The Camas High School (CHS) boys basketball team’s 2019-2020 season kicked off at home on Dec. 5 when the Papermakers faced Prairie High School. Noticeably missing from the CHS roster were several top players, including senior Jackson Clemmer, the only returning starter.
Clemmer and other varsity returners, including Blake Ascuitto and Titan Phillips, were still playing football, focusing on the upcoming 4A state championship game.
“It’s a wonderful problem to have,” said Papermakers coach Ryan Josephson. “It’s really cool our school gets this opportunity to have so many multi-sport athletes getting to achieve success.”
The situation created an opportunity for an entire new group of players to gain some varsity experience. Those filling in for the football players also had an opportunity to play at a tournament in Sumner, Washington, on Dec. 7.
“It’s a great opportunity to develop depth on our roster, and I think that’s going to be a strength for us later in the season,” Josephson said.
The Papermakers are loaded with new players who are embracing their individual roles, according to the CHS coaches. The Papermakers will have to play as a team to overcome tough competition to capture one of the 4A Greater St. Helens League’s three playoff spots. Union, Battle Ground and Skyview high schools were all ranked among the top 10 4A teams in the state in the Seattle Times preseason poll.
“I think this group of guys has so many new faces that they really look at each other as a new team and understand the challenge of playing in the 4A Greater St. Helens League,” Josephson said.
The shorthanded Papermakers lost to the Falcons 75-51 on Dec. 5, then fell to Sumner High School 65-62 on Dec. 7. The team members did get a chance to stop by Mount Tahoma Stadium on their way home to watch their football-playing teammates win a state championship.
Clemmer will look to spread the confident energy from the school’s football championship to his basketball teammates.
“He’s an incredible athlete, which has been shown by any sport that he plays in,” Josephson said. “He’s having a heck of a year in football and we’re hoping he carries some of the championship culture they are learning by playing on the football team, carrying it here and having leadership on the basketball court.”
Coaches also expect big things from returning seniors Ascuitto and Phillips, who were also key members of the championship football team. Junior guard Armand Nunez will also be a big part of the team’s offensive firepower.
Leading the team at point guard will be junior Christian Lenard. CHS coaches say Lenard has great vision, instincts and skills that will help make the Papermakers’ offense run.
Among the myriad of new faces who coaches predict will have a big upside is 6-foot-5 junior forward Blake Bell.
CHS coaches expect to face some adversity early in the season as the football players return to earn their roles. It may take a little extra time for the team to meld into one unit, but the team’s extra depth developed from the football team’s state tournament run may pay dividends later in the season as the Papermakers battle for a playoff spot.