Mount Shasta girls optimistic after basketball camp at U of O

Steve Gerace
Mount Shasta High School girls basketball team members stand with University of Oregon players during last week's team camp in Eugene. Left to right, Lauren Yearwood and Justine Hall of Oregon, Tyyler McKnight, Oti Gilden and Mar'Shay Moore of Oregon, Eden Debon and Taryn Linares, Ruthy Hebard and Megan Trinder of Oregon, Kacey Cain, Jacinta Vandenberg of Oregon, Lily Hitchcock, Mallory McGwire and Jayde Woods of Oregon, Serena Bray, Samantha Benedict, Abby Andrus and Emily Andrus, and Lydia Giomi and Morgan Yaeger of Oregon.

Members of the Mount Shasta High School girls basketball team came home tired, sore and optimistic about their next season after attending the University of Oregon Team Camp last week in Eugene.

The Bears got three days worth of “high level basketball drills, advice and training experiences” June 20 to 23, said coach Kirk Andrus.

They spent time with an Oregon women’s team that features one of the nation’s top recruiting classes and 6-foot-5 center Jacinta Vandenberg of Australia.

Among the incoming Oregon freshmen, Ruthy Hebard is a member of the USA U18 National team, and Andrus said Mallory McGwire of Nevada was the top center prospect in the west. She is the daughter of former NFL quarterback Dan McGwire and niece of former pro baseball player Mark McGwire.

Another Oregon player, Lauren Yearwood, is a former member of Canadian national teams

Mount Shasta was the only team from California among the 32 teams at the camp and “by far the smallest school,” Andrus said.

The Bears played nine games against some strong competition, mostly teams from areas surrounding Portland, Ore., and Olympia, Wash.

Three of the teams the Bears faced had school enrollments over 2,000, and they lost only one of those games.

Senior Kacey Cain called it “a skills driven camp and our team was given an opportunity to play at a higher level with some bigger teams. We went into the camp with a couple new players but left a cohesive and strong team. It was a successful experience and I know we have a shot at another great basketball season. I liked the amount of games we played but I also liked the skill development and team concept session with the coaches. At those sessions we learned the amount of work it takes to play at that level and helped us develop more skills as a team.”

Senior Emily Andrus wrote in a text message that the camp “was the best possible environment for getting better at basketball. It allowed us to work hard and gain experience as a team.”

She said she believes the games they played and the things they learned “were a big stepping stone” toward “reaching this team’s full potential.”

Also in a text message, junior Abby Andrus said, “I loved the bonding opportunities University of Oregon gave our team and seeing how successfully we compete with teams who are much larger and experienced than us. This experience left me confident and excited for yet another winning year of Bears basketball. I mean, the university cafeterias are never a bad experience either.”

Six of the nine Bears who participated are returning players from the 2015-16 Mount Shasta team that won the school’s first section championship in 23 years: Emily Andrus, Kacey Cain, Samantha Benedict, Tyyler McKnight, Abby Andrus and Lily Hitchcock.

Taryn Linares, Serena Bray and Eden Debon also participated in what coach Kirk Andrus described as “three full days of intensive basketball activities,” while living in the dorms and eating in the cafeteria.

He said the camp “was very impressive,” and Mount Shasta players interacted with the Oregon players, head coach Kelly Graves and Ducks assistant coaches.

When the Bears participated in a similar camp at Oregon State two years ago, Andrus said “it brought the girls together and unified them” and was an early step on the path to their recent success.

The Bears played their first camp game against WF West of Chehalis, Wash., a team that has played in three of the last four state championship games and won one of them. Andrus called it “a competitive game” that the Bears lost by one point.

The Bears won three games in a row the second day of camp over two teams from the suburbs of Portland and a team from an Idaho school of 1,100 students that won three state championships in a row before losing in the championship game this past winter.

After easy victories over a pair of JV teams the next day, the Bears defeated Battle Ground of Washington by 5 points on U of O’s main floor.

On the camp’s final day, Andrus said the Bears “played an excellent game” against Timberline of Washington. Timberline rallied to tie the game late in regulation then beat the Bears in a sudden death overtime.

Andrus said Oregon coach Graves told him it was one of the camp’s best games.

In their final game, the Bears lost by 9 to an Oregon school of 2,200 students.

All the Bears played and all contributed, Andrus said.

He said seniors Cain and Emily Andrus are “the anchors of the team,” while Benedict, also a senior, “was the best post player we saw.”

Hitchcock, a sophomore point guard, “got better every game” and had “a very productive week.”

Abby Andrus, a junior, led the Bears in 3-point shots.

Kirk Andrus said cost for the camp was $295 per player, and he thanked the Mount Shasta Chamber of Commerce for contributing $100 per Bear from the proceeds of its fundraising golf tournament.

Andrus also thanked “all who supported our wood raffle that paid much of it.”