Vale’s Colton Kesey goes for a put-back during a game against Nyssa last season. Kesey is the only returning starter from last year’s edition of the Vale varsity basketball team. (The Enterprise/File)

VALE – The Vale boys varsity basketball team will be short on varsity experience but will showcase a deeper bench this season, said head coach Colby Shira.

Only one returning starter – senior Colton Kesey – is back from last season’s team that went 4-6 in Eastern Oregon League play. 

Vale (1-1) enters the new season missing four key players who graduated.

“There are four seniors on the roster but three of them didn’t play last year,” said Shira.

Another potential impact player, senior Matt McBride, is out for the season with a shoulder injury. 

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That means, said Shira, the Vikings will have a lot of players who will need to pick up varsity experience fast. 

The Viking pre-season kicked off last week. 

Vale lost its home opener, 48-31 to Parma Dec. 5 but defeated Payette 70-43 Saturday. 

Against the Pirates, Vale junior guard Brayden Gregory paced the Vikings with 26 points. 

The early games highlighted Vale’s inexperience and its potential.

“We struggled in the first game because we had kids who had never played varsity before. The biggest thing for us is we have got to get in shape and we have plenty of stuff to work on,” said Shira.

Against Payette, though, jitters evaporated.

“Our offensive execution was a lot better,” said Shira. Shira said he believes his team can gain the experience it needs during non-league play in December.

Vale lost its home opener, 48-31 to Parma Dec. 5 but defeated Payette 70-43 Saturday. 

“By the time league starts I like our chances. I don’t put too much interest in what our record is before Christmas. We just need to try to get better every day,” said Shira.

Shira said he believes Riverside will be the team to beat in the EOL this season while Nyssa will also be good.

“Top to bottom, our league is still pretty even,” said Shira. “I don’t think there is one team that will beat everybody.”

Shira said his team remains an unknown quality.

“I don’t think anybody knows anything about us,” he said.

Shira wouldn’t quite call this season a rebuilding year. Instead he sees lots of potential.

“Our ceiling is a lot higher with the talent we have,” said Shira.

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