LANGLOIS — John Morrill-Keeler and Jack Lehnherr were teammates for just one basketball season at Pacific High School, helping the Pirates win their first state title in March.
They will get a chance to work together for two more years in the sport after signing letters of intent Wednesday to play for Umpqua Community College. Lehnherr said the chance to continue as teammates was a big draw for joining the Riverhawks.
“It’s close to home,” he said. “It’s the cheapest. Plus, I wanted to go with John.”
The players went on a visit to the school located just outside Roseburg a month ago.
“It felt like home,” Lehnherr said.
“I liked the feel when I went on the visit,” added Morrill-Keeler. “The campus was really nice.”
Both plan to study sports medicine aiming for some future in that field, such as in physical therapy.
Morrill-Keeler, a four-year starter at Pacific, has been on the radar of Umpqua’s coaches for a number of years. They noticed Lehnherr this year after he transferred to Pacific following three years as a starter in Powers.
“Obviously, they are very talented,” coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “John has been on our radar for a long time. He’s got all the tools to be a dominant player — good hands, good feet, he can run, he’s got a soft touch.”
Lehnherr was an inside partner to Morrill-Keeler at Pacific, but will transition more into a perimeter player at Umpqua, which could have as many as eight players who are 6 feet, 6 inches or taller — Morrill-Keeler is pushing 6-9 while Lehnherr is about 6-4.
Both Pacific players fit the culture of the Riverhawks program, Leeworthy said.
“They are both high-character kids, and good academically,” he said.
Unlike most of his career at Pacific, Morrill-Keeler won’t always be the biggest player on the court.
“I’m really hopeful for the challenge,” he said, adding that his goal is to be able to go on to play for a four-year school after his two years with the Riverhawks.
“Hopefully I will get to contribute,” he said.
Leeworthy said he expects that right away.
“We think he could be a significant player from Day 1,” he said.
Morrill-Keeler was named co-player of the year for Class 1A after helping lead the Pirates to the title. Lehnherr received honorable-mention recognition. Both were named to the first team at the state tournament.
The two bonded as teammates in football, when they had to make a daily drive to Coquille for practice — the school has a cooperative agreement with the Red Devils for the sport. And then they developed a strong chemistry on the court in basketball, which made them happy to continue as teammates in that sport.
“It’s exciting,” Morrill-Keeler said.
Pacific coach Ben Stallard said he is happy the two will get the opportunity.
“I think it’s good,” he said. “I think it will help them financially and maybe as mentors for each other.”