191214-spt-prep-bbx-roseburg-04 (copy)

Roseburg High School guard Matt Parker drives against Corvallis’ Azel Bumpus during a nonconference game at Robertson Memorial Gym earlier this season. The Indians open Southwest Conference play Friday night against Sheldon in Eugene.

It’s into the great unknown for the Roseburg High boys basketball team as the Indians get ready to begin Southwest Conference play against the Sheldon Irish on Friday in Eugene.

With a new head coach and practically a brand new roster, the rigors of conference competition will be a fresh experience for the Tribe. But the Indians also think their inexperience could work in their favor.

“Hitting them with new defensive schemes this year, I really think we can catch some teams off guard,” junior guard Matt Parker said.

“I think we definitely have an opportunity (to surprise some teams),” Roseburg coach Jordan Humphreys said. “Not just because of the new stuff, but because we are continuing to get better.”

Roseburg (3-10) tips off the conference season against Sheldon at 6:45 p.m. on Friday. The Indians will definitely be considered an underdog in the SWC.

The Tribe was picked to finish last in a vote of the conference’s coaches, conducted by the Medford Mail Tribune.

Despite the uphill climb, the Roseburg boys have their sights set on making some noise in conference play.

“Playing those tough teams (in nonconference games) is really going to help us in conference play this year,” Parker said. He added that the team is determined to not finish in last place.

“I know this team and we’re capable of winning games. We just got to come together and work together.”

South Eugene was picked to finish first in the SWC. The Axe garnered five first place votes. North Medford and Sheldon tied for second, with the Black Tornado earning one first place vote. South Medford and Grants Pass finished fourth and fifth, respectively.

Humphreys agreed with the order of the top three teams in the coaches poll, but feels his team will be in the mix beyond that.

“Our goal is to make the playoffs and that’s going to start with every single night we play,” Humphreys said.

The top three teams in the SWC receive automatic playoff berths, while 11 at-large berths will be given out to teams in the top 32 of the OSAA power rankings.

South Eugene looks to be the top dog in the conference. The Axe (11-4) are led by seniors Sam Harris and Josh Paul, who are the top two scorers in the SWC through the nonconference schedule. They were both second-team all-conference selections as juniors.

South Eugene returns four all-conference players. North Medford (7-7) returns two, led by second-team pick Jett Carpenter, who is third in the SWC in scoring.

South Medford (7-7) has two returning all-conference selections, Sheldon (8-5) has one and Grants Pass (7-5) and Roseburg have none.

Even with a roster of fresh faces, Roseburg has two players in the top 10 for scoring average in the SWC so far. Zach Martin leads the Indians and is fourth in the conference with 14.2 points per game. Parker is eighth (10.8).

Humphreys said that he’s seen growth in his team since the start of the season.

“Early on the growing process was slow, getting used to the pace of the game and getting some confidence,” the first-year coach said. “These last couple of weeks we’ve seen some major breakthroughs.”

Joey Keeran is the sports director for KSKR The Score.

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