Starting lineup has four new faces

By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes

Last January, Boston Smith had his coming out party, posting a double-double of 18 points and 10 rebounds in a 61-54 win over West Salem.

With the graduation of the Celtics other four starters, McNary is going to need a similar effort from Smith every game.

“It’s a lot different with team chemistry and different players in different roles,” Smith said. “But I think we’re going to have a strong inside-out game. There’s definitely more pressure to step into a leadership role this year. I feel really confident.”

McNary head coach Ryan Kirch believes the 6-foot-7 senior, who averaged 8.24 points and 3.64 rebounds per game last season, is up to the task.

“I think Boston is ready to take that next step,” Kirch said. “He’ll be the best post player in the league by far. I’m anticipating him being a First Team all league player.”

Seniors Alfredo Villarreal and Griffin Oliveira, bench players in the Celtics regular rotation, return and should play much more this season.

“Fredo and Griffin had a lot of varsity experience last year but their roles obviously change,” Kirch said. “We’ll look to the three of them (Smith, Villarreal and Oliveira) for leadership and all three have done a really good job so far.”

Another senior, Noah Hudkins, was in the starting lineup to open the season but out of the rotation by the end of the year.

“He played a lot smaller than he is and this fall has worked at playing bigger and has done a nice job,” Kirch said of the 6-foot-6 senior. “I’d really like to see him get more minutes on the floor. If we can play him and Boston together, it gives us a height advantage.”

Junior Walling, who averaged nearly three rebounds per game off the bench last season, will also be a valuable asset in the post.

Nate Meithof, a sophomore who averaged nearly 30 points per game on the freshman team last season, will play his first varsity minutes.

McNary won the Greater Valley Conference championship last season and has averaged 19 wins over the past four seasons. But the Celtics can’t count on previous years results as they move to a new league.

“Having the success we’ve had now for four or five years, it’s sort of the expectation that everyone has when they come into our program and we’re proud of that,” Kirch said. “But it’s making sure that guys understand you just don’t roll the ball out and compete at the highest level. There’s a certain energy that it takes to put that in.”

With the success of the program, McNary also had more boys tryout this season, 77 overall, including 37 freshmen. Kirch was able to keep 34 for the three teams—varsity, JV and freshman.

“At the beginning of the year you don’t like to set anything in stone and put competition on everything and make guys earn it,” Kirch said. “Every year is so different with the personalities and the group of kids. The key is molding them together whatever way you can.”

While one of McNary’s strengths has been defense, the Celtics aren’t quite there yet.

“We’re going to need to learn to shoot a little bit better on the perimeter and I think this group defensively, we’re not as strong or as physical as we’ve been the past four years,” Kirch said.

McNary opens the 2018-19 season at Madison High School in Portland on Dec. 7 at 7:15 p.m.

The Celtics first home game is Dec. 18 at 7:15 against Mountainside.