In it to win it

Men’s Basketball prepares for redemption, team ranked number one in pre-season poll

By Natalie Shirvanian and James Paxson
Sports Editor and Staff Writer

The 2014-15 Schoolcraft Men’s Basketball season was far from disappointing. Despite falling a few games shy of a National Championship, the team’s accomplishments were many.

The team finished in sixth place in the National Tournament, posted a 31-5 overall record, was crowned Michigan Community College Athletic Association (MCCAA) and National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Region XII Division II Men’s Basketball Champions, and claimed berth in the NJCAA Division II National Championship tournament for the first time since 2001.

Indicated by the 2015-16 NJCAA Division II men’s basketball preseason polls which rank the team at number one, the Ocelots are poised to make an even deeper run at a National Championship. .

November 4, marks the tipoff to the start of the season, and the Ocelots are looking to redeem themselves and after falling short to Lakeland Community College last season, 85-79 in the National Tournament.

Head coach Abe Mashhour guided the Ocelots to a sixth place finish in the National tournament during his first season. a. As he enters his second year, Mashhour is looking forward to a fresh start.

This year’s squad will be stacked with veteran presence. Six players are set to return from last season’s team. There should be no question as to whether or not the Ocelots can claim victory for a second consecutive year. Sophomore shooting guard Ja’Christian Biles led the team last season with a total of 524 points, ranking him 44th overall in the NJCAA and 54 steals, ranking him 64th overall.

“There’s nothing much that I can bring besides the same as last year in leadership,” Biles said, adding, “All we need is leadership and defense.”

A major advantage for the Ocelots is the fact that the team is stacked with big men. “In the junior college league it is hard to find good big men; on our team we have a six foot eight, six foot nine, six foot eight and a six foot ten  forward so our post men will help us out a lot this year,” said Coach Mashhour.

Joining returning sophomore forwards Davon Taylor standing at 6-foot-8 and Anthony Wartley-Fritz at 6-foot-7, are: freshman forwards Rodney Scales (6-foot-7), Daniel Dwyer (6-foot-5), Carlos Taylor (6-foot-4) and freshman center R.J. Coil (6-foot-10).

With experienced, veteran players from last season, the incoming players are prepared to unite and win at all the levels. “We know what it takes to get there,” said Black, stating, “It’s up to us to guide the freshman to help better us as a unit.”

Schoolcraft also welcomes back sophomore point guard DeShawndre Black and sophomore shooting guards Tyron Hamby and Tyler Johnson. Among the returning guards, talented and skilled freshman also add to the chemistry: freshman point guard Dwayne Chastian Jr. and shooting guards Juwan Clark, Bryan Collins and Esa Abduljami.

Versatility is another major factor for the Ocelots as incoming players bring their skill sets to the court. Taylor plans on bringing, “Toughness, high energy and versatility.” He also added, “I know they had a really good season last year, but that was last year. This year we have to handle business and hopefully we can take the whole thing.”

As the regular season opens up on Nov. 4, coach Mashhour and second season assistant coaches Corey McKendry and Michael Allie confidently prepare the men for the regular season. The Ocelots are looking forward to the tougher schedule provided to them, however their number one goal is to win it all this season.

For more information about schedules, stats and rosters visit MCCAA.org.