on the game all the time,” Evans said.

Evans has seen stark improvement in Cates’s game since last season.

“His ability to catch and shoot has gotten a lot better since last year and his ability to score in general has gotten a lot better,” he said.

Along with his time playing for the AAU team I-5 Elite with Kirkwood and some of the best players in Oregon, Cates has attended basketball camps at University of Portland, Portland State, Washington State and University of Washington.

“I’m just trying to get my name out there,” he said.

But to offset the rigors of attracting collegiate interest, Cates has enjoyed bonding with his Canby teammates.

“We’re really coming together as a team. We’re always doing extra-curricular activities like hanging out, going to team lunch, team dinner. I think we’re all just a group of friends that like to work hard,” Cates said.

Plus, the team has planned a rafting trip for the end of July along the Deschutes River.

“I’m not really sure what to expect. Coach Evans just put it on the calendar and we’re just going to show up and have a blast,” Cates said.

Though coach Evans has no idea what his team’s summer league record was, he noticed considerable improvement.

“I think we’ve gotten better at finding each other, finding each player’s role,” Evans said.

However, Evans sees one glaring void: size.

“We don’t have that big 6-8 guy in the middle to alter shots. We’re going to have to help each other out,” he said.

Evans has instructed his players to front post-ups, which is a new concept for him and his team.

“I’ve never gone full frontal before.” He added: “Our defense is going to have to be immaculate this year.”

Though Evans believes summer league results are innocuous, he utilized two questions of evaluation. “Are we getting better as a team? Are we bonding as a team?”

Based on those measurements, summer league seemed to be a resounding success.

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