Grant Union’s boys basketball head coach Kelsy Wright said they take every practice as a game.
“We have some pretty intense practices, and everybody is always battling for a spot,” he said. “We have a lot of great athletes.”
He hopes that intensity and talent carries over to their games.
Wright said his group of five seniors have played basketball together since elementary school.
“They’ve worked hard the last four years I’ve coached them, and they deserve everyone’s support,” he said.
“We’ve got good chemistry,” he said, adding their younger players can compete, and they play well with the seniors.
The seniors are Zack Deiter, Ty McDaniel, Duane Stokes, Cauy Weaver and Wade Reimers.
“We’re excited to have everyone back and healthy and ready to play,” Deiter said.
McDaniel said he’s also looking forward to the season.
“I’m glad to play my last year of basketball with the same guys we had in sixth grade,” he said.
Stokes added, “I’m really optimistic about this year, and I’m excited about what we can do.”
Weaver said they should compete well in league.
Reimers said he’s glad to see the numbers of freshmen on the team, and the hustle they bring to the court.
“I think we have a pretty good shot to make it farther than we have in the past,” he said. “Our first goal is to win league, then see where the road takes us.”
Three juniors, six sophomores and six freshmen round out the team.
This is Wright’s second year coaching the boys varsity team, and he has a total of 10 years of coaching experience.
His assistant coaches are Brandon Culley and Kelly Stokes, who also leads the junior varsity team, and Justin Larson leads the junior high team.
Wright said that with the team he has this year, they are aiming to win the league championship. The Prospector boys haven’t won a league title since 1990.
“We’re aiming for that,” he said. “We should be very competitive in our league this year, and we’re definitely aiming for the Final 8, to state.”
In the Wapiti league, Wright expects Enterprise to be their biggest challenge as they have almost everyone back on their team from last year.
“We competed really well with them last year,” Wright said.
He said strong players to watch for on his team include seniors and sophomores Cole Deiter and Kellen Shelley.
He said Weaver was a “work horse” who gives 100 percent, even if he’s tired, and said Zack Deiter was a great teammate and leader who likes to make sure his teammates are taken care of right.
“Duane is probably our biggest playmaker and leading scorer,” Wright said, adding Stokes also sets up great shots for his teammates.
The coach said Reimers is also expected to be a “huge asset” to the team, and said McDaniel is one of their better outside shooters and a great defender with extremely fast hands.
Wright said Cole Deiter did well last year as a freshman.
“He hardly turns the ball over and always makes great decisions with the basketball,” he said.
Wright said he’s also looking for great things from several other players, and, bottom line, the team needs to be good in the classroom, be healthy, stay positive and work hard every day.
“We’ll reach our goals by the end,” he said, adding, “I enjoy coaching the kids to make them better, not just on the basketball court, but giving them a good work ethic, helping them to go on to whatever they decide to do in their career.”
Grant Union boys basketball schedule
Dec. 8-9: @ Enterprise Winter Classic, TBD
Dec. 12: vs. Burns in John Day at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 15: vs. Weston-McEwen in John Day at 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 16: @ Heppner at 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 21-23: @ Nyssa Basketball Tournament at 3:30 p.m./TBD
Jan. 4: @ Weston-McEwen at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 6: @ Lakeview at 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 9: junior varsity vs. Dayville varsity, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 12: vs. Elgin at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 13: @ Union at 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 16: @ Burns at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: @ Imbler at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 20: @ Baker, TBD
Jan. 26: vs. Enterprise at 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 27: @ Elgin at 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 30: junior varsity @ Dayville varsity at 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 2: vs. Union at 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 3: vs. Imbler at 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 6: vs. Crane at 7:30 p.m. (senior night)
Feb. 8: vs. Jordan Valley at 7 p.m.
Feb. 10: @ Enterprise at 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 16: District Playoffs at La Grande High School
Feb. 17: District Playoffs at La Grande High School
Feb. 23: First Round State Playoffs
March 1-3: State Championships in Pendleton