With the tumultuous 2001-02 season now a distant memory, the HRV boys basketball team is looking for a fresh start this year as it joins the Intermountain Conference.
After a season of extremes, which saw the Eagles beat state-ranked Central Catholic and then lose six straight before finishing 7-9 in the Mt. Hood Conference, this year’s team will be in search of consistency above all else.
Seven seniors and five juniors provide the core for first-year head coach Phil Vesel, and although the Eagles lost three starters to graduation, they appear to be a brand-new bunch of ballers.
“One thing that has impressed me so far is the work ethic of the seniors,” said Vesel, the former head assistant at Warner-Pacific College in Portland.
“Guys like Jarrod Fogle, Sam Murillo and Todd Shypertt have come in here with the attitude that they don’t just want to play; they want to start.”
Fogle and Shypertt will compete for minutes at the two forward spots along with junior Jeremy Belcher and fellow seniors Ryan Pratt and Mitchell Bohn. Murillo will see most of his time at shooting guard, and is competing for court time with senior Tyler Monzie and junior Pete Dills.
“All these guys are hungry to prove themselves, and they really want to earn a spot so they can contribute,” Vesel said of his team, which is made up of half varsity and half JV players from 2001-02.
“For some of the guys, it’s their last chance to make their mark at the high-school level, and they want to go out on a positive note.”
For Vesel, a positive note would be a spot in the playoffs — something the program has yet to accomplish at the 4A level.
“The playoffs are our ultimate goal, and we’re going to get there,” he said. “The bar has been set and we expect to reach it.”
But, if the playoffs are to become a reality, the Eagles will need to rely on two key contributors — senior point guard Andy Holmson and junior post Heath Goin — to get them there.
Vesel has extremely high expectations for both players, and will need them to contribute in different ways for the team to be successful. Holmson for leadership; Goin for size.
“Andy has a chance to be a real leader for this team, both on the court and off,” Vesel said. “And Heath has the ability to make a huge difference for us in the middle with his quick footwork and big body.”
Both players saw significant time last year, and should be the focal points on offense this year. Goin started a handful of games at the post, while Holmson started at point guard every game in 2001-02.
This year, he brings his lightning-quick handles, spectacular court vision and one more year of experience to the team.
“We’ll be looking for Andy to score more this year so he can free up his passing,” Vesel said of Holmson, who received all-conference honorable mention last year.
“He’s starting to develop more offensively, and is looking for the shot instead of always thinking ‘pass first,’” he said.
Another player Vesel will need big contributions from this year is Bohn, the Eagles’ only other returning starter.
“Mitchell is a smart, unselfish player who has the kind of court experience you can’t teach,” he said. “He’s not a huge guy, but he has the ability to play big if we need him to.”
And, from the looks of it, the Eagles will need that extra boost of size in the middle. The IMC is one of the more physical conferences in the state, and is officiated very differently than the MHC.
“They don’t call things as tight in the IMC,” Vesel said, “but as long as we’re aware of it and tough about it, we’ll be fine.”
The Eagles will begin the conference season on Jan. 10 at preseason league favorite, Redmond. Their first home game is on Dec. 14 at 1 p.m. against Clackamas.