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Boys basketball: Canby entering new chapter of rivalry with Lakeridge

The Cougars' roster does not include any players who were coached in high school by Dane Walker, the current Pacers coach. But the ties between the programs remain strong.


by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Coby Cates (front) soars past childhood friend Michael Walker for a layup in transition during the Canby boys basketball team's league game at Lakeridge last year. The two talented players have graduated from their respective high schools, but the programs remain linked through coaches Dane Walker and Craig Evans as well as through Cougars players who grew up with the Walkers.It’s a mid-February evening last year, and the Canby boys basketball team is trying to take advantage of a fast-break opportunity in the second quarter of a tightly contested home game.

Coby Cates sprints down the court, darting in front of the opposing bench as he fills a lane on the right wing.

He doesn’t need much time to launch a three-pointer — he just needs the ball.

But before a pass to Cates materializes, Lakeridge coach Dane Walker begins pointing wildly as he issues a verbal warning to his players: “Shooter over here!”

And the Pacers quickly recover, taking away what could have been an open long-range look for the star guard.

For Walker, it’s simply an instinct — he has reacted in similar fashion against other gifted shooters running unmarked in transition. But doing it against Cates and other Canby players feels different.

It’s much more difficult.

“You don’t want to see them do poorly, but you don’t want to see them make a shot to beat you,” Walker says. “There’s a lot of anxiety.”

A new chapter

Conference games between Canby and Lakeridge have taken on a special aura, and that’s due in part to the presence of Walker.

He coached the Cougars for eight seasons, one of them with current CHS coach Craig Evans as an assistant, leading the program to seven state playoff appearances and at least a share of four league titles during that span.

Walker’s son, Michael, grew up in Canby and played for the Cougars before joining his father at Lakeridge. And they didn’t leave without developing close relationships with players, parents and coaches in the Canby community.

But the teams’ first conference meeting this year, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28 at Canby High School, marks the start of a new chapter in the blossoming rivalry.

Cates has graduated — he’s now taking classes at Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell, Mont.

Michael, his close childhood friend, won’t be suiting up for the by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Dane Walker developed strong relationships in Canby before taking the head coaching job at Lakeridge, his alma mater.Pacers — he’s currently a member of the men’s basketball program at Lewis & Clark College in Portland.

Cates and several of the other seniors on last year’s Canby roster were the final remnants of Dane Walker’s legacy at CHS; they were part of the high school basketball program when he was at the helm. Four years have passed, though, and none of the current players can make that claim.

For Walker, the absences of Cates, Konnen Bell and Cody Sibel, among others, will make it a little easier for him to coach against the Cougars going forward.

“I love so many of those guys, so many of those kids,” he says of Canby’s graduated players. “I was fortunate enough to be a part of a lot of those guys’ lives when they were little. Michael got to know them quite a bit. I love them to death. ... It’s not fun to coach against those guys.”

Evans, meanwhile, tries to avoid getting caught up in aspects of the matchup that don’t help his team on the scoreboard.

“I don’t even think about it,” he says of the connection between the two programs. “It’s more about, ‘We need to win.’ For me it’s never been, ‘I have to win this game against Coach Walker.’ I don’t think that way. Maybe afterward, I think about it a little bit. During the game, that’s nowhere even close to my mind."

Coaching connection

As the teams warm up for last year’s matchup in Canby, Evans settles into one of the chairs on the bench.

The Lakeridge bench.

He and Walker keep things light, sharing a few laughs as they watch players go through pregame routines. They’ll save the fiery sideline outbursts for later.

The relationship between the two Three Rivers League colleagues is characterized by mutual respect and support.

Evans, now in his fourth year as Canby’s head coach, served as an assistant under Walker during the 2008-09 campaign.

“When he first came, I felt Canby High School had really gained a great educator and someone who really advocates and cares for kids,” Walker says. “He has a genuine love for kids and for the game of basketball. He’s good for Canby. I advocated for himby: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Canby boys basketball coach Craig Evans was an assistant under former Cougars coach Dane Walker, who now holds the top job at Lakeridge. when they approached me about who should have the (head coaching) job. And just about every game against Canby has been ultra-competitive. His teams are prepared. They go out and give 100-percent. It tells you something about the job he’s doing.”

Evans made a brief detour to Gresham-Barlow following a round of layoffs at CHS, but he returned in time to fill the void left by Walker following the 2009-10 season.

He and the Cougars are hoping to reach the playoffs for the third time in four years after losing in the play-in round last season.

Walker, meanwhile, is trying to lead Lakeridge to the playoffs for the fourth-straight time. The Pacers went 38-37 overall in his first three years at the helm.

Both programs are striving to stay afloat in a mighty TRL that includes defending state champion West Linn and perennial powerhouse Lake Oswego.

The teams have crossed paths seven times since Walker returned to Lakeridge, his alma mater. The Cougars have won just two of those meetings.

“He is a great, great scout,” Evans says of Walker. “He can watch film, watch games and put together a game plan to go against any team in the state. It makes him very dangerous in the playoffs. If he has time to watch you for a week, he is very good. I learned that from him — how to study a team really well. He’s just a great coach.”

A hand in hoops

Basketball wasn't Dane Walker's best sport, but it was his favorite.

Walker was an all-state athlete in football and baseball at Lakeridge, where he graduated in 1988.

He pursued the latter at Portland State, joining the Oakland Athletics organization after being selected in the 1991 Major League Baseball Draft. He bounced around in the minors for about six years.

But he never stopped loving basketball.

During his time at PSU, he coached hoops at Lakeridge Junior High School. During his offseason time in the minors, he served as an assistant under then-Pacers basketball coach Gene Schmidt.

“Every year I’d go off in March to spring training, then come back in September and coach basketball,” he says.

Walker assisted at Lakeridge for 10 years and landed in Canby after a short stint at Molalla High School, where he earned his first head coaching gig.

All the while, from the time he stopped playing baseball in 1997 through 2006, Walker was working as a scout for the St. Louis Cardinals organization. And his busiest months were February through November, so he was able to continue coaching hoops.

He now holds a senior position with EdgeLink, a recruiting services firm.

When Walker left Canby in 2010, it wasn’t because his love for the team or the community had soured. It hadn’t.

But he couldn’t pass up an opportunity to try to rejuvenate a program at the high school that nurtured his own athletic career.

Last year, the Pacers went 14-11 and topped the 70-point benchmark eight times. This year, Walker’s team bounced back from a season-opening loss to Southridge with nine nonconference victories in a row.

“Each team I’ve had has been extremely competitive,” he says. “They’re really good kids. It’s just trying to create a winning atmosphere, trying to create the toughness that you need to be successful. The kids are responding. We’re trying to build up a level of competitiveness and execution that I experienced when I was a player and a coach at Lakeridge — the same things I experienced at Canby. It’s been rewarding.”

From Trost to the TRL

The recent chapter of the Canby-Lakeridge rivalry has roots on a local playground.

When the Walkers moved to Canby in 1998, Michael enrolled at Trost Elementary School.

It’s where current Cougars girls basketball coach Brooke Cates initiated a running program, rewarding kids for laps they ran. It’s also where her eldest son, Coby, was a student.by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Michael Walker, who grew up in Canby, was a top-10 scorer in the Three Rivers League as a senior at Lakeridge.

And it didn’t take long for the two boys to develop a friendship through sports.

They even share the same birthday.

“You think about how little they were — they were going to kindergarten and first grade and all that fun stuff,” Walker says. “It’s amazing how long ago that was.”

By their senior years, Coby and Michael had become two of the best all-around athletes in the TRL.

At Canby, Coby was an all-conference defensive back in football, the league’s third-leading scorer in basketball and a track and field state qualifier in javelin.

“He’s just a good kid,” Walker says. “Talking about him as a player would not do him justice. He gives everything that he has. He shoots the ball really well, and you get everything out of him. What makes him special is his character.”

Meanwhile, at Lakeridge, Michael was a top-10 district finisher in cross-country, a top-10 scorer in the league in basketball and a track and field district champion in the 400-meter race.

“He’s fundamental, he can score like the best of them, he’s smart on defense and he knows when to take a gamble,” Evans says. “He’s a great two-guard.”

In high school, Michael’s success on the hardwood came with his father as his coach. It was a potentially treacherous dynamic — not just for the Walkers, but also for Lakeridge — that the son smoothed over with his work ethic and team-oriented mentality.

“You can never be right,” Dane Walker says. “If you have a game where you score a lot, it’s (presumably) because you get to do whatever you want. If he struggles, then it’s, ‘Why doesn’t Coach pull him out of the game sooner?’ It’s always, ‘It’s the coach’s kid.’ Michael has handled that in stride his whole life.”

Sitting in the bleachers before last year’s game, Michael says he was welcomed warmly at Lakeridge but that he has fond memories of growing up in Canby and missed seeing Coby and others on a daily basis.

“It feels good to be back here,” he says.

A few hours later, Coby emerges from the Cougars’ locker room by: KORY MACGREGOR / FILE - Jordan Sanders (3), shown during a game against Oregon City last season, spent large chunks of his childhood playing basketball on the Walker family's hoop in Canby.and is asked how a thrilling 42-41 win over the Pacers affects his friendship with Michael.

“I miss him,” he says, “but it’s also fun to beat him.”

‘Good old rivalry’

Although Coby and Michael have graduated, the rivalry lives on. And it’s not simply because Walker and Evans remain on separate ends of the sideline.

The link between the programs is enriched by current Canby players whom Walker knew as toddlers.

Senior forward Jordan Sanders was about 3 years old when the Walkers moved to Canby. The two families were neighbors for a decade.

For Sanders, his two older brothers and other boys on the block — including Tony Kraus, a current sophomore on the team — there was one fact about the Walkers that stood 10 feet taller than the rest: they had the only basketball hoop on the street.

“It seemed like everyday we were out playing on that hoop, and Dane would even come out and coach us up a little,” Sanders says. “Occasionally, some of the varsity players at the time would be over to play with us.

“It was great being so close to the varsity coach, even though I never played for him. Through all the years of playing on the street, as well as the camps held annually, he was actually a big contributor to my game.”

Walker had a similarly profound influence on guard Jace Cates, Coby’s younger brother.

Jace recalls a time during elementary school when Walker changed the arc of his basketball career.

“One day in fourth grade, I think, he noticed I was shooting with by: JEFF GOODMAN / FILE - Jace Cates, shown during a game at West Linn last year, says Lakeridge coach Dane Walker taught him how to shoot during his time in elementary school.two hands,” Jace says. “He taught me how to shoot.”

Although the junior enjoyed facing Lakeridge last season, he says this year’s meetings will be more meaningful because he is playing a much more significant role. As of Jan. 13, he was averaging 16.45 points per game.

“We have a really good relationship,” Jace says. “It’s fun to play against him.”

 After the opening tip-off, though, Jace probably won’t be thinking about Super Bowl parties or other get-togethers with the Walkers.

The opposing coach, too, will be too busy trying to shut down the Cougars to dwell on the fact that he’s known some of their players for most of their lives.

“I’m not hoping anyone does badly,” Dane Walker says. “But at the same time, we want to win.”

Adds Evans: “There’s not any hatred. It’s just a good old rivalry.”

***

AT A GLANCE

A look at the seven Canby-Lakeridge boys basketball games since former Cougars coach Dane Walker took the helm of the program at LHS:

Jan. 7, 2011: LAKERIDGE 50, Canby 45

In Canby’s first game against its former coach, it falls behind 14-4 in the first quarter. Justin Langford and Andrew Evans combine for 31 points in the loss, which snaps the Cougars’ seven-game winning streak.

Jan. 25, 2011: CANBY 63, Lakeridge 50

Canby forces 16 turnovers and finishes the game on an 18-5 run as Dia Kuznetsov scores eight of his 15 points in the final two minutes. Coby Cates, then a sophomore, has two points.

Feb. 11, 2011: LAKERIDGE 54, Canby 50

The Cougars blow a seven-point lead with 3 minutes 20 seconds remaining, allowing the Pacers to finish the game on a 16-5 run. Justin Langford musters 24 points in a losing effort.

Jan. 18, 2012: Lakeridge 49, CANBY 45

Coby Cates finishes with a game-high 21 points, but the Cougars struggle against the Pacers’ zone defense and score just five points in the second quarter. They end up with their seventh consecutive loss in a grind-it-out game.

Feb. 10, 2012: LAKERIDGE 51, Canby 38

Canby has just 12 first-half points and makes only 15 of its 41 field-goal attempts, losing to a Lakeridge team that had dropped nine of 10 previous games. Andrew Evans scores a team-high 10 points.

Jan. 18, 2013: LAKERIDGE 65, Canby 51

Coby Cates converts just one field goal while recovering from flu-like symptoms, and Canby is outpaced in transition. Reggie Oliver and Michael Walker combine to score 39 points for Lakeridge, which deals Canby its fourth loss in five games.

Feb. 12, 2013: CANBY 42, Lakeridge 41

Canby holds the Pacers to a season low in points with an inspired defensive effort. Cougars forward Sam Stelk scores the go-ahead basket with 14 seconds left, and Reggie Oliver misses a jump shot on Lakeridge’s last possession.

***

DANE WALKER AT CANBY

2002-03: 17-8, 11-5 in the Pac-8 (third)

2003-04: 18-7, 14-2 in the Pac-8 (first)

2004-05: 22-6, 15-1 in the Pac-9 (first)

2005-06: 20-7, 15-1 in the Pac-9 (tied for first)

2006-07: 22-7, 15-0 in the Pacific (first)

2007-08: 16-10, 10-5 in the Pacific (third)

2008-09: 11-14, 8-7 in the Pacific (third) *

2009-10: 7-17, 5-10 in the Pacific (fifth)

TOTALS: 133-76 (.636) overall, 93-31 (.750) in conference play; reached the state playoffs in seven of eight seasons, missing out only in 2009-10; reached the state quarterfinals twice; went 5-9 overall in the playoffs; won three league titles outright and earned a share of a fourth

* Craig Evans served as an assistant coach

CRAIG EVANS AT CANBY

2010-11: 13-12, 5-10 in the TRL (fifth)

2011-12: 9-16, 2-8 in the TRL (fifth)

2012-13: 8-16, 3-7 in the TRL (fifth)

TOTALS: 30-44, 10-25 in conference play; reached the state playoffs in his first two seasons




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