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St. Paul's small, athletic lineup starts to gel with new coach Robby Robinson at helm

With a completely revamped roster and a brand-new head coach, the St. Paul boys basketball team aims to continue its program's ascent on the backs of multisport athletes.

The Bucks had less than a week to get adjusted from football season after many of the basketball players were part of the 1A title game on Nov. 30. And after an 0-2 start to the season, including a 68-point loss to Santiam, the Bucks have rebounded to win two of their last four, with both victories coming against Casco League opponents.

This team is still jelling under head coach Robby Robinson, who is coming out of retirement from coaching after spending 43 years at the head of basketball teams in southern Utah and another few helping out his sons coaching football in Oregon.

Robinson is positive about the current construction of this St. Paul team, one that aspires to make it back to the postseason.

"I like our roster," Robinson said. "We're a little smaller, but we have some good athletes, especially coming over from the football team. We've got a cross-country kid as well, who is a pretty good basketball player.

"They don't really have any varsity experience, but they're working hard. We're trying to change what we do defensively and offensively, so that has been an adjustment for them, but they're doing great."

St. Paul starts seniors Gianni Grasso and TJ Crawford at the guard spots, both of whom played key roles in the backfield for the football team this season. Junior Broden Lear — a star runner in cross-country — starts at one of the forward spots, while seniors Hayden Scott and Jacob Coleman — both football players as well — fill the power forward and center positions.

Size is not St. Paul's strength, admittedly. Coleman is listed at 6-foot-3, but no other player on the roster is listed at more than 6 feet tall. What they lack in size compared to some other squads, the Bucks make up for in athleticism, and Robinson said this group wants to play fast.

"We play full-court man, so that is a total change for this group," Robinson said. "We are running everywhere trying to pressure the ball at all times. On offense we're running a lot of Loyola-Marymount stuff where we try to get a shot up in the first five or six seconds.

"We graduated our top seven players from last year. Broden and TJ played a little bit, but not substantial minutes. It's a whole new group being thrown into the fire here."

The Bucks are down two potential starters due to injuries suffered in football, too. Robinson said seniors Caide Schneider and Alex Dela Cerda both suffered torn ACL tendons on the gridiron and will be out for the entire basketball season.

Both would have been starters on the hoops squad, Robinson said, and the hulking Dela Cerda would have provided some much-needed size in the frontcourt.

But St. Paul is pressing forward with the group it has, some of whom have not had a whole lot of time to get integrated into the basketball team. It will be a steady adjustment, Robinson said, for what the Bucks hope is a long-term payoff.

"Some of the guys on our team have only had three practices prior to our first game," Robinson said. "I'm sure they'll do the best they can early on given the circumstances. They haven't had a chance to have a break after five or six months of playing football."

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