Beavers bring back tons of retuners, should be in the top half of the Metro League mix

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Beaverton junior John Oleson and the Beavers hope to finish in the top-four of the Metro League.

The security blanket that was Jake Estep is gone.

The training wheels, in a sense, are off of the Beaverton boys basketball team.

A year ago the Beavers were a green, unproven product coming into the season after losing what was the core of two of the top teams in program history. Estep was the lone holdover, a guiding light who could shoulder the load and score 30 points on any given night.

But with the sharpshooter suiting up at Western Oregon University, the players who once flanked Estep as a supporting cast will be looked upon to fill the void and keep the Beavers in the thick of the Metro League title hunt.

Beaverton only lost two seniors off the 2017-18 team that made it to the first round of the Class 6A playoffs. And the returners are talented. Junior post John Oleson was an All-Metro honoree, a monkey wrench sort of forward who knocks down mid-range jumpers, distributes the basketball with a keen passing eye, rebounds and plays solid defense. Senior guard Mason Stewart-Carothers spaces the floor as an accurate, unafraid outside shooter and Issac Rosenthal is an interesting playmaking point guard who can drive and dish.

Those three are Beaverton's team captains. Head coach Andrew Vancil said the Beavers have some talented sophomores who he's excited to see in Trent Walker, Ams Juwara and Dane Erikstrup. Vancil is looking for juniors Tyler Baltus and Stephen Sloop to give Beaverton solid minutes at the varsity level as well. Matt Guyman is a 6-6 junior who looks to mix into the lineup. Finn Backamus and Ahmad Ricks who are both sophomores fill out the rest of the varsity rotation.

Vancil said he's been pleased with how Beaverton has bought into the program's cultural beliefs of playing hard and unselfishly.

"All 13 kids get along and compete hard for each other," Vancil said. "Every day is a dogfight in practice. We are not big so rebounding and post defense will be tested. This is a smart and scrappy group. They're fast and athletic and it's a good shooting team."

Since Vancil took over, Beaverton has consistently been in the top tier of Metro, winning back-to-back conference crowns in '16 and '17. Last year was a retooling season as Oleson, Stewart-Carothers and company saw their first extensive time at the varsity level, getting to take on the likes of Jefferson, West Salem and West Linn at the Les Schwab Invitational as well as weathering the Metro meat grinder. With so much returning talent, a locked-in coaching staff and now the game experience to go with it, discounting the Beavers as conference contenders would be unwise.

That said, Vancil thinks Jesuit is the preseason leader to take the league with Southridge, Sunset, Beaverton and Westview all battling it out for the top-four seeds.

"I think Jesuit is the favorite to win Metro," Vancil said. " Sunset, Southridge, and Westview are all loaded. Aloha is very well coached and they get better each year with David (Saultz) running the show. If we buy into playing defense every day and playing unselfish basketball like I think we will, I think we will be able to play with anyone."

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