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Season preview: Tiger boys basketball team is touting a change in style this year

For Newberg boys basketball, last season ended with a bitter first-round playoff loss to one of the most talented teams in the state in Grant. Elite point guard Aaron Deloney torched the Tigers and ended a solid season for coach Mark Brown's squad, also bringing to an end the high school careers of a handful of Newberg seniors.

Now – with those seniors graduated and point guard Jack Chlumak transferred to Lake Oswego – the Tigers have a new look and new identity. With a roster that looks markedly different than last season's, Newberg has speed on its mind on the hardwood this season.

"I'm excited for the year," NHS coach Mark Brown said. "We had a really good summer and the guys put in a lot of work in the offseason. They've come into the season looking strong.

"We're gonna be fast and furious. We want to push the ball up the court with speed and score in bunches, and defensively we're going to try and put a lot of pressure on teams. We want to hurry teams up and force them to play at our pace."

Brown's team aims to turn defense into offense, forcing turnovers and getting out on the fast break with regularity. The Tigers' coach plans to employ a "hurry up" offense that focuses on decision making rather than running through the tedium of slow, designed plays.

These quick hitters will lead to plenty of buckets for Newberg this season, Brown said, and he added that the athleticism and depth the Tigers bring to the table should allow them to do that successfully.

"It really is a personnel decision," Brown said. "We have 10 or 11 guys who are ready to go, so we're deeper than we've ever been, and we're quick and athletic. As a guard-dominant type team this up-tempo style fits who we are."

After losing starters Alex Jaczko, Caleb Muthiah and Kyle Kruse to graduation, along with Chlumak to transfer, the Tigers will look for longtime members of the program to carry the load this year. Many of these players were either on junior varsity or coming off the bench for Newberg's varsity squad last season, so stepping into leadership roles will be new territory for this group.

So far in early season practices, Brown said the Tigers have been led by senior point guard Luke Esmond.

"Luke is going to handle the ball a lot and I expect him to have a really good year," Brown said. "He's a phenomenal leader on both ends of the floor."

Depth is going to be Newberg's calling card this year in addition to its speed, Brown said, and he envisions success for a long list of other players.

Brown said senior guard Jake Gaunt will provide energy and toughness, senior wing Jovy Ogles will boast size and athleticism, junior Vaibhav Brooks will be a major threat from outside the arc and junior Spencer Lanier will fill the lane with size and rebounding ability in the post. There are a handful of other players who Brown expects to contribute from the get-go, including junior Corban Muthiah – Caleb's younger brother – and senior Hayden Pyritz, among others.

Brown said he believes his team will be fun to watch this year as it pursues another playoff berth with a revamped roster and altered style of play.

"We're going to have a fun product to put on the court and people are going to enjoy watching us," Brown said. "I think we're going to score a lot and we're trying to put our players in position to make the right decisions and play the game the right way."

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