The Portland West boys basketball team hopes to match or improve on last season’s 5-8 record as the 2016-17 opened last week. It is a rebuilding year for Coach Bill Runyon, who returns as the school’s only coach since its opening in 2009.

“Last season was a letdown,” Runyon admitted last week. “We just couldn’t put the right game together.”

Runyon has one starter in eighth grader Cade Box.

“We have one returning back in Cade Box,” Runyon said recently. “We have three boys that have never played a game on the court. So it’s a rebuilding year for us.

A lot will be riding on the shoulders of Box, who has been in the program since the fifth grade as a manager and player.

“Cade plays point guard and the wing position and knows the program,” Runyon said recently. “We will rely on him a lot. The kids look to him. “

Cannan Russell is the epitome of what every coach in any sport looks for and that is playing with heart he said.

“Cannan would runs through a wall if I asked him to,” Runyon said. “He is scrappy amd over the summer, he averaged eight points per game for us.”

Nakeitha Jackson didn’t play as a seventh grader, but is someone Runyon will rely on this season.

“He is a super athlete but still learning basketball,” Runyon explained. “He is a post player for us.”

Caeson Utley is one of the seventh grader starters for the Panthers. Utley’s dad Shawn and brother Caelum both were 1,000 point scorers for the high school.

“He is a solid starter for us and we are looking for big things from him,” Runyon remarked.

Isiah Smith plays a guard spot for the Purple and has a good outside shot according to Runyon.

“He is one of our guards up front and is a long range shooter for us. Isaiah has a good shot.”

Two more players in the rotation include Mikeal Dykes and Devin Fuqua.

“I enjoy this group and being around them,” Runyon commented. “They all get along and there is no bickering.”

Runyon looks to Knox Doss and Station camp as the teams to beat in the county.

“They both have at least two starters back are well-coached and have good feeder programs.”

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