With seven graduated seniors, head coach Ryan Kirch knew the 2022-23 roster would look a little different for McNary boys basketball.
What he didn’t anticipate was just how big a pool he would have to choose from.
Kirch said that more than 80 kids came out to tryouts.
“It’s great to have the demand, that many kids want to play,” Kirch said. “I can tell you, it’s my worst favorite week as a coach. As you get older it gets worse. You wish you could find a spot for everybody.”
And while he’s not sure what caused the increase, perhaps it’s part of the return to normalcy after the pandemic.
But things have also gotten back to normal when it comes to how they can prepare for the season.
Coming off the pandemic last season, much of the prep time was gone. But this season, with summer and fall leagues going on as regularly scheduled, coaches are able to get a clearer read on their teams.
“We’re right where we want to be this time of the year,” Kirch said.
Kirch recognizes their biggest weakness this season will be their size, and they’ll probably be smaller than most teams they face this season.
Brody Roth, a 6-feet-3-inch senior wing, will have a lot of work to do for the Celtics, with Kirch relying on him both on the perimeter and inside.
“We call it the trigger for us, which is kind of the four-man,” Kirch said. “He shoots the three, we’ll post him up, take advantage of the mismatches. He’s a scorer.”
At 6-feet-4-inches, senior Austin Gurnee is their tallest player, and seven players on the roster come in under 6-feet.
However, Kirch takes some solace in the recent changes the game has seen. Mainly the migration away from the basket even by big men. With more players playing out on the perimeter, the Celtics’ lack of size could be minimized.
“We’ve got good ball handlers and a lot of times you can control games that way,” Kirch said. “We’ll look to get the ball up and down the floor, play fast in transition. When we get the lead we’ll put it in our guards’ hands and make teams try to guard us.”
One of those guards is Jando Gonzalez. He comes in as one of the shortest players in the conference, but as a team captain and four-year starter Gonzalez has the experience and leadership the Celtics need.
“Every year there’s progression, not just for me but for my team as well,” Gonzalez said. “This year has been a big leap from where we started last year in the fall.”
6A Central Valley Conference at a glance
North Salem: Previous three full seasons combined (5A) 28-44, 20-28. This will be the Vikings’ first season up in 6A, and they could be facing a tall task. They’ll be the smallest team on the court most of the time with two players measuring at 6-feet-2-inches, and just three other players coming in at or above 6-feet.
South Salem: Previous three full seasons combined 52-27, 29-13. After back-to-back titles in 2018 and 2019, just like their girls team, the Saxons hit a bump in the road in 2021. After a quarterfinals appearance in 2019, they went 2-12 in conference, a huge shift from the 27-1 record in the MVC in the two seasons prior. With two guys coming in at 6-feet-4-inches, another four measuring 6-feet-3-inches and five at least 6-feet, the Saxons will have decent size across the floor, but no real big man.
Sprague: Previous three full seasons combined 42-33, 25-17. The Olympians took advantage of the Saxons down year and took the Mountain Valley Conference title in 2021 with a record of 10-4, one of only two teams with a winning record last season. They’ll look to build off last season’s win, and they have the biggest block to do so with in 6-feet-9-inch senior Jake Horn, the tallest player in the CVC this season. They easily have the most size in the conference, with only one player under six-feet.
West Salem: Previous three full seasons combined 44-31, 25-17. The Titans were the only other MVC team in 2021 to have a record above .500, and they’re the only team that might have size to compete with Sprague inside. At 6-feet-7-inches, junior Trenton Ferguson is the second tallest player in the conference, and like Sprague, only one player on the West Salem roster comes in under 6-feet.