PENDLETON - The Pendleton Buckaroos varsity boys basketball team enters the 2002-03 season lacking in significant playing experience, but not enthusiasm or desire to work hard for sixth-year head coach Jeff Quinn.

The Bucks will look to challenge for one of four post-season berths from the Intermountain Conference and reach the playoffs for the sixth time in seven years. Pendleton posted a 12-12 overall record last year and placed third in the IMC at 7-5.

Senior Brian Nooy does bring a great deal of experience to the Bucks as he enters his fourth year as a starter. The 6-foot-3 forward, Quinn said, will provide leadership and competitive spirit.

"He's a tremendous competitor, which is contagious," Quinn explained. "As a coach, you just love that. He's a coach's dream.

"We expect a lot of leadership from him," the coach said of the three-year starting football quarterback.

Nooy, Quinn said, is a physical player, who will drive to the basket.

The only other returning players for Pendleton with varsity experience are seniors Marcus Buckley, Justin Nuess and junior Jarad Short.

Buckley (6-1) is a "very good shooter" with some varsity starting experience, while Nuess (6-9) provides a presence inside the paint for the Bucks.

"People are going to have to defend him," Quinn said of the sharp-shooting Buckley, adding that the senior has developed significantly as a player from the past year.

Nuess has also developed into a better player since last season, Quinn said. "He's come a long way.

"He is going to surprise some people. He is expected to be a presence on offense and defense."

Short, 6-1, is a scrappy defender who is "becoming a good slasher to the hoop" on offense.

Moving to the varsity with junior varsity experience are juniors Alfie Wilson, Josh Cochran and Nick Blanc and sophomore Matt Gundlach.

Five-foot-six point guard Wilson will bolster the Bucks defense, added Quinn. "He's quick (and) a tenacious defender."

Both Blanc and Cochran can expect significant playing time for Pendleton, said Quinn.

Defense as a whole should be improved for the Bucks this season.

"We've got some guys that are really working hard on it," said Quinn. "They've got some pride in it and want to really be able to stop teams."

Quinn hopes that the team will develop offensively into a team that threatens inside and outside, looking for the easy shot and run the fast-break whenever possible.

Overall, he said, practice in the early going of the season has been enjoyable and the team has been very receptive to instruction. "The kids understand that we've got to improve, but they are trying hard to do that.

"Because they are working hard, we hope to make up for some lack of experience. I'm looking forward to a good year."

Pendleton will open the season at home against La Grande Dec. 6 then travel the following day for another non-league game with The Dalles. On Dec. 13-14, Pendleton will play in a tournament in Forest Grove.

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