BMCC Basketball Preview: T-Wolves shore up frontcourt

<p>BMCC's Darius Butler has the ball stripped by Walla Walla's Hunter Hahn as Case Rada assists on the play Wednesday in the Timberwolves' 82-63 loss to the Warriors in Pendleton.</p>

PENDLETON — A cursory glance at the Blue Mountain Community College men’s basketball team would be enough to suggest the Timberwolves shored up their biggest deficiency from a year ago.

Second-year head coach Adam Ellis sprinkled his roster with serviceable post players — an element his team severely lacked — to complement a horde of experienced guards.

The addition of trees Max Mueller and Jake Wells, both 6-foot-8 freshmen, have Ellis thinking BMCC has the depth to make a push for the NWAACC tournament.

“We’re really deep, which is nice,” Ellis said. “There’s a lot of experience and we’ve added the key parts we were missing.”

In the first year of the Ellis regime, the Timberwolves finished with a .500 mark (13-13), and were just a game shy of locking up the final tournament berth out of the East Region.

The return of all-region guards Darius Butler (14 points per game in 2012-13) and Dylan Martin (13 ppg) might be the biggest boon of all.

Both Southern California products came into fall practices appearing to have declined, though, per Ellis.

Turns out it was merely an illusion.

“It was because we added some good players,” Ellis said of the short-lived perception. “Last year (Butler and Martin) looked so much better than everyone else, but now they have some more guys around them.”

Butler, a physical 6-foot-3 slasher, agreed.

“That recruiting helped a lot,” Butler said. “We picked up some good players. Our (post players) compared to last year are a lot better.”

BMCC lost a key piece in Tyler Adams, a sharp-shooting guard who took his game to NCAA Division II University of Alaska-Fairbanks, but gained another.

Sophomore guard Austin Drake, who played at Umpqua Community College last year, starred at Pullman High.

He’ll be expected to help pick up the slack early, as starting point guard Leroy Abraham III is out indefinitely with a broken foot. Abraham earned substantial playing time for BMCC last year, too.

Another local, freshman guard Jalen Watson from Hanford, is also expected to be a key guard in Ellis’ patient system.

“I like being able to execute,” Ellis said. “Spreading the floor and being able to penetrate will be huge.”

At wing, freshman Coleman McElroy — a 6-foot-6 gunner from Cashmere, Wash. — is expected to present matchup problems and spread the floor.

With its new-found depth, BMCC hopes to go with a 10-man rotation.

“We have the team chemistry,” Butler said. “Everyone is on the same page.”

Ellis’ 12-man roster is littered with Inland Northwest products with one player who prepped in Oregon.

Wells, whose length helped turned Horizon Christian of Hood River into a power, is the only player hailing from the Beaver State this season.

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Contact Ryan Collingwood at rcollingwood@eastoregonian.com or (541) 966-0839.

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