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Cougars return eight of top nine scorers from last season, including four starters

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Canby junior Ben Bailey is one of three starters returning for the Cougars this season.

Starting four sophomores, Canby was one of the youngest teams in the state last year.

But that experience should pay off for the Cougars this season.

"They went through some growing pains last year, and they're ready to come out swinging this year, and ready to go," Canby coach Craig Evans said. "It's weird saying that we're young when we have four returning starters. Teams may look at us on paper and say they've got a bunch of juniors this year, but they don't realize that those juniors started all of last year."

Juniors Diego Arredondo, Chance Miller, Ben Bailey and Tyler Mead all return this season, along with eight of Canby's top nine scorers.

"I think they're going to find that all of that work that we did last year, putting in the system and getting them battle ready, this year they're going to find that they can execute the game plan with a little bit more ease and they'll be able to push back a little bit more on defense," Evans said. "They won't be taken advantage of as much athletically because they've all grown. They've all done the work in the offseason to get bigger and stronger and faster."

Senior Ronan Gay and sophomore Alexander Evans are also back for the Cougars. Juniors Riley Knutson and Aftanom Ovchinnikoff, who starred on the JV team last year, are also expected to play key roles on the varsity team this season.

"I expect growth and I expect guys to compete every day," Evans said. "I think our gym has already gotten better. We're a lot deeper now. When you don't lose a lot from the year before, you actually get to see some depth. Our gym from top to bottom is very, very competitive. I think that is going to play dividends on the court because we're competing so hard at practice now."

That depth should lead to balanced scoring.

"What we found out this summer is we've got a lot of scorers, and a lot of guys can score from anywhere on the court," Evans said. "It's going to be more of a team effort, where we have to be patient and we have to take great shots and we find somebody feeling it or we find a mismatch, we've got to feed them and take advantage of that at any time possible. In year's past, we've always had one scorer and actually had to go through them and if they didn't have a mismatch, we would struggle. Having the depth in scoring this year is going to help out."

While Miller is technically Canby's point guard, Evans noted that all of his players are capable of running the floor and leading the offense.

"Any of my guys if they get a defensive rebound, they're allowed to push the ball up the floor," Evans said. "We're not sitting back and waiting for our point guard. I have a lot of guys who have played point guard in the past, so they're very comfortable with the ball. We want to run. We want to score a lot of points."

Canby will play in two holiday tournaments, the Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas before Christmas, and then Century/Hillsboro Tournament after, to prepare for the Three Rivers League, which will again be one of the toughest in the state.

Lake Oswego and West Linn were both ranked in the top five in the Class 6A boys basketball preseason coaches poll.

"I expect a lot of fun," Evans said. "We're still young, but I think these guys are going to compete and we're going to be in it and if we can see some early success, it's going to be a really great year."

Derek Wiley
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