The Monument/Dayville Tiger boys basketball team has some shoes to fill after losing five seniors last year.
Head coach Jeff Schafer, in his sixth year leading the team, is now focused on molding a younger group of athletes.
“One of our goals is to become unified more and more every day,” he said. “We’re focused on future growth and getting better every game. I think we can be a great team.”
Schafer is assisted by coach Josh Williams.
Last season, Monument/Dayville lost a nail-biter semifinals match to Prairie City at the 1A-8 High Desert District Tournament. In the third quarter, Monument/Dayville held a seven-point lead, but Prairie City pulled away for a 54-46 win.
The Tigers finished last season with six on their roster, after losing two seniors during the season.
Eight have joined this year’s team, including senior foreign exchange student Rafael Dualibi. Although he’s never played on a basketball team, Dualibi said he’s spent time playing the sport with friends.
He said he’s enjoying playing basketball with several teammates who also played Tiger football with him.
“I like the physical aspect to get in shape because we run a lot, and it’s very good for our health,” he said. “They’re pretty nice guys, and both coaches are very good.”
Gabe Walker, who saw time on the court last year, is the sole junior for the Tigers. Walker said he likes spending time with his team.
“I can’t wait to grow with my team,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what we do.”
The roster is rounded out with underclassmen, including two sophomores and four freshmen.
The freshmen all have junior high basketball experience.
Freshman JT Hand was this year’s quarterback for the Tiger football team. Freshman Mark Thomas, who was also a key player on the football team, has in past years been a top competitor in cross country.
Coach Schafer said he’s looking to Walker and sophomore Drew Wilburn — the only returning starter — to be emotional leaders, keeping the team composed when games reach high-intensity levels.
Coach Schafer said, although the team is young, they have a lot of enthusiasm.
“We’re hopeful for the future because of how they’re willing to work,” he said.
The Tigers will face Prairie City, Adrian, Crane, Jordan Valley, Burnt River, Harper and Huntington in the league. They’ll face Prairie City, Burnt River and Crane twice, and the others only once.
Schafer said he expects Prairie City to be tough again this season, along with Jordan Valley.
“Jordan Valley is always tough, with talented players and a good coach,” he said.
“We’re short and young,” Schafer said, adding they’d be working a lot on defense.
As Schafer ran his team through drills at their Nov. 15 practice, he didn’t overlook the details.
“It’s the little things that make a great team,” he told the team.
Monument/Dayville Tigers boys schedule
Dec. 1: @ Condon/Wheeler at Paul Humphreys Tip-Off Tourney in Fossil at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 2: @ Pilot Rock at Paul Humphreys Tip-Off Tourney in Fossil at 12:30 p.m.
Dec. 8: @ Wallowa at the Lions Tournament in Wallowa at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 9: @ La Grande junior varsity at the Lions Tournament in Wallowa at 2:30 p.m.
Dec. 12: @ South Wasco County in Maupin at 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21-23: @ Union Holiday Classic in Union
Dec. 29: Tigers host alumni game in Monument at 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 5: @ Crane at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6: @ Prairie City at 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 12: vs. Burnt River in Monument at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13: @ Four Rivers in Ontario at 2:30 p.m.
Jan. 16: vs. Ukiah/Long Creek in Dayville at 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: vs. Adrian in Monument at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20: @ Jordan Valley at 3:30 p.m. (MST)
Jan 26: vs. Huntington in Dayville at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27: vs. Crane in Monument at 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 2: @ Harper at 7:30 p.m. (MST)
Feb. 3: @ Ukiah/Long Creek junior varsity in Long Creek at 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 9: vs. Prairie City in Dayville (senior recognition) at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 10: @ Burnt River in Unity at 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 15: @ 1A-8 High Desert District Tournament in John Day