When the clock struck midnight on Monday, Nov. 11, Midnight Madness ensued.
Basketball is back. Both Newport basketball programs wasted no time before hitting the gym and preparing for the upcoming season.
It took all of five minutes for a dissatisfied coach to blow the whistle to stop practice and make the players run lines for not communicating properly during a drill. Which, in a sense, was the true sign that basketball has made its return.
“It feels really good, I’ve missed it,” said junior Bryan Tapia. “Coming back and bringing back the boys in this atmosphere, getting yelled at again by coach, everything seemed normal.”
But after a couple of sprints, the Cubs found themselves back into a groove and returned to playing Newport basketball.
“It’s a nice feeling when you can jump right in with an experienced group. We already know our offense, we already know our drills so you are only teaching to a few kids and they are catching on really quick,” said fourth-year head coach Doug Sain. “That was nice being able to jump in and not reteach everything. Today we reminding kids of things — like footwork, where to be, how to set screens — we hit the ground running, the kids looked good.”
There is a 22 point, 8 rebound and 6 assist hole that has been left behind by Kye Blaser, who was the Oregon West Conference Player of the Year and first-team all-state in his senior year. As much as the Cubs will miss the production left behind by Blaser, it’s the departure of several role players — Jack Fisher, Orion Goudy, Jam Gonzales, Jose Ponciano
“I know we can replace the scoring,” Sain said. “But how do you replace leadership when guys like Jam and Orion and Drew and Jack and Pac, those guys understood their role and did their job every single day. Not one time did I have a senior come up to me and ask ‘why I’m not playing more?’ or ‘coach I want to shoot more’ it was ‘coach what can I do to help the team win?’ and they just bought in.”
Newport still brings back offensive firepower. It’s still a team loaded with shooters, namely Tapia who’s shooting range is so expansive that it has his coach contemplating if there is a spot on the floor that’s a bad shot.
“If he pulled up from half court, I don’t know if I would say anything,” Sain said.
Tapia’s range will space the floor, creating driving lanes for players like senior Justin Plechaty, who Sain said needs to enter each game knowing that he is the best player on the court. Plechaty is an athletic wing that can score in bunches. Coming off the bench during the Cubs’ postseason run, Plechaty averaged over 14 points per game during the tournament, including a team-high 21 points against Marshfield.
“He’s a kid that when he plays with confidence, he’s pretty unstoppable,” Sain said. “We want him to play with a great blend of confidence. He grew up as a pass-first point guard, but we want him to be a scorer first, passer second.”
With the aid of assistant coach Josh Beaudry, who works on player development, this year’s senior class has gone from “solid” as freshmen to a team “special” in the four years. Players like Matt Beaudry, Carson Martinson, Kona Baldwin as well as junior Fredy Hidalgo are players that Sain anticipates will be key contributors with more playing time available.
“The guys who didn’t play a lot of minutes last year, it wasn’t because of their play,” Sain said. “It was because the guys in front of them were really good. We have a handful of guys who can really play the game of basketball and they are itching to get out there and to show that.”