Celt Brandon Lao gets a look at the basket while Nick McDonald defends in practices last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

The McNary High School boys varsity basketball had a less-than-stellar season in 2010-11, but fresh faces and a new coach have players hopeful for a turnaround.

“Our main goal needs to be to win the CVC and nothing less, said Johnathan Doutt, a sophomore joining the varsity ranks this season.

New Celtic head coach Ryan Kirch was less firm in his stated goals for the team, but he’s liked what he’d seen in the first week of practice.

“It’s a great opportunity to come to a great school loaded with a lot of tradition and work to getting the program back to where it was at,” Kirch said. “We’ve got four seniors returning to the team, three sophomores and a few juniors.”

In addition to Doutt, Kirch cited Brandon Lao and Nick McDonald for their efforts in practice.

“Brandon is a good skill player and Nick has kind of been our glue guy working hard and very fundamental,” Kirch said.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t kinks to work out before the team’s first game Wednesday, Nov. 30, at McNary.

“We’re pretty talented and we’re quick. We just need to be able to run our offense and get into the game that way. If we do that to our full potential we should win some games,” said senior Garren Robinett.

Robinett wanted to see the team commit to playing hard and throughout all four periods of a game.

In early practices, Kirch focused on changing habits “from passing and catching and to defensive rotations. I think we’ve got a lot of athletes and we’re going to use that, but we’ve got to get better fundamentally.”

Doutt was excited by changes to the Celtic offense that would highlight the team’s strength – quickness – to their advantage. He also wanted to see the team clean up its ball handling to cut down on turnovers, a problem that plagued the team last season.

Senior Dylan McHugh said the team would benefit from putting a few wins under its belt early on.

“We need we to win some games and I think we got the potential,” he said. “We just need to work hard on defense because that’s where you win games.”

For his part, Kirch is simply hopeful to rekindle Keizer’s love affair for boys basketball.

“We’ve got a good blend and a good mix. We’re going  to be fun to watch and we’d love for people to come out watch us play hard, physical and fast,” he said.