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Thursday, October 12, 2023

Transformed Lions Seek Route To Redemption - 2023-24 Season Preview

New Look Lions Coming Into Focus


By Harry Cummins

     The basketball floodwaters of change at Multnomah University in Portland, Oregon have sufficiently receded this Fall, revealing a decidedly altered landscape.

      An off-season metamorphosis now casts an illuminated shadow on all those invested at this small Bible-based NAIA school with an arabesque past.  Such a sweeping sea change, whether for good or ill, likely will depend on your point of view and an incognito season yet to reveal itself.

     The Multnomah Lions first influenced the geographical imprint of small college basketball several years ago when a whirlwind descended on this campus of 300 plus students in the form of a diminutive 5'8 guard named Justin Martin. He would go on to capture back-to-back NAIA national scoring titles while posting record-setting 71 and 74 point scoring games in successive seasons.  It was a rousing, if not winning, brand of basketball to behold.

     Martin is gone now. So too is 2,000+ point career scorer and all-time 3-point leader Zach Richardson, along with 20 year head coach Curt Bickley who has retired after decades spent strapped for conveyable resources. Their combined legacy was cemented in one particular 2018 game that saw Multnomah sink a still-standing NAIA record 38 3's in a single contest that also saw Martin and Richardson score an incomprehensible 49 points each. 

     Multnomah's fitting  '3 Point U epithet has now been reconstituted by new head coach Tayo Gem in character with the rallying cry currently fashioned on the wall of the Lions locker room, Sustained Intensity.  Gem, it seems, along with his assistant coaches Quinn Curry and Xavier Dupree  are at work on a larger canvas, a roll call showcasing an ideally balanced ensemble of players with an increased focus on the defensive side of the ball.

     Gem is not bereft of current offensive weapons however. Seniors Tyrese Taylor and Neyland Block return to form a dynamic presence. Taylor, a 6'8 forward with bull-like strength, averaged a double-double last season, while the 6'5 Block, gifted at creating for others, finished 5th in the nation in assists.  Assistant coach Curry unequivocally calls Block "the most underrated player in the country."  Both are All-Conference candidates in the rugged Cascade Collegiate Conference that produced last season's national champion in College of Idaho... as well as yet another in a succession of second division finishes for these Lions.

     Lifting the burden from Taylor up front is 7'0 Senior F/C and Nebraska native Javier Turner, who can run the floor, block shots, and was his conference defensive player of the year last season for Point U.  Joining Turner at the forward spot is Miles Macadory, a converted 300 pound offensive tackle in football who has transformed his body into a sleeek 6'6, 210 pound shot maker, replete with a 5th year senior's court savvy.

     Chad Napoleon, a 6'6 Jr. forward, brings an infectious energy to the Lion's fortified front court. From Del Ray Beach, Florida, Napoleon played the last 2 seasons at Blue Mountain C.C. where he became the only 1,000 point career scorer in the school's history. Versatile and experienced, he once played summer ball in Spain on an international high school travel team.

     Multnomah's back court is loaded, allowing Coach Gem to deploy his guards like breaking waves.  Kadeem Nelson is a 6'5 Junior who took his City College of San Francisco team to the State championship game last year. Long and athletic, he is blessed with great speed and change of direction in blowing by opponents. 

     The best contender to propagate the link to the litany of former 3-point snipers at Multnomah is 6'3 Senior guard Taylor Pomeroy.  Also a local high school star from Portland, Pomeroy transfers from Bellevue University in Nebraska where he shot a sizzling 44.9% from long distance and led the team in free-throw shooting as well. His companion skill at getting to the basket stamp him a defensive nightmare to defend.  Josiah Sewell is a 6'1 Junior guard from Colorado Springs and Portland Community College who will allow Coach Gem to use his versatility and deft shooting touch to impact games.

     Two of the top defenders in Multnomah's 'sustained intensity' model are 6'3 Senior James Sanders and Senior 6'3 returner Amande Uchime. Along with Taylor and Block, Uchime is one of 3 senior holdovers from the wholesale remake of last season's roster. Already one of the top defensive players in the CCC, Uchime is looking to create more disruption this year among Lions opponents.  Sanders, meanwhile, is a seasoned D-1 transfer from Denver University with 2-way skills. 

In this forest of tall trees it may be easy to miss Multnomah's newest 5'9 wonderkind, Freshman Marje Windfield, who hardened his game on the rough and tumble courts of the Chicago Public League, once dropping 37 points in a key league match-up. His amazing quickness has dominated Fall workouts.

     The lure of the bright lights at the national tournament in Kansas City each Spring remains the Holy-Grail toward which every NAIA team points. Lions coach Tayo Gem and his staff should be well-served in that pursuit by coalescing this current cluster of talent, motivational psychology, and the growing pains of the past in synthesis with this lock-step poeticism from William Blake:

"I give you the end of a golden string....wind it into a ball.   

 It will let you in at Heavens Gate."

The grasp for golden threads begins Nov 4








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