Scene & Heard

Hanson leads strong nucleus of starters as Creswell tips off


CRESWELL – Once he became comfortable with being the “leading man” on the football field, junior quarterback Connor Hanson embraced the role and led Creswell to its best finish in a decade. 

Now it’s basketball season, and Hanson is being asked to be “that guy” again.

“Connor’s a multi-sport athlete, and I think he’s our best all-around player,” Bulldogs coach Jesse Thomas said. “He can shoot, he can get into the paint and score, and he just has good all-around court skills. 

“The big thing is that he’s taken on more of a leadership role, and I hope he continues to be more vocal. He’s really taken to that role,” Thomas said, noting Hanson’s laid-back demeanor. 

If Hanson is 1A, then Max Velarde is 1B, the coach said. 

“Max has really put some stuff together on both ends of the court,” Thomas said. “He can guard pretty much every position. He runs the floor well and he has some serious tools.

“He had some good games last year but he wasn’t real consistent. He’s very coachable and has been picking up everything we’re teaching him. He has looked really good.” 

At 6-foot-2, Velarde is probably more of a natural shooting guard or small forward, Thomas said, but he might be asked to do some of the heavy lifting during the first month as 6-foot-3 Ajay Hodge recovers from a torn ankle ligament. If all goes as planned, Hodge could return for the Bulldog Invitational on Dec. 17-18. 

“We’re hoping to get him back in mid-December, we’ll just have to see how his rehab goes,” Thomas said. “Obviously, he’s a massive piece for us to get where we want to go.” 

Last year’s leading scorer – shooting guard Caleb Lee – is the lone returning starter on the roster.

“Caleb will have the same role as last year, which is putting the ball in the basket,” Thomas said. “The kid can flat-out score. We’re hoping that Max, Ajay and Connor will all increase their scoring averages and join Caleb, so we could have four guys averaging double figures.” 

The fifth starting spot is still up for grabs, but Thomas said Chase Green will be his primary point guard. “He’s a hard-nosed kid and he gets right into guys,” Thomas said. Jack Nguyen, Asher Parsons and Carson Williamson also could be spot starters, and all will be key components of the rotation. Tyler Whitson, a freshman sharpshooter, has earned a spot with the varsity team. 

“Our effort has been great. Being able to coach X-and-O stuff and not have to worry about effort has been helpful to us as coaches,” Thomas said. “Two weeks goes by fast but they’re getting in shape. (Assistant coach) Pete (Apo) and I are pleased with where we’re at. We’re hoping to just get a little better every day; if we can do that, we’ll have a pretty good season.” 

Thomas is eager for Thursday’s opening tipoff. The Bulldogs play host to Douglas at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the Bulldogs entertain Bend at 5 p.m.

“I never feel comfortable before the first game,” Thomas said. “We’ve got so much to do in such a short time. I do feel like we’re in shape and we’re starting to get it on the offensive end, but can we execute on game night? 

“If we stay committed and stay away from playing Hero Ball, we’ll be fine.”



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