Dedicated to improving themselves and motivated to win, seven returning veterans join six freshmen and three impactful transfers for what third-year coach Shanan Rosenberg believes will be a transformational season for the Linfield Wildcats.
The 2015-16 roster is deep and talented yet mostly unproven, making the Wildcats a club opponents don’t know much about and one that could surprise some of the established programs in the Northwest Conference this winter.
Heading into the offseason last year, Linfield’s greatest needs were finding a go-to scorer and a gifted point guard. The Wildcats appear to have found both in transfers Kyle Maloof, formerly of Rio Honda College, and Austin Daniels from San Bernardino Valley College. A third transfer, Cameron Frank, brings two seasons of collegiate experience at NCAA Division II program Wisconsin-Parkside.
Rosenberg calls Maloof “a unique player” who has the ability to create his offense and whose combination of experience, savvy and quickness are just what the Wildcats need to elevate the program to a higher level. Coming from a junior college program that was California state runner-up, Daniels returns to the court after taking a year away from basketball. His polished ball-handling skills and ability to score when needed are paramount to Linfield’s success this winter.
Daniels pairs with Riley Bruil, another coveted recruit, in dictating the flow of the offense. Bruil’s natural leadership skills and all-around court sense should perfectly complement Daniels.
With improved efficiency from his point guards, Rosenberg predicts the Wildcats “have the potential to be one of the best passing teams I’ve ever coached.”
Mason Rodby, Jordan Clark, Connor Sende and Austin Murray team together to form a solid front court that features size, length and athleticism.
The list of returning shooting guards includes Ryan Potter, Chase Walker and Kevin Hurley.
As the lone senior on the roster, Hurley serves an important role. Said Rosenberg: “Kevin’s energy, spirit and leadership are unsurpassed and are going to have a trickle-down effect on our team. He’s been through a lot of adversity in his career and I’m proud of his ability to stick it out through those hardships.”
Among the freshman class are five Californians: Negasi Hart, Eric Daul, Vince Romeo, Tyler Ryan and Brady Christopher. Each bring different skills to the floor and should all battle for a share of playing time.
Another likely difference maker is McMinnville native Tanner Autencio, a second-generation Wildcat. Autencio a “highly skilled player who is very comfortable with the ball in his hands,” said Rosenberg, who expects the lanky local to help fill the need for scoring.
“This team has a big upside. I see them really improving as the season goes along and as they develop more maturity and trust in one another.”
With so many capable players at his fingertips, Rosenberg intends to cycle as many on and off the court during games as possible.
“We expect to play an intense defensive style that forces a fast pace to the game. This is a highly potent and versatile group,” he said.
The Wildcats’ goal is to qualify for the NWC playoffs by earning one of the top four spots in the regular-season standings. Linfield clearly has a lot to prove after being slotted ninth in the NWC in the preseason coaches poll.
Following a series of non-conference tune-ups in November, the ‘Cats face a challenging start to the NWC schedule in early December when they venture on the road to play last season’s top two finishers, Whitman and Whitworth.
“Like every team, we want to win the league title and it’s not out of the question. Realistically, we have a chance to be in playoff contention in February.”