WALLA WALLA - The Walla Walla Community College men's basketball team tips off the 2011-12 season with five straight tournaments - only one of which is at home - before the Warriors host their first home game in January.
The Warriors are coming off a 14-13 season that saw WWCC eliminated by Linn-Benton in the consolation bracket of the NWAACC tournament on March 6.
Walla Walla starts the season with the Skagit Valley Turkey Shoot Friday. The Warriors face Portland Community College of the NWAACC South Region at 4 p.m.
"We don't see them (Portland) often, so I need to do some research on them," WWCC coach Jeff Reinland said. "We'd rather open up at home, but that's just the way it is this year, and that was by choice - I did the schedule."
Portland finished 2010-11 at 11-13 and did not make the NWAACC tournament.
Should the Warriors defeat Portland, they will face the winner of Green River vs. Skagit Valley Saturday and from there could move on to the championship game Sunday.
Following the Turkey Shoot, WWCC hosts the Warrior Classic Dec. 2-3, where the Warriors will face off against Linfield and Mount Hood.
In total, the Warriors play five tournaments to start the 2011-12 season before they play Columbia Basin at home on Jan. 7.
Turnover is a fact of life at junior colleges, and this year will be no exception. Walla Walla returns five sophomores and two redshirt freshmen from last season.
No single player stands out in the post this season.
"It's going to be kind of by committee this year," Reinland said. "Dallen (Bills, 6-foot-5) is real strong, Nathan Richards (6-5), Jake Hight (6-6), (Michael) Crane can score inside, and Dillon McGraw (6-5) can play in there.
Although Crane is shorter as a forward, he will contribute in the post.
"(Crane is an) athletic kid," Reinland said. "He can drive, he can shoot. He does most of his damage driving and scoring inside. He has great ball handling skills."
The eldest player on the team, redshirt sophomore Jay Payne (5-10), is a sharpshooter.
"He's (Payne) a good shooter, he's a solid little player," Reinland said. "He's probably the guy who is most capable of getting the hottest and stringing shots together."
At guard, the Warriors feature returning point Mac Stannard (6-3) and redshirt freshman Dylan Radliff.
Radliff suffered a calf injury early in the season and was redshirted as result.
"He (Radliff) wasn't very big in stature and we wanted to get him in the weight room," Reinland said, "and I think it has really paid off. He's much better than he was last year. It's (redshirting) hard to do, kids don't really like to do that."
"(Radliff is a) really good wing," Reinland said. "He can score he can shoot, he's really crafty.
"They're (Radliff and Stannard) kind of both combination type guards, they're both pretty good that way," he said.
Reinland said he is excited about the incoming freshmen.
"Our freshmen are all pretty good players," he said. "They've all looked pretty good at one time or another.
"They've all shown that they've been capable, but they're having to adapt to the pace of the game and that hasn't been easy," he said. "I'm pretty excited for them as a group, to be honest."
Reinland listed Hunter Hahn (6-4), Nathan Richards, Caleb Bravard (6-6) and Jake Hight as probable contributors among the freshmen.
Although the Warriors will feature no large post, they are, on average, just shy of 6-foot-3 as a team.
"Throughout history the best post players are 6-5, 6-6," Reinland said. "Generally, the bigger guys are going to get snatched up pretty quick, so the big guys at our level need to develop. We're bigger as a team, we just don't have a large post presence."
Because community colleges typically only have players for two years or less, it is a challenge to develop team chemistry, Reinland said.
"The hard part here is we only have two years to mold them into a team," Reinland said. "We can improve their skills individually, but the hardest part is molding them into a team.
"Every year you're trying to really rebuild you chemistry from scratch, versus a four-year school where maybe four or five new guys come in every year," he said.
Reinland is also WWCC's athletic director and is entering his 18th year as head coach of the men's basketball team. He is 282-192 as the Warriors' head coach.