Surrounded by his team in practice last week, Dayville/Monument Tiger head coach Jeff Schafer told the boys he respects and values what each brings to the table.
“Your role is important,” he said. “We build the team by how you treat each other on and off the court.”
He added, whether they are on the bench or a starter, he expects them to give their all on the court.
All of last season’s players are back this year — except a senior foreign exchange student — plus three more who’ve joined the ranks. Seniors on the team of 11 are Gabe Walker-Hopkins and Cade Milton, and there are two juniors, five sophomores and two freshmen.
“They all came back, and it’s good to have a couple extra to help out the team,” Schafer said. “They’ll be a great asset.”
Returning starters include Walker-Hopkins, junior Drew Wilburn and sophomores Donovan Schafer, Mark Thomas and JT Hand.
“DJ Howell (a sophomore) comes off the bench, but he’s invaluable,” coach Schafer said.
He said he’s looking to Wilburn to be a good leader this season, emotionally and verbally.
“Drew is encouraging the kids and keeping them going,” he said.
The coach said Wilburn and Walker-Hopkins both hustle on the court.
Regarding Walker-Hopkins, Schafer added, “His work ethic never stops, and this is a great thing to teach the younger kids.”
The coach said his three other starters are also working hard.
He said Donovan, who’s grown up playing ball, is constantly working on his skills and teamwork.
“And he’s grown a couple inches,” the coach added.
Thomas is developing into a good point guard, he said, and Hand will be a strong rebounder.
“The new guys work hard and are eager,” Schafer said.
Schafer has assistant coach Josh Williams back, and new assistant coach Andy Wilburn has also joined this season.
Milton, who was on the team his sophomore year, is back.
He said he played football with most of the basketball players, and he’s looking forward to being on a team again.
“The goal is to work hard and have fun,” he said.
Walker-Hopkins, who is in his fourth year on the varsity team, said he’s been impressed with how the team has come together in just the first few weeks of practice, compared to last year.
“I see that they’re young, but they’re working together really well and growing exponentially,” he said.
Hand said teamwork, trusting the coaches and communication on the court will be key for their success.
Drew Wilburn said their goal is to work as a team, and he believes they’ll finish strong this year.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “I’ve waited all year to do this.”
The Tigers had a difficult first outing Friday and Saturday, falling to the Condon/Wheeler Knights and the Arlington Honkers at the Paul Humphreys Tournament. The Knights finished second in the Big Sky District Tournament last season.
In the High Desert League, the Tigers will face Prairie City, Jordan Valley, Adrian, Long Creek/Ukiah, Crane, Harper, Huntington, Burnt River and Four Rivers.
“I think Prairie City is going to be the biggest challenge, and Jordan Valley is always tough,” coach Schafer said.
Prairie City finished second at state last season, and Jordan Valley also competed at state.
Long Creek/Ukiah, which had only a junior varsity team last year, is fielding a varsity team this season.
“They’re getting better every year,” Schafer said. “You never take any thing for granted in this league.”
He said last season was tough with several younger players.
“Our biggest goal is to produce quality young men,” he said. “If they can get character down, that is the biggest thing — that’s lifelong.”
“The goal is to keep developing and keep moving forward,” he said. “Every day is a work in progress.”
Dayville/Monument will host Mitchell/Spray in the Tigers’ first home game of the season at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14, at their Tiger Tourney. They’ll host Grant Union junior varsity at 6 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15, again in Dayville.
Dayville/Monument Tiger boys schedule
Dec. 7-8: @ Arlington Tournament, 4:30 p.m., 1:30 p.m.
Dec. 14-15: Tiger Tourney in Dayville (vs. Mitchell/Spray and Grant Union junior varsity), 7:30 p.m., 6 p.m.
Dec. 20-22: Union Christmas Classic, TBD
Dec. 28: Alumni games in Dayville, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 4: @ Long Creek/Ukiah in Long Creek, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 5: @ Harper, 4:30 p.m.
Jan. 8: vs. Burnt River in Dayville, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 11: vs. Crane in Dayville, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 12: vs. Prairie City in Monument, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 18: @ Burnt River in Unity, 7:30 p.m.
Jan. 19: vs. Four River in Monument, 3:30 p.m.
Jan. 22: @ Grant Union JV in John Day, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 25: @ Adrian, 6:30 p.m.
Jan. 26: vs. Jordan Valley in Dayville, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 1: @ Huntington, 7:30 p.m.
Feb. 2: @ Crane, 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 5: @ Prairie City, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 8: vs. Harper in Monument, 6:30 p.m.
Feb. 9: vs. Long Creek/Ukiah in Monument (senior recognition), 3:30 p.m.
Feb. 14-16: District Tournament in John Day, TBD
Feb. 20: First round state playoffs, TBD
Feb. 23: Second round state playoffs, TBD