Undersized Century hopes to play big
Big things come in small packages. So don't sell this year's Century boys' basketball team short.
The Jaguars return just a handful of players from last year's team, and with the exception of 6-foot-8 senior Kyler Somers, they have no one who stands taller than 6-foot-3. They lost 6-foot-10 Josh Walkenhorst to graduation, 6-foot-5 standout forward Daniel Berger to a knee injury earlier in the year, and even 6-foot-3 Chance Sparks is sidelined indefinitely as a result of a lingering rib injury suffered playing football.
As the 2018-19 season gets underway, Century head coach Scott Kellar knows that, like it or not, this season's success will depend heavily on what the undersized Jags can accomplish on the perimeter at both ends of the court.
"We're going to be pretty guard-oriented, and we'll be giving up a lot of size, so we'll have to get pretty creative defensively," said Kellar. "I think we can get up and down the court, so we'll try to play a little bit faster. We'll spread the floor and try and find some mismatches, and almost treat it like NBA games a little."
Berger, a gifted scorer, would've been the focal point had he not suffered an ACL tear, but in his absence, the Jaguars will lean heavily on a bevy of guards, starting with returning starting point guard Ikin Chan; junior Jospin Mugisha, who sat out most of last year with a knee injury; and sharpshooting sophomore guard Edy Essien, who saw limited varsity time last season but will be the first guy off the bench for Century this year.
"We have a good nucleus of perimeter kids, and I think we have a chance to be a pretty good shooting team," said Kellar. "I hate to live and die on that, but that will probably have to be our thing."
In addition, Coach Kellar will rely on a number of skilled athletes to provide stability both on offense, and at the defensive end. He mentioned a group of seniors, guard Jared Gordon, fellow guards Shane Neal and Alex Garcia, and the 6-foot-8 Somers, who hasn't played since middle school but will be looked upon to fill the hole left by Walkenhorst and help situationally when needed. All are standouts in other sports for the Jags, and their pure athleticism is what Kellar is counting on to help the team.
"All these guys kind of bring different things to the table, so they all kind of have to mesh together in order to be competitive," Kellar said. "But they're good, tenacious athletes, and that definitely has value."
Due to the Jaguars' size, or lack thereof, Kellar sees rebounding and scoring around the basket as his team's primary weakness, but he thinks quickness and his kids' overall feistiness will be an asset. He also believes they're in a bit of a better position to compete in this year's new Pacific Conference, opposed to previous years when they've been pitted against the always-difficult Metro League competition. Having said that, he still understands that it won't be easy.
"We're excited for the new league," said the coach. "If you're down, this league might allow you to stay more competitive than maybe the Metro would've, but that being said, Sherwood was pretty successful, Newberg got in the playoffs last year and McMinnville had a strong year. So those teams will all be tough, and it'll be a good experience for our kids."
So is Kellar thinking playoffs? Sure, but he also knows it's always about improving on a regular basis and hoping that improvement leads to some wins down the road.
"You always want to play more games when the season is over, but we try not to focus to much on that," Kellar said. "With these guys and our inexperience, it's about getting better every week and getting to league season playing some of our best basketball. There'll be some bumps in the road, but we'll just try to compete every night and hope that competitiveness starts to turn into some victories."
Century split its first two games in Roseburg last weekend, losing 63-47 to the Indians Friday, Nov. 30, and defeating South Medford the following day 49-44.