By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE April 16, 2002 Its not easy to make lemonade out of lemons, but during this past season the Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) Generals coaches and players turned adversity into success.
In the wake of then-coach Will Browns late summer decision to move on from SCCC to a coaching slot at Division I SUNY Albany, there were a lot of folks around the area who thought the Generals would be in a rebuilding year. The team would be perhaps headed for a .500 season.
Then Chris DePew, SCCCs newly appointed athletic director (and assistant basketball coach during the 2000-2001 season), stepped in as interim head coach and took the Generals to a 5-1 record before Chad Beeten was hired as the helmsman.
After Beeten took over, DePew stayed on as his assistant, and the Generals racked up a 27-3 record.
The transition wasnt a snap as the leadership reins switched from DePews style of hoops to Beetens ideas of how to play basketball. DePew is an advocate of a man-set-play offense, while Beeten favors a motion offense.
At first, the team fought Chads tweaking, but they learned two systems of basketball, and they both worked, recalled DePew of the transition.
In the first game of the NJCAA Region XV Tournament at SCCC, fate served up a double helping of adversity, as the Generals lost two starters. In the opening half guard John Connor went down with a severely sprained ankle, an injury that sidelined him for the rest of the tourney. In the closing seconds of the game, police officers took forward/center Andre Simmons into custody on a warrant issued for parole violation.
And Simmons was out for the rest of the season, including the Generals journey to the NJCAA National Championships at Delhi.
The emotions were strange during those tournament days, DePew said. We played off that emotion . . . it was a difficult time in the locker room. It was a learning experience for all of us.
Most teams would have keeled over at that point, but these guys refused to let that happen, he added. All the adversities and difficulties made this team closer . . . they pushed themselves to do better. These guys fed on that adversity.
Several weeks after watching Beeten escort Simmons to the sidelines where he was quietly arrested, DePew is still visibly moved. But he is hopeful that things will work out in the end for a young man whose life took a turn for the worse while trying to get back on track at the local community college.
On the way to winning the region crown, the Generals remembered their teammate by displaying his #10 jersey in the wake of a couple of scrappy victories.
Andre is in our thoughts and prayers, (and) we hope he learned a valuable lesson and will make the correct decisions in the future, DePew said.
Asked to compare the 2000-2001 Generals with the 2001-2002 team DePew said, Last years team was a bunch of extremely talented individuals that all felt they should have been the star . . . the guys this year understood and recognized their roles. They knew who the go-to guys were, and understood what we expected of them when they went out there.
So many people said we werent going to be able to do anything this year, he said. We surprised a lot of people.
According to Beeten, even though the Generals lost the NJCAA title game for the second straight year, making it to Delhi made it a successful season.
It was a total team effort, Beeten said. The guys who didnt get a lot of minutes helped in practice, and thats huge.
Im never satistified, he added. I try to instill in the guys (that) whether we win by one or 30, we should be happy, but never satisfied.
The coach credited the play of his two big shooters (Tim Butler and Shiron Brown), as well as shooting guards Connor and Kareem Morgan (very key for us), Dana Holmes (ran the point the whole first semester), Wygene McCants (probably our most improved player, (and) did all the little things for us), Bryan Evans (key in our success coming off the bench), Davon Wilson (one of best all-around players) and Andre Simmons (up until the end of the first round in the regionals, he was key in our success.)
Expected to return next season are Connor, Holmes and McCants. Beeten said five or six recruits are on campus but is mum on releasing names until October.
Right now our focus is getting more big men, he said. Once we get the numbers, well put together a stronger team, a deeper team and get back to the nationals.
Beeten noted hes looking at several local players, but once again is tight lipped on naming names.
Except for Monticello High School star hoopster John DeGroat.
He has a lot of options right now, but wed like to have him at Sullivan, Beeten said. We want him as part of our program.
Wed like to keep our Monticello connection going, he added. In the 2000-2001 season, Monticello grad Justin Dawson donned a Generals uniform, while this season Simmons upheld the Monticello-SCCC tradition.
Dawson was tabbed the 2000-2001 Region XV Tournament MVP and is now playing hoops on a full scholarship.
Generals At A Glance
2001-2002 Team Stats:
The players: Mike Acevedo, Shiron Brown, Tim Butler, John Connor, Keith Drysdale, Phil Ellis, Bryan Evans, Dana Holmes, Wygene McCants, Kareem Morgan, Mike Ricketts, Andre Simmons, Chris Williams and Davon Wilson. Did not play: Julian Dawson, Marcus Snipes and Darius Watters.
Total points: 2085
Points per game: 74.46
Two-point field goals; 744/1284 (55.17 percent)
Three-point field goals: 99/244 (40.57 percent)
Rebounds: 1055 (387 offensive/668 defensive)
Free throws: 424/603 (70.32 percent)
2001-2002 Individual Stats:
Top 10 scorers: Brown 595 (21.2 points per game), Butler 464 (17.8 ppg), Wilson 296 (10.5 ppg), Morgan 166 (9.7 ppg), Simmons 162 (6.2 ppg), Evans 133 (4.7 ppg), McCants 127 (4.5 ppg), Holmes 126 (4.8 ppg), Connor 84 (6.0 ppg) and Ricketts 35 (2.3 ppg).
Most two-point field goals: Brown (220)
Most three-point field goals: Wilson (41)
Most turnovers: Brown (107)
Most offensive rebounds: Butler (84)
Most defensive rebounds: Butler (160)
Most free throws made: Brown 119/144 (82.6 percent)
Steals: Brown (67)