In a move that he admitted was both drastic and necessary, Lane Community College men’s basketball coach Bruce Chavka cut all but one player following the Titans’ dysfunctional 2009 season, opting to completely rebuild instead of bringing back the same team last season.
The bold move didn’t pay off in wins or a postseason appearance in 2010, when the Titans went 9-16, but the positive ramifications continue to be felt 1 1/2 years later as Lane prepares to open the new season on Nov. 26 at the Pierce Community College Tournament in Lakewood, Wash.
“It was something we had to do, but it was painful,” said Chavka, now in his fifth season at Lane. “We’ve gotten rid of the drama and found kids who are a good fit for us. We don’t have kids who are late for practice or late for classes. I know I sleep better.”
Chavka was looking for maturity, and this year he has lots of it.
Of the four returning players, two are 21-year-olds, plucked out of the University of Oregon student body before last season — Robby Allen, a 6-foot-8 forward from San Francisco, and Kirk Forstrom, a 6-4 guard from Westview High School in Beaverton.
Guard Kyle Warner from Centennial High in Gresham is a third-year player, having redshirted for the Western Oregon football team in 2009 before transferring to Lane.
Mat Delauney, out of Barlow High in Gresham, returns as well, and newcomer Ethan Guiles is a sophomore transfer from California.
“The maturity level is what the fun thing is,” Chavka said. “Maturity level is a huge difference in a teaching and learning kind of thing.”
Delauney, Forstrom and Warner are all slated as starters, as is freshman point guard Matt Juillerat, who was also a UO student last year.
Guiles and Allen are in competition for the final forward spot, though they are such different players — Allen a perimeter player and Guiles more of a post — Chavka said he could see them both on the court at the same time.
“One thing I really like about this group is the learning curve is really high,” Chavka said. “I’ve thrown the kitchen sink at them and they’ve responded well. They’re a real tough group, too, and that might be some of that maturity. They see this as a chance to keep playing and they want to get better.”