By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE November 9, 2001 Chris DePew, newly-minted athletic director at Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) and interium mens basketball coach, is a man on a mission.
He wants to get back to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Championships in Delhi.
After coach Will Brown announced he was pulling up stakes at the local community college and heading off to SUNY Albany as assistant coach of that Division I institution, SCCC lost a few quality players who signed up thinking they would be playing for Brown.
DePew served under Brown as assistant coach of the SCCC mens basketball program for three years, so hes pretty familar with the local hoopster scene.
He graduated from Roundout Valley High School in 1986 where he played basketball for three seasons as team captain. DePew served as captain of his team while attending Ulster County Community College, but took time off from the court while completing his college education at SUNY Cortland.
DePew was a volunteer basketball coach at Rondout Valley, and started the popular Rochester Youth Basketball Program that serves more than 100 kids, ages 7-18.
Were a little more inexperienced than we were in the past, he said of the 2001-02 Generals. Theyre starting to learn the system.
DePew said hes relying heavily on five returnees. Four of those returning players Shiron Brown, Tim Butler, Bryan Evans and Davon Wilson were slated to take to the court for SCCC in Wednesday nights season opener at Queensborough Community College.
(The Generals first home game is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, November 16, when the team will face the Teikyo Post University JV team. The Generals are scheduled to play 29 games this season, 13 of which will be contested at the Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.)
The fifth returnee, Kareem Morgan, is expected to be back in uniform if he gets his grades up to par this semester.
The captains of this years squad are Brown, Bulter and Evans.
Shiron Browns take on the new season?
I think we can make it back to the nationals, because weve got four returning players from last year, said the 24-year-old point guard. Were short on height this year . . . we only have one really big man. Our starting five is all right, and our cast on the bench is coming along in practice.
Were not as good as last year, but we can make it back [to Delhi] if we work hard and do what were supposed to do, said Evans, a 20-year-old shooting guard.
Butler is also back from last year. The 20-year-old power forwards take on the situation?
I think were going to do good, he said. We arent as talented as last year, but were coming along.
Im going to rely a lot on those veterans to provide the leadership . . . theyre helping the new guys adjust to a higher level of basketball than they were used to in the past, DePew said. Theyve been to where we want to go.
Are we as good as last years team? DePew asked aloud. Not right now, but our goal is to be the hottest team in America by the middle of February. We want to be on that roll and get back to Delhi.
According to DePew, the team has the talent but is a little slow in picking up the fundamentals. That factor was rather evident during a recent practice session. On a couple of occassions the air turned a bit blue with displeasure, as the Generals helmsman pointed out a few things that could stand improvement.
These kids all know basketball and how to get up and down the floor, DePew said. They need to learn how tp play basketball . . . they all come in with a street game. You have to corral them into their positions.
DePew expects his players to play 94-feet of right in your face basketball, forcing the opposition into making costly mistakes.
He said SCCC is close to hiring a mens basketball coach. SCCC President Mamie Golladay has named her first choice. The prospective coach has reportedly accepted a verbal job offer, but wants to see the terms in writing. DePew said he doesnt expect to have the position filled until after Thanksgiving.
Meanwhile, DePew soldiers on in the capacity of mens basketball coach, unofficially assisted by recently hired SCCC womens basketball coach Kyle Walter.
Last year, a couple of little point guards (Earvin Opong and Dereck Rankin) heated up the floor with their blazing speed between the hoops.
We dont dribble the ball as well as last year, but we shoot it better, said DePew.
The Generals had a trio of towers on the 2000-2001 team: 68 pillars Kris Ibezim, Curtis Henry and Ty Brunson, along with Butler at 67.
The returning Butler will be joined on the court by 66 Andre Simmons. Julian Dawson (67) is expected to take to the floor in January.
DePew gave a thumbnail sketch of a few of his players. He noted that Dana Holmes can really jump right out of the gym and has a lot of skills and that Darius Waters is an outstanding player [who will be] added to the roster in January.
And then theres Simmons.
Heres a local kid from Monticello who came walking into my office and said, Coach, Im here and I want to play ball, DePew said. He will start at the four [position] for us.
Julian Dawson, another local player, is on the launching pad as soon as he repays some financial aid bucks to SUNY Cortland. Dawson recently transferred from Cortland to SCCC, but his former school is holding onto his official transcript until he comes up with the money.
After leading an intense practice drill, DePew shared a few thoughts about how he thinks things are going.
For five minutes we look unstoppable, and then for the next five minutes Im screaming my head off trying to figure out what the heck theyre doing out there, he said. They need to keep playing at speed, but with structure. Our five starters are key to this program. They will need to give us quality minutes.
DePew said hes already picked up a few players who will be the bricks for the foundation of next years team.
We have seven kids who have committed to come here next year, [and] thats part of an ongoing process in junior college basketball, he said. Its our job to try to balance the academics and the athletics, to teach them how it is on the next level. Im here for them, and I want them to have the best possible experience.
What are Chris DePews goals for the 2001-2002 hoops season?
To get back to Delhi, be competitive in every game and to teach these kids a little bit more than basketball things about life, about sacrifices and responsibilities and to give them a positive experience.