T-Birds working to rebound from last season

By Colin Phan - Staff Reporter

The Highline men's basketball team must overcome losing nearly half of their roster in order to compete for an NWAC championship next season. 

The T-Birds finished fifth in the NWAC West Region last season, with a 13-15 overall and 7-7 in division record under Head Coach Che Dawson.

Seven sophomores were key contributors to Highline's record, but they are all set to leave Highline, including their leading scorer, forward Jamie Orme (19.09 points per game) and a key contributor in guard Austin Anderson (11.04 points per game). 

Orme also led the T-Birds in rebounds last season, grabbing 10.77 boards a game.

"We had seven sophomores, all of whom brought something different to the program," Dawson said. "Their contributions will be missed."

The leadership the sophomores had in the locker room will be missed, but this creates an opportunity for the returning freshman to come into their own, Dawson said. He had a couple in mind who could step up for the T-Birds.

"Neil Green does a very nice job of providing vocal leadership," Dawson said. "Desmond Hudson does a great job of showing the others how things need to be done." 

Green, a 6'4" guard, averaged 6.56 points a game for the T-Birds last season. Hudson, a 6'8" forward, averaged 2.19 points.

Last season some freshmen weren't able to see the court much, but Dawson says they all have a chance to compete for more playing time.

"They all have an equal opportunity," Dawson said. "They are all working hard this offseason to maximize that opportunity."

The returning players won't be competing against just themselves this season, but will also have to fend off a recruiting class featuring eight players.

"We have signed eight players for next year," Dawson said. "Some of them transfers, and some are high school seniors."

Headlining the transfers set to arrive at Highline next season is North Arizona's Travis Rice (6'2"). Rice was rated a two-star guard coming out of Bishop Gorman High School in Las Vegas. 

At Bishop Gorman, Rice was teammates with former Gonzaga center Zach Collins, and competed against NBA caliber talent, Lonzo Ball, expected to be a top-three draft pick. Rice also picked up three national titles with Bishop Gorman.

Also expected to join the team is Central Catholic High School (Portland) guard Amari Hale (6'1"). Hale earned second team all-Mt. Hood Conference honors with Central Catholic as a junior. 

With Rice, Hale, and the rest of this year's recruits in the fold, Dawson said he can see Highline rebounding from a subpar season last year, and continue competing for a title. 

"We had a season this year that did not meet our expectations," Dawson said. "We have worked hard to try and get back to competing for a league and NWAC championship." 

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