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Cibola's Loucks gives mismatches to opposing defenses
The Cibola boys basketball team returns the best player in the area.
Senior guard Jordan Mitchell is the reigning Yuma Sun/Yuma Rotary Boys Basketball Player of the Year, but that doesn't necessarily mean he will be the focal point of the offense for the Raiders.
That distinction would go to 6-foot-6 senior wing Steven Loucks.
“We structured our offense so he's going to be everywhere. He's going to be a guard, a forward and a post player,” Cibola coach Tim Keller said. “We're restructuring our offense so he can be successful, but he has to realize that he's going to be inside as much as he's going to be outside.”
Loucks' ability to play on the outside while being one of the tallest players in the area gives opposing teams a pick-your-poison scenario. Defend him with guard and he'll go inside; defend him with a post and he'll do his damage on the perimeter. After averaging 9.3 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds a game his junior season, Loucks said he has worked on being a better creator to set up his teammates instead of just himself. Considering his height, when he bangs in the box, chances are he's going to need to be able to pass from down low.
“There's definitely a bull's-eye on my back because I'm a big kid and there's not that many big kids in the area. But if it's something where I'm double-teamed, I'll kick it out because we have a lot of good shooters on the team,” Loucks said.
The Raiders, who finished 14-4 and advanced to the second round of the state playoffs last year, return several key contributors from last season. On the top of the list is Mitchell, who averaged a team-high 18.5 points and 5.5 assists to go along with 5.8 rebounds. Also returning is 6-foot senior sharpshooter Brett Boyer, who averaged 8.5 points and connected on 57 3-pointers last season.
Sophomores Isaiah Brown and T.J. Smith are back after getting some key minutes in some crucial moments for the Raiders last season. Brown, a 5-foot-10 guard, scored 17 points in a loss to Kofa and tallied eight in a four-point win over Lake Havasu in the state tournament.
“We have other young guys who are improving leaps and bounds. Our young guys are looking very good,” Keller said.
A big question mark will be whether the Raiders can make up for the loss of guard Stevie Mitchell and post Deante Gaines graduating.
“Deante did really well last year. I want to be just as good as him, if not better,” Loucks said, adding, “But we're two very different players.”
“We're not worried about replacing Deante and replacing Stevie,” Keller said. “Loucks has to be Loucks. Jordan has to be Jordan. T.J. has to be T.J. Isaiah has to be Isaiah. Brett has to be Brett. We're not running the same offense as last year.”
Keller said that with a new formula to determine who makes it into the state tournament, the 14-4 record the Raiders have won't be good enough to get in this season — Cibola must win more games. Especially with the tallest kid in the area back for the Raiders, Keller thinks Loucks will be a key reason if they make it to the state playoffs again.
Considering his height and skills, Loucks and the Raiders will most likely have a mismatch the majority of the time he's on the floor.
“People are going to have trouble guarding him,” Keller said. “He's going to be one of the hardest guys for other teams to guard.”
Jesse Severson can be reached at email@example.com or at 539-6881. Find him on Facebook at facebook.com/YSJesseSeverson.