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Wildcats have many talented individuals, but invest more in the team concept

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview senior point guard London Smalley is the team's defensive leader and co-captain.

The talent on the Westview boys' basketball team is good enough to not just contend for a Metro League title but take it and be amongst the best squads in the state come tournament time.

One could argue the same sentiment for Sunset, Beaverton and Jesuit. That trio of Metro contenders is loaded too, with all-league returners and players who are ready to emerge and influence winning at a high level. The depth of this conference is better than it's been in years.

What sticks out about the Wildcats, however, is the sense of credence amongst the nucleus. Westview has players who are battle-tested in London Smalley, Jalen Grable and Wayne Jamison. They start Brady Grier and Ansul Batish who fit seamlessly within the team dynamic with their competitive spirit and desire to win collectively. Off the bench, guys are not coming into the game gunning, trying to get numbers. They want to do what the team needs them to do.

It's a group that communally fully bought into head coach Mike Wolf's preachings and practices a year ago and carried that belief into this season. Westview is unselfish, combative, athletic and experienced, but more importantly, they're extremely certain in one another and put winning above all else.

It's no wonder many of the Metro coaches think Westview can win the league.

"This group has tremendous confidence and trust in each other," Wolf said. "They are selfless and tough, recognizing that they cause problems because anyone is capable of doing whatever is necessary to succeed and they don't care who gets the credit. I think our group can challenge the best teams in the Metro League."

Westview doesn't just play one of end of the floor. For all the offensive promise, the Wildcats might be the best defensive team in Metro. Smalley is excellent guarding the basketball at the head of Wolf's man-to-man attack, using his length, aggression and quick feet to fluster opposing guards. The senior has transitioned to point guard after playing the two a year ago. Offensively Smalley has already proven he can pass and run the show effectively. Defensively is where he's best. A year ago, he probably led the conference in charges taken. Smalley openly takes pride in the defensive end of the floor, where the co-captain can set a tone and get his teammates fired up with his energy and animation.

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Grable is a freaky 6-foot-5 athlete who can cover point guards through centers. He can switch on the perimeter, mirror attackers off the dribble, protect the paint, play the passing lanes and gobble up defensive boards. Jamison is along the same defensive vein: crazy athletic (as a junior he won a district title in the long jump despite never competing in the sport before) and sinewy, always ready to help when he's off the ball, perpetually ready to pounce on weak entry passes and turn those misgivings into transition opportunities. The senior co-captain is a three-year starter and one of the more seasoned vets in Metro. Few teams turn defense into offense better or faster than Westview. Let them feast on live-ball turnovers and two-point leads swell to double figures real quick.

Grier is a new addition to the starting lineup, a 6-foot-5 shooter who is far from allergic to putting the ball on the deck and driving to the paint. The junior has a nice blend of finishes and surprising post moves that he can utilize inside offensively. And like Smalley, Grier is emphatic in his love of the game.

"Our top four all are capable of All-Metro performances," Wolf said. "Our depth and balance may stifle their individual numbers but they only care about the number on the left side of the W-L column."

Wolf called Batish a "Swiss Army knife" who can score, create, defend and rebound. The senior has a high IQ and will do whatever each game needs. Cade Whitaker is an elite shooter with a high IQ who has already been in college classes for two years, according to Wolf. Zach Coalson is an athletic, aggressive defender and transition attacking wing who can make shots from deep. Sophomore post Keshav Anand played a role as a freshman. Wolf said the big guy growing into a bigger role scoring off the bounce, inside in traffic and from three. He's an improved defender and rebounder.

Junior Aiden Grady was Westview's junior varsity MVP and leading scorer. He brings length, physical rebounding and Great touch around the rim at 6-foot-5. Nic Anderson is a tough, aggressive backup point guard who can play four positions.

This team is deep in addition to its already well-versed winning characteristics. The Wildcats are testing themselves in non-league play with road games against 5A power Churchill, 6A power West Linn, solid challenges Oregon City, Grants Pass and South Medford, not mention a home game with Tigard and a neutral site battle against 6A state favorite Jefferson on Jan. 20 at the Chiles Center for the Martin Luther King Day Classic. Plus, Westview is competing in The Classic at Damien in Southern California over the holiday break.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Westview senior point guard London Smalley is the teams defensive leader and co-captain.


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