Led by coach Chris Roche, the Wilsonville basketball team held its own against stiff competition during summer league.

by: JEFF GOODMAN - Tyler Hieb releases a floater while elevating over a defender last season.

Wilsonville boys basketball coach Chris Roche didn’t protect his young basketball team from the dynamites of Oregon during summer league play.

Instead, he forced his players to square off against some of the best teams the Beaver state has to offer. And his team rose to the challenge.

“It went very well. We played very competitively,” Roche said.

In 25 games, the Wildcats went 16-9 and defeated top notch schools such as Lincoln and Jesuit along the way.

Summer league provided Wilsonville players an opportunity to not only build confidence, but to reacclimate with coach Roche’s style.

Roche is known for employing a razor-tight, aggressive man-to-man defense. But because most players play for outside club teams, it took a little while for them to get used to this style during summer league.

“A lot of our kids are pretty advanced players and do AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) stuff in the offseason and it takes them a little while to get used to the way we play again, which is straight up man-to-man D, all out, all the time,” Roche said.

Players also had to remember to share the rock more frequently.

“We want them to share the ball, move the ball and do a lot of screening and movement. Their AAU teams play all kinds of different ways. When we play good defense and move the ball, we can be pretty good,” Roche said.

Last year, the Wildcats featured three underclassmen starters. Since then, Roche has seen distinct improvement from all three players.

Tyler Hieb earned first team all-conference and honorable mention all-state honors as just a sophomore. Roche said Hieb is adding to his already elite repertoire while growing as a leader.

“He’s poised to have a really great season," Roche said. "He’s a very talented, skilled player. He rebounds and passes better. He was a scorer last year. He’s able to make more plays now."

He added: “He’s is leading, showing up and being ready to go from the start better than he did last year.”

Roche said point guard Sam Bullock figures to be an integral input into the Wilsonville equation as well.

“He has the opportunity to be the straw that stirs the drink,” Roche said.

Bullock was an honorable mention all-leaguer last season.

Roche also pointed out Bullock has developed his leadership skills and gotten stronger.

And finally, last year’s freshman sensation Zach Reichle also continues to improve.

“He’s a lethal scorer and getting better as a defender,” Roche said.

Last season, Reichle was named to the third team Northwest Oregon Conference third team and knocked down the game winning free throw against Wilson to send the Wildcats to the quarterfinals of the state tournament.

But after his go-to trio, Roche is unsure how the rest of his roster will take shape.

“We have a whole bunch of other guys who could fill any role,” Roche said.

The Wildcats lost second team-all leaguer Zach Malvar and sixth man Tyler Martin to graduation and will be without Jack McNulty, who moved to San Diego with his family.

Wilsonville reached the quarterfinals last season despite a roster heavy with underclassmen. Next year will be similar.

“We had a really young team last year, but we’re still young," Roche said. "We have a lot of juniors and sophomores that figure for us next year.”

Roche thinks his team will be underdogs in a revamped NWOC.

“Our league will be tough," he said. "Liberty is supposed to be the best team in our league. La Salle is big and took second in 4A last year and Parkrose has a ton of guys back. Our league will definitely be better."

Roche was happy to have won a state trophy for the sixth year in a row last season, but said his team’s focus left a little to be desired.

“We were talented but last year we didn’t practice as hard as we needed to. Hopefully we’ll be a little more mature as competitors,” he said.

He believes his players must be especially locked-in because they lack towering big men who can dominate the paint.

“It would be nice to be a little bigger, but we’re just going to have to work harder,” Roche said.

Though Wilsonville more than held their own during summer league, Roche doesn’t believe this correlates to winter wins.

“A bunch of games one team is missing their guys," he said, "so summer is not a direct indicator of success for the season.”

Roche has no calculated goals for next season. However, he expects a lot from his players in the realms of effort and potential realization.

“We want to be as good as we can be," he said. "Whatever that translates into wins is fine. We just want to compete and success will follow.”

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