Returning everyone from a season ago, veteran Valley Lumberjack Head Coach John Kocher can only feel it's time to turn this thing around, start putting up more wins, and take it to the next level.
Although the Lumberjacks lost starters Troy Hubbard, Tyler Hayes, and reserve Jordan Anderson to graduation last year, their top scorer, senior Triston Kocher (11 ppg), has returned for the 2013-14 season. Kocher also was the school's quarterback this season.
He has been hampered by a football injury, but is healthy and ready to make his mark in basketball. "He is a good outside scorer with good vertical leap," said Kocher of his nephew. "He can dribble, drive, and shoot jumpers and is an excellent defender."
Kocher and 6'3" junior Jack Wells will be the team's co-captains. "They have a lot of experience and do a good job of getting our kids ready to practice every day," added the coach. Wells is a player. He can shoot from the outside and gets after it inside, as well. He is a leaper and with his defensive and shot blocking ability, it makes it challenging for teams to come inside with his presence.
In addition to Kocher and Wells, the Lumberjacks returns 6'2" junior Hayden Lancaster; 6'4" sophomore Joey Preat; 5'11" sophomore Tucker Cain; and 5'10" sophomore Trey Streets, who all got major playing time a season ago.
Lancaster will handle the point. Being tall, he will give the 'Jacks a real weapon. "It will be hard to trap him," Kocher observed. "He can see the floor so well and can also shoot. He averaged eight points and five assists a game, while getting his share of rebounds.
When you can add a player like Streets - who was the team's sixth man last season - to an already potent lineup, Kocher and Assistant Coach Leslie Lively can only feel it's time. Streets averaged more than 10 points a game and led the 'Jacks in three point field goals.
Preat and Cain have moved up to varsity ball and will be key contributors, as well. Peyton Palmer, although injured during football season, will help key the success of the Valley Lumberjack basketball team. Lively will showcase jayvee players like Taylor Bates, Lathe Ueltschey, Colton Ring, Dusty Lowe, Kinsie Utt, Alex Midcap, and Dylan Irvin, who will challenge varsity players to get better, while making a bid to move up themselves when needed.
The Lumberjacks started their season against Tyler Consolidated, Dec. 10 in Pine Grove. Results were not available before press time Tuesday.