By René Ferrán
Over the next two weeks, SBLive Oregon will break down more than 100 Oregon high school basketball teams. Here’s our look at the South Medford Panthers boys of the Class 6A Southwest Conference.
James Wightman, fifth season (27-68)
2019-20 AT A GLANCE
Overall record: 10-15
League record: 2-8, fifth in Southwest
ALL-LEAGUE PLAYERS DEPARTED
F Keegan Losinski, first team
PLAYERS TO WATCH
G Junior Sleezer, Jr., 6-2
Sleezer made the all-SWC second team as a sophomore, averaging 12.2 points and two steals per game. A three-year starter for the Panthers, he’s a combo guard who’s equally adept at getting to the rim and hitting from three-point range. “He’s also tough on the defensive end and gets in the passing lanes,” Wightman said.
F Jude Pannell, Sr., 6-4
Pannell is another three-year starter who averaged 6.6 points and 4.2 rebounds per game last season. “He has a good IQ for the game and has made himself into a consistent three-point shooter,” Wightman said.
F Devin Malcolm, Jr., 6-4
Malcolm transferred from Butte Falls, where he was a first-team all-Southern Cascade selection and made the Class 2A all-state honorable mention list. Wightman called him “one of the better athletes in the state.”
F Jeremy Gaut, Sr., 6-5
Gaut had a strong first season as a starter, shooting 41 percent from three-point range and averaging 6.8 points per game. Wightman said Gaut has worked on improving his handle to get to the basket more consistently.
The Panthers made an eight-win improvement last season, reaching double digits in victories for the first time since 2015-16. With three starters returning and the addition of a high-profile transfer in Malcolm, they would have been in the mix to grab a playoff spot for the first time in the past five years.
Wightman believes his team speed and depth will be factors this spring, allowing the Panthers to force tempo and get teams to play faster than they want.
Malcolm’s former teammate at Butte Falls, 6-4 junior post Desmond Clayburne, joined him at South Medford this school year, and the Panthers return a couple of role players from last season in senior post Evan Booth and senior guard Jerez Miller.
They’ll add three key players from the JV team in juniors Gabe Adams, Titus Bloodsaw and Mike Adee, along with touted 5-10 freshman guard Jackson Weiland. A strong spring season could catapult the Panthers into the SWC title race in the winter.
“We’ll have 12-14 games this spring, and one big goal is to not lose at home.” — James Wightman