On the community college basketball level, where there’s a major roster turnover every season, each team becomes a work in progress.
It’s unrealistic to expect a group of strangers to become a cohesive team right away. But a lot becomes possible if the players combine their skills and follow the leadership of the coaching staff. And if there’s plenty of talent the possibilities grow.
Without question, there’s a lot of talent at Santa Monica College this season. Size and depth. The Corsairs won five of their first six games and were ranked 14th in Southern California.
That’s not quite up to the standards set by John McMullen when he won more than 500 games at SMC over 22 years and was voted into the Southern California Coaches Hall Of Fame. But it’s the best start in the five years since McMullen retired.
Here’s the question: How good will this SMC team be? As good as it looked in a 107-95 win over formidable LA Southwest? Or as ragged as it looked in a 58-50 home loss to Santa Ana?
“They’re a tough team but I was pleased we were able to control the second half when it mattered the most,” said Irvine Valley College coach Jerry Hernandez after his team defeated SMC, 81-70 in the championship game of the Irvine Valley Tournament.
In that event SMC center Bryant Crowder and guard Charlier Oriel were named to the all-tournament team.
Jerome Jenkins, in his second year at SMC, has assembled a talented roster.
SMC is spending December in tournaments but will begin its Western State Conference schedule next month. SMC will open Januaruy 9 at Glendale and will be home for 7 p.m. games Jan. 13 against Citrus and Jan. 16 against West Los Angeles.
There aren’t a lot of skillful big men in the Southern California JC ranks this season and SMC has one of the best in the 6-foot-10 Crowder, a freshman from Rice High in New York.
SMC also has three productive 6-8 forwards, Pat McCauley, Matt Sinclair, and DeShawn Stephens amd 6-7 Solomon Hainna, who left Crossroads midway through last season.
“I’m happy Solomon is playing there,” said Crossroads coach Kevin Jackson.”Regardless of what happened here I want the young man to succeed in life.”
SMC’s height stands out but the team is well equipped in the backcourt too.
Eric Bell, who started at SMC last season, is a skillful point guard who had 16 assists in a game this season.
Rodney Hudson starts at the other guard position and had 22 points and five steals in one game. Then there’s Oriel, who comes off the bench and is a major contributor.
The goal is to do well enough in the conference to qualify fir the playoffs.
Two seasons ago SMC did qualify and lost a first round gane to Cerritos. The Cerritos coach, who was retiring, was so impressed with SMC coach Jesse Teplitzky’s preparation, he led the way for Teplitzky to replace him with a large salary boost.
That’s life on the community college level.