By Jeremy McDonald
MILL CITY, Ore.– Santiam’s Ezra Downey is just a natural when it comes to the game of basketball. The athleticism is there, the Basketball IQ is there as well as he prepares for one last season with the Wolverine basketball program this season.
Being on Varsity since his freshman year, the seniors on that team like Colin Thurston, Hunter Reeser, Aiden Areni influenced him going into his sophomore and junior seasons. His brothers Jonah and Julian were on the State Championship winning team back in 2017 and had also helped influence the younger Downey even before he stepped foot onto the basketball court at the High School-level.
“They helped me to be a leader for sure and I’m trying to pass down what they taught me to these guys. Just that we need to work hard all the way through practice non-stop because if we don’t work hard throughout practice, it translates to games,” Downey starts about those seniors his freshman year. “(Julian and Jonah) have been my biggest influencing models my whole entire life. I think having two older brothers is the best thing that ever happened to me, especially with sports.
“It really taught me…we’re always competitive and non-stop and I think it’s the way it should be. It’s just been a good learning experience for me. I can take that and it has helped me with life, especially at such a young age.”
Julian has been helping out with the program last year and again this year and on Friday morning’s practice the two Downey’s were vocal during drills as they were going through play install towards the end of practice. Head Coach JD Hill was early in his coaching tenure when they achieved the 2A State Title and had turned Santiam into a perennial playoff team every year since he arrived nearly ten years ago. To have two voices that have reached the High School pinnacle coaching them is something they look up to every day the Ezra Downey points to.
“He’s done this, they won the State Championship. So we’re just trying to follow all after him and (JD) Hill was here when they won. We have great role models to look up to and learn from for sure,” Downey said.
With a senior-heavy group once more for his senior year, Downey joined by fellow seniors like Gage Twede, Trenton Stafford and Quentin Clark, the confidence is high for Santiam to return to the postseason once more after missing it this past season with the only people stopping them is themselves.
“It starts with these practices. As long as we start working hard in these practices…I don’t see anyone stopping us but ourselves,” Downey said.
Santiam kicks off the season December 2 with the East Linn Christian Silver Cross Tournament and Monroe that following Tuesday on the road. The Wolverines first home game of the year will be on December 15 against Sheridan.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald