COLLEGE PLACE - The Walla Walla University men's basketball team is going to mix youth and experience this winter and hope that the chemistry sizzles en route to a trip to the NAIA Division II National Tournament.
Two out of the five players that hit the court against No. 10-ranked Eastern Oregon Saturday will be starting their first collegiate basketball, Wolves coach Jimmy Hill said.
Seven out of 18 Wolves are in their first year of college.
"We're pretty much either seniors or freshmen, there's not much in between," Hill said.
Hill said his seniors are good role models, while the freshmen bring energy to the program.
Eastern Oregon should provide WWU a stiff challenge and some good experience for the young team.
"They're (EO) as good as anyone we're going to play all year," Hill said. "It's a tough challenge right out of the gate. Those are the programs that we are trying to be like it'll be a good experience."
The Wolves will look to play an up-tempo brand of basketball this year, with players rotating frequently to ensure there are always fresh legs on the court.
Tyreek Luckett, a 6-foot-3 freshman out of Houston, Texas, is the starting point guard.
"He (Luckett) shoots the ball really well," Hill said. "He plays hard and he's very unselfish. He's a quiet kid who just goes about his business, we're very excited for him."
Although Luckett will be starting Saturday, Hill said he expects to play 10-12 players each game and both Mark Moore (6-1 senior) and Clark Woodworth (5-8 sophomore) will share time at the point.
The other freshman starting for the Wolves will be banging bodies under the net; 6-foot-6 Josh Hough took over the center position from junior Andrew Bailey, who moved out to the No. 4 position as a shooting forward.
Hill said Hough looked to be a fixture at center for years to come.
"He's (Hough) got a nice touch around the basketball," Hill said. He's really athletic and he can run which is important because we like to run.
"He's going to be a guy down the road that is going to really make some noise at our level, in terms of being a guy on the block that can score, block and rebound," he said.
The move away from center should allow Bailey, also 6-foot-6, to use more of his abilities, Hill said.
"He's (Bailey) got a chance to step away from the basket because he's a good shooter, but with his experience on the block he can score with his back to the basket too," Hill said. "He can kind of do everything. We're excited to move him out there because that is maybe a more natural fit for him than at the 5."
Senior Tayor Lewis (6-foot) starts at the 2 position, or shooting guard, for the Wolves and should provide a strong outside threat to score.
"He's best shooter on the team, he's a really good catch and shoot guy," Hill said "He's really coach-able - he can analyze what he sees out there so we can trust him out there making plays - but his strength is shooting the basketball."
Rounding out the starters for WWU is senior guard Jordan Stimmel (5-foot-10). Stimmel played point guard last year, but this season Hill expects him to attack the net at the 3 spot.
"Jordan plays extremely hard," Hill said. "He's more of a slasher, going to the rim. He's a very tough hard, nosed player."
Bryce Doherty, a 6-3 senior forward, will come off the bench as the Wolves' sixth man.
"He (Doherty) started for us last year," Hill said. "He's a hard-nosed player, so if a starter isn't giving us what we want he can come off the bench and give us energy and play well and those types of things."
This is Hill's second year as the head coach for WWU, although he shared coaching duties with Gerry Larson until January last season when Larson left to take a position in the marketing and enrollment office at WWU.
Hill attended Whitman College and played there before becoming a coach. Hill has served stints coaching at Gonzaga, WWU and most recently at Wenatchee Valley Community College as the head coach before returning to WWU last year.
The Wolves host the Mountaineers at 8 p.m. Saturday.