By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– South Salem-grad Kieran Pruett stepped up as a leader for the young Chemeketa Community College Men’s Basketball team Wednesday evening during their practice, by joining the shirtless team to give the squad some energy during the last few minutes of practice. One of the few returners on the young squad, the Covid-Sophomore is doing whatever he can to help the squad out as they prepare for their scrimmage Saturday against the Storm Alumni team.
“We’re super young so leadership is going to be huge to show guys what it really means to compete is the thing this year. I knew coming out of High School for me, it was a big thing of taking the next step against guys bigger, faster and stronger and all those things you always hear. But just showing guys how to play hard every, single play,” Pruett said.
Pruett and Sprague’s Mason Lomax return from last season’s 11-16 season and 4-12 in the NWAC South Region play. Three of those defeats came by Covid-forfeits as the squad looks to come back stronger with a solid core of young players who saw success at the Prep Level.
Cascade’s Kellen Sande and Dom Ball each won the 4A State Title this past year. The Cougars Carson Molan was with Sande and Ball when the Turner-based team reached the 4A State Title Game during the Covid-shortened season in 2021. The Western Christian duo of Chaz Storm and Austin Sladek won the 2A State Title this past year in Overtime against Salem Academy, the two will add height at about six-foot-eight with Ball who’s close to seven-feet-tall.
Silverton’s Neil Efimov adds shooting, along with Sande, Molan and Storm’s ability to shoot, Efimov helped the Foxes to a 5A State Runner-Up appearance this past season. Mix in guys like Ashton Rose, Zane Bernhard and Jaden Stanley and the Storm find themselves with a teamful of competitors that showed during Wednesday’s practice.
Initially it’s been a rough going when they started a few weeks ago, but the squad is slowly coming around as the season approaches.
“We just got to be there for each other, pick each other up and play for one another and together we should do it,” said Efimov. “(Saturday) is going to test us. We started off really, really slow, but we’ve had ups-and-downs and the last few weeks we’ve been picking it up and playing really good.”
Pruett points towards the more time together has helped as they haven’t had much time in previous years to gel together. Something that Sladek echoes as the current-wave of Chemeketa hoopers lace it up Saturday at 6pm against their Alumni at The Storm Center.
“This is my third-year here, I’m a Covid-Sophomore, my freshman year, we had six days before our first game that we got to practice live. Then last year we only got a couple of weeks, maybe a month before of practice before we played our games, so having three months we can really get some kinks out before other competition is huge,” describes Pruett.
“It’s helped a lot for sure,” adds Sladek. “Everything is starting to click, just repping it out. Some things are new, but we’re getting it. (Saturday) is going to be huge, it’s going to be a bunch of dudes from here and it shows them what we can do as a program when they’ve been through the program as well.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald