Senior leadership to be key for Wildcats, coach says

by: GREG ARTMAN - Versatile senior Tyler Martin is a key member of the Wilsonville boys basketball team as its sixth man.As the Wilsonville boys basketball team pivots into the heart of its season, coach Chris Roche assesses the preseason and discusses what the Wildcats will need to build on their recent success:

On a grade for his team’s preseason

“Maybe a ‘B’ ... We are young, and our competitive consistency has been a little bit up-and-down as one might expect. We also have done some impressive things, too.

“The important thing for us is to be paying attention and move along, learning and striving to be better as a team. We need to grow as leaders. I think there is an awareness of these things. I see some of our key guys trying to do more, to grow as leaders and teammates.

“We are trying to become a more consistently tough team, a team that imposes its will on situations rather than the reverse. We are trying to connect the dots between practice effort and game performance. I see some progress in all of these important areas; but until we consistently own our attitude and effort, we will remain a work in progress.”

On where the ‘Cats need improvement

“In addition to the overall leadership and game prep things, specifically we are trying to become a team that finishes plays and possessions on defense better, stronger, tougher, and we are trying to make things work and get great shots on offense rather than just running our stuff and settling.

“These are vital, critical things in terms of us reaching our potential, and they require focus, toughness and unselfishness.”

On scheduling four Class 4A teams

“We scheduled two years out and had two-year agreements with most of the schools on our schedule, and we believe the schedule we have played the last two preseasons has fit the teams we would have during these two years very well. Our schedule has been great.

“We heard some people making commentary about these same programs we played last year. The fact of the matter was this: Those were good, competitive games for us last year. We beat Siuslaw in overtime, and our games against Yamhill-Carlton, Scappoose and Estacada all were close well into the second halves last year.

“When you add the Wilsonville Invitational Tournament and the tough games in that event we played and the teams we played in Hawaii, it was a very good schedule that served us well last year. People can say whatever they like about our schedule — we don’t care. It served our kids well and challenged us in great ways. We humbly accept all of that, without excuses or explanations or rationales. That’s all that matters: It fit us. Everybody’s opinions and the rest is nonsense to us.

“I think the end results last year bear all of this out. I am not sure that group of guys could have finished any stronger, achieved any more than they did (20 wins, fourth place in state), and I would credit the schedule for that partially — absolutely, unequivocally and without question. I would not change one thing about last year’s experience.

It was a struggle and it was not perfect, but we finished like gangbusters and made memories we all will take with us forever.

“This year, we knew we might be even younger than we were last year, and as it turns out we in fact are younger — much younger. So, the games we had committed to still made sense to us. The difference is, much to our delight, we have handled those 4A games much better. They have not been as close this time around. We are a more talented team offensively, and that’s great.”

On his team’s tournament opponents

“When you look at the WIT and the teams we played in the Lake City Invitational in Idaho, it’s been a tough and fitting schedule overall. Kentridge could be the best team we play all year; they are 12-0 and ranked No. 4 in the big-school classification in Washington. They are immensely big, talented and strong. Crescent Valley, Silverton, Lakeland and Sandpoint will or would all be teams that will or would contend for a tournament birth in Oregon 5A basketball. There is nothing ‘easy’ about any of that.

“So, it’s been very challenging, tough and appropriate preseason schedule overall. We don’t need anything different than the schedule we have played.

“What we need to do is learn to be ready to play every opportunity we get, regardless of the opponent, and become more competitively consistent, tougher, and hungrier — again, regardless of who we play. I think and hope we are making strides in these areas.”

On this year’s conference race

“I think the NWOC could be very balanced this year. Most of the people with whom I talk think Sherwood is the favorite to win the league. They certainly are big, strong and deep.

“But I think Liberty will be a factor, and Sandy was 8-1 to start its preseason. Parkrose is talented, and Milwaukie is the defending league champion. St. Helens and Putnam are well-coached outfits.

“So it looks to me like a balanced league where on any given night the teams that play the hardest and best will have a great chance to win. Being ready to compete every night out will be huge in our league.

“For us, that will probably come down to getting the leadership we need to defend and rebound consistently. You can’t fake those things. You have to show up and play. If we can do those things consistently, and play inspired, we should have a chance to compete most nights.”

On the team’s senior leaders

“We are pleased with the effort and growing leadership our seniors, Zach Malvar and Tyler Martin, are putting forth.

“Zach is a competitor, and his toughness really impacts our team. Sometimes we notice how good he is most when he is not there; that is, when he is in foul trouble, or sits out a drill in practice, sometimes we see a drop-off in our intensity and overall toughness. That’s a challenge for our team, and a compliment to him.

“He is really working hard to help this team be the best it can be, and he’s learning how much impact he can have on others when he encourages and stands behind them. Along with Sam Bullock, I think Zach may be learning the most on our team about how impactful his leadership efforts can be.

“T-Mart is a versatile guy, and he has blossomed into a really great offensive rebounder and a guy who can guard all five positions on the floor. These are big strengths, and they fit our team well. He has taken to his role as sixth man on our team, and he is a major contributor.

“He’s also a fun, charismatic personality, and I think he is getting closer to understanding how his approach impacts our overall team attitude and identity. Everybody really likes Tyler, and he is a person who can lead because of that.

“Zach and T-Mart are doing great, and as they continue to assert themselves more in the leadership areas, our team will benefit. We are very proud of them both.”

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