It's go time at West Linn.
Nine months after being bounced from the second round of the Class 6A state playoffs, and 8 1/2 months after former head coach Eric Viuhkola announced his return to the boys basketball program, the Lions are ready to run.
Viuhkola — who led the Lions to four straight state championships between 2013-16 — succeeds Tyler Toney as head coach after Toney's three-year run with the Lions. An assistant under Viuhkola during his initial eight-year run as head coach, Toney resigned at the end of the 2018-19 season.
Toney's teams went 31-9 in Three Rivers League play, 52-28 overall and took third at state in 2017. But the Lions struggled in 2018-19, eventually finishing fifth in the TRL during a year ravaged by injuries and player defections.
While Viuhkola isn't about to predict an immediate return to dominance for his team, he clearly feels the Lions will be able to compete with the TRL's best this year.
"I believe we will be in the mix with four or five other teams to win the TRL," Viuhkola said. "I think we don't have a dominant team in our league, but I think our league will be as balanced as it ever has been since I've been in the league."
This year's Lions will be led by senior guard Micah Garrett (6-foot-3 and a second-team all-TRL pick a year ago), senior guard Bryson Crockett (6-foot-3 and a second-team all-TRL pick a year ago who's currently out with a knee injury), heralded freshman guard Jackson Shelstad (5-11) and senior post Joe Juhala (6-foot-7 and an honorable mention all-TRL pick a year ago).
"Our three best players will be Micah Garrett, Jackson Shelstad and Bryson Crockett," Viuhkola said. "All three are prolific scorers — they can take defenders off the dribble and are good 3-point shooters."
Also ready for prominent roles this year are 6-3 senior wing/post Parker Durbin, 5-11 senior guard Kelton Herrick, 6-5 senior guard/wing Gus Michelon, 6-8 sophomore wing/post Mason VanBeenan and 6-0 sophomore guard Zeke Viuhkola, along with 6-2 senior guard Colton Young, 5-11 senior guard Grant Johnson, 5-10 senior guard Dane Cava, 6-3 junior post Blake DeBisschop, 5-10 junior guard Adam Simshauser, 6-6 junior post Mitchell Duea, 6-2 junior guard Jake Hedberg and 6-3 junior wing Orion Forest.
Despite all the positives surrounding this year's West Linn team, Eric Viuhkola and the Lions know just how challenging the upcoming Three Rivers League race is likely to be. Eric Viuhkola said he expects defending TRL champion Lake Oswego, Tigard, Oregon City — all three reached the state tournament a year ago — and Tualatin to be in the mix for TRL honors this season.
"(Lake Oswego plays) extremely hard, they have a big-time post and a very good point guard," Eric Viuhkola said, adding that Tigard's "Drew Carter is a D1 basketball talent, well coached and they are always in the mix. Tualatin (has) a bunch of good athletes, especially OSU-bound football prospect John Miller," while Oregon City is "well coached and (has) a very good point guard in Andre Best."
To see the Lake Oswego boys team preview, click here.
To see the Lakeridge boys team preview, click here.
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