The West Linn point guard competes for a team that goes 26-4 against strong competition

Photo Credit: MATTHEW SHERMAN - West Linn point guard Caitlin Malvar played on the Oregon Elite team this year under coach Gary Lavender. The team went 26-4 and won a pair of out-of-state tournaments.When this year's high school basketball season gets underway in a few months, West Linn's Caitlin Malvar knows that she will be one of the leaders on a team that is replacing virtually its entire starting line-up.

But Malvar is up for the challenge and got some terrific experience over the summer, playing on the Oregon Elite team that went 26-4 while winning a pair of highly competitive tournaments.

The Oregon Elite team was coached by Gary Lavender, the former longtime coach at Lake Oswego High School and one of the most influential figures in Oregon high school girls basketball.

Lavender has been a family friend of the Malvars and Caitlin has played for him in the offseason since her eighth grade year. In fact, Lavender actually coached Malvar's mother when she attended Lake Oswego in high school.

Malvar was selected to play for his most competitive squad this summer, joining forces with some of the other top players in the state.

The team was thrust into action quickly with just a handful of practices together before it opened up competitive play.

However, the girls jelled quickly and had a high level of chemistry that made it easier to learn each others' tendencies on the fly.

The team was loaded with speed and athleticism and used that to its advantage, often playing against larger and more physical opponents.

“Our offense was basically a motion offense with a lot of dribble drives. In the high school game the focus is on the team and sharing the ball. Our (Elite) team is naturally really unselfish but we also worked a lot on our 1-on-1 game,” Malvar said.

The team had plenty of success, winning tournaments in Seattle and Nashville.

“I think a lot of people were probably surprised that we played as well as we did,” Malvar said.

In its most competitive tournament of the season in North Carolina, Oregon Elite advanced to the semifinals before falling to one of the best squads in the country.

“The team we played was outstanding and, during the game, a ton of people came over to watch it. The atmosphere felt like a state championship game,” Malvar said.

During the summer season, the focus is on increasing players' individual skills and showcasing their talents for college scouts. Everyone on the team received a good amount of playing time and Malvar had the opportunity to play in front of representatives from some of the top college programs.

Malvar has been working on her offensive game in the offseason as she knows that she will likely need to bear more of the scoring burden next season.

“I tried to work on my shot and getting more confident. I definitely shot more in club than I did during the high school season,” Malvar said.

Along with seeing some of the nation's top high school players and facing them in competition, Malvar also enjoyed the chance to play side by side with players who are rivals during the winter.

“It's really fun playing with all of these girls. In high school you get to know them and how they play,” Malvar said.

Malvar will continue to hone her skills during the fall and is already anticipating the upcoming season.

“I'm excited. It's going to be a whole new game. There's only a few upperclassmen this year and I can't wait to get after it,” Malvar said.

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