Sports

Olympic College getting used to Luke's force

"Barry Janusch didn’t have to squint to see the reason his Olympic College men’s basketball team was clamping such a defensive vise on Highline.It was pretty easy to see.“It’s 6-foot-11 and weighs 265 pounds,” Janusch grinned after the Rangers won their third straight game, beating Highline 70-58 Dec. 23 at Bremer Center. “And it’s not afraid of putting a body on people.”“It” was 1997 Central Kitsap High School product Luke Arthur, playing just his second game for the Rangers after conquering some academic eligibility problems since transferring from Montana State University. Though he scored only two points and grabbed seven rebounds, the changes in the Olympic team were obvious — as in 6-11, 265 pounds obvious.“He changes everything,” said Janusch, who lost guards B.J. Letcher and Cornelius Etheridge to eligibility issues of their own for the Highline game. “He didn’t play a great game, but he just changes so many shots inside. Anyone who goes in there has to be thinking about him, because he’s just such a presence.”“I’m a black hole,” says Arthur of that presence, which allows the Rangers to play much more zone defense and frees the guards to slash into the passing lanes and get out on opponents’ 3-point shooters. “They’re going to come at me, and hopefully they’re going to have to go around me.”Against Highline, Arthur blocked two shots. He also changed the trajectory on just about every Thunderbird shot from 15 feet and closer, helping force the visitors into a miserable 25.6 percent (22 for 86) shooting performance from the field.“We’ll probably score less points with Luke in there,” Janusch said prior to the season, “but the other team’s going to score less, too. It’ll be a different type of game.”Things couldn’t have been much more night-and-day. In a loss to Wenatchee Valley Dec. 18, the Rangers scored 84 points, but lost by 16.Arthur made his debut two games later, playing sparingly in a road victory over Pierce, then getting 30 minutes of playing time in the win over Highline.“I don’t feel rusty,” said Arthur, who opted out of Montana State and returned home disheartened by lack of playing time with the Bobcats. “The thing that’s hard is playing against these smaller centers. The guys here are 6-5 or 6-6 — they’re quicker than what I’m used to.“When you’re used to playing guys your own size, you get to where you can expect what they’re going to do.”Though it hasn’t really shown up yet, Arthur can be just as big a presence on offense as defense for the Rangers. From the low post, he can either score or dish back out to the perimeter shooters. Having him in the middle also frees up 6-4 sophomore Sam Moore, who’s been OC’s main low-post threat the last season and a half.“Sam can step outside and slash a little,” Janusch said. “This frees him up to play a lot more complete offensive game, and gets him out of the middle sometimes, where all the big guys are.”Moore seemed to appreciate the new opportunities, scoring 32 points and grabbing 16 rebounds against Highline.And Arthur will get his points, once his teammates get accustomed to having him in game situations.“We’ve been throwing him the ball at about nine feet (high),” said Janusch, breaking into a grin. “More like 11 feet is where you have to throw it for Luke.”Arthur, a sophomore, said he doesn’t know if a return to a four-year program is in the cards for him. What happens the remainder of this year with the Rangers will help him — and perhaps a four-year coach or three — make up his mind.“We’ll see how it goes,” Arthur said. “If I work hard enough here, I can get back there. But if I can’t play to that caliber, then why go back?”"

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