Juniors emerge just when West Roxbury needed them to

Just when you thought West Roxbury was destined to be an also-ran, a pair of juniors have emerged to keep them relevant, interesting and a potentially dangerous team. And as the city and state tournaments approach, the continued development of Tyree Gross and Tysaul Horton becomes more important.

It would have been easy to think West Roxbury was going to fall off the map. They highly-touted group that came in as freshmen three years ago was already down to one, and then the lone holdover transferred before the season. But as is often the case, when one door closes another one opens, and that has been the case as this has opened up opportunities for others, including Gross and Horton in their first full year of varsity play.

Both players got a brief cup of coffee with the varsity team late last season, but they have been there all along this season. They have had opportunities to emerge, and have done so as the Raiders hope to make a run to the state tournament with about two weeks to go.

Gross has above-average quickness off the ball and a good frame that can still fill out. He’s come as far as anyone in the program with a great work ethic, and it showed in his jump shot range and ability to hit shots off the bounce. There’s plenty of room for improvement, including with his dribble, but given what he has shown thus far there is reason to believe that will continue. In addition, he won’t wow you with his athleticism although he isn’t lacking in that department, another reason to continue to develop the skill package.

Horton is similar physically except he’s longer and further away from his physical apex. The lefty is not lacking ball skills, though they will need to continue to be upgraded, and his future is off the ball. He’s athletic and has been very dependable, as head coach Martin Somers says he rarely takes him out of the game. As games go on, he has remained effective, so there hasn’t been a big adjustment to the varsity level from that standpoint.

The two were key figures in West Roxbury’s home win over Boston English on Thursday night. Horton was active at both ends and scored 17 points, while Gross was in plenty of plays as well and scored 12 points of his own. Both have been consistent scorers of late as the Raiders have made it to 9-7 overall and 8-5 in Boston City League play. They maintain hope of reaching the city playoffs, but need some help in addition to a win against division-leading Dorchester next week.

That’s a position not many may have expected this team to be in before the season. With the emergence of Gross and Horton, along with help from their teammates, West Roxbury could make the city playoffs and at the very least looks ready to make the state tournament.

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