Placer boys pick up the pace

Hillmen infused with speed as they look to bounce back from losing campaign
By: Todd Mordhorst Journal Sports Editor
-A +A
The Placer High boys basketball team doesn’t have a ton of size and isn’t blessed with overwhelming athleticism. So coach Mark Lee’s hard-working group is picking up the pace. Sparked by a pair of speedy guards, the Hillmen are off and running this season with a 4-4 record after a 76-64 loss to Del Oro Tuesday night at Earl Crabbe Gym. Placer won the Antelope Christmas Classic last weekend and is well on its way to bettering last year’s 10-17 overall record. All this despite playing without football players Collin Burnett, Josh Turney and Josh Klem – who is still out with a knee injury. Klem, who averaged double figures in points and rebounds last season, could be back as soon as this weekend. “This team has a lot of chemistry, so them coming back isn’t a big change,” senior guard Michael Jensen said. “We’re all very unselfish. It’s mostly tough for the football players getting back in basketball shape.” Jensen, a third-year varsity player, is the team’s most consistent outside shooter. He averaged 10.7 points per game last year and is getting more open looks this year with the addition of speedy point guard Darren Centi. Both guards were all-tournament selections at the Antelope tournament. “Jensen’s really stepped up as a leader for us,” senior James Taber said. Taber is the team’s tallest player at 6-4. The lanky forward is a relentless rebounder and has improved his tough around the rim. “Taber’s playing big for us,” Jensen said. “He’s improved offensively, big time.” Senior Anthony Amara is a scrappy defender and a smart player on the offensive end. Junior Koal Swisley has shown he can play well at the varsity level. Other seniors that should contribute this season include guards Conrad Harder, Clay Campbell, Josh Newton and Zach Aubuchon. Senior Josh Whitehead will see minutes in the post. Coach Mark Lee has one of the smallest teams in his15-year tenure at Placer. “We’re going to have to attack and move the ball and when we do that we’re able to get good looks,” Lee said. The addition of Klem, who was injured playing linebacker for Placer in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV title game last Friday, will give the Hillmen a post-up presence and an athlete to match just about any in the Pioneer Valley League. “He’s going to make it so much easier for everyone,” Jensen said. “He’s big and strong and he rebounds and knows how to score,” Taber added. Burnett is another relatively big body in the post at 6-3 and Turney brings speed and toughness as a small forward/guard. After finishing 4-8 in the PVL last season, the Hillmen are anxious to improve. They have never won a PVL title and haven’t brought home any league titles since 1993. “We like our chances in league,” Jensen said.