By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE November 14, 2006 Chris DePew has been around Sullivan County Community College’s Paul Gerry Fieldhouse for nine years.
On September 1, 2001 his dream of becoming the SCCC Director of Athletics came true.
And as head coach of the men’s basketball program, the Generals have racked up a record of 88-17 prior to the beginning of this season under DePew’s watch over the last three years.
The Generals were 26-7 last year, losing in the Sweet 16 of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III National Tournament to Suffolk-Grant.
In mid-October, the Generals were named the #1 team in the nation in the 2006-2007 preseason NJCAA Division III poll.
The Generals (3-0) won their first game of the season by defeating Berkeley College, 112-51, on November 1 at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse.
In the Broncos’ Invitational Basketball Tournament at SUNY Delhi on the weekend of November 3-4, SCCC defeated Corning Community College, 84-51, in the first round, and took the men’s divisional championship by defeating the tourney host, 65-55.
Generals who scored in double figures in the victory against Corning CC included Kelvin Nelson with 26 points, Dote Harrison (19), Ryan Sutton (11) and Bertram McDowell (10).
In the team’s title game win against the Broncos, Jason Johnson paced the Generals with 25 points and Nelson netted 10. Johnson, who also had 24 rebounds, was tabbed tournament MVP.
Nelson was named to the All-Tourney Team.
So what is Coach DePew’s take of this season’s Generals?
“I think I’ve put together a team that if we stay healthy and committed to our goals, will have a shot to contend for our conference championship and possibly for our regional championship,” DePew said.
“One of the things I’ve learned over the years, is that it’s not necessarily the most talented team that always wins, but it’s a team that has talent and chemistry, and stays committed… a team that does all the little things,” he added.
“We’ve always been one of the most talented teams in the region, but we’ve always had a couple of snags, [such as] injuries or ‘personalities’… we hope this is the year we might put everything together.”
This season, a total of 98 men’s basketball programs will compete for regional and national honors. It all comes down to this year’s NJCAA Division III tournament which is scheduled to be held from March 15 through March 17, 2007 at SUNY Delhi.
So where does DePew go from here?
“I get asked that question a lot,” replied the Generals’ coach. “Because of our success, both on the basketball court and what we’ve been able to do as an athletic department under my leadership, I’ve had opportunities to move on… but this is a good situation for me, and I’m here for the long haul.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be coaching for the long haul, but I hope I’m going to be the conductor of this department for quite a long time,” he added, referring to the fact that he signed a three-year contract last season that will keep him wearing two hats at SCCC as athletic director and head men’s basketball coach.
DePew said he wants to build on a program upon which former coaches Dave Possinger and Will Brown left their mark.
“I want to make a niche of my own,” he said.
“My calling is to help build our program,” DePew continued. “It’s all a tribute to the kids. I have to go out and find them, but they’re the ones who go out and do all the work.”
Snapshots of the 2006-076 SCCC Generals:
• Michael Hines, #33, sophomore, 6-foot-2-inches, Beach Channel High School.
“Mike is a returning sophomore to our team who started most of our games last year as a defensive specialist… has moved into a new role as a two-guard… looking to him to score a little more than he did last year… committed to improving his game… has done a lot of the little things you ask to make our team better… one of our leading starters.”
• Jason Johnson, #23, sophomore, 6’8”, Richard R. Green High School. A Pre-Season NJCAA All-American. He averaged 17.4 points and 12.9 rebounds per game and earned honorable mention All-Region XV accolades.
“A returning player from last year… being heavily recruited by a lot of the major Division I institutions… we are anxious that Jason’s academic work is going to stay at the level that it’s been to put himself in the position to accept one of those scholarships in the spring… dominated in two of our first three games this season… looking for big things from him as one of our leading scoring threats.”
• Donte Harrison, #31, sophomore, 6’8”, Fort Hamilton High School.
“Starts at the four position for us… a tremendously athletic individual… didn’t play a whole lot of organized basketball growing up... his first time of playing competitive organized ball and his athleticism has really been a plus for us… one of our most vocal leaders… leads our stretches and does all the little things I need him to do… really committed to making himself a better basketball player… Donte’s best basketball is ahead of him.”
• Kelvin Nelson, #3, sophomore, 6’4”, Milford Prep. A pre-season NJCAA Div. III Second Team All-American.
“Was one of the most sought after high school players in the area… for whatever reason, he didn’t go on to college [right] after high school, he sat out a year or two… played for us two years ago and if he holds the line on his academics has the talent and ability to play at the next level… he and Jason [Johnson] are our two main threats.”
• Josh Lott, #10, sophomore, 5’10”, Berkshire Academy. Last season, he posted 15.6 points, 6.4 assists and 3.2 steals per game on the way to earning honorable mention as an All-Region XV performer. “My returning point guard… backed up Kevin Johnson last year and after Everage Richardson was injured stepped into a starting role for about 20 games… Josh is a shooter, probably one of the best pure shooters we have on the team… averaged about three 3-pointers a game last year… looking for his leadership.”
• Mustafa Palmer, #12, sophomore, 6’0”, Martin Luther King High School.
“Limited playing time last year… learning the system and understanding [the game]… his role has significantly expanded… started two of our first three games this year at the point guard position… still nursing a knee injury… expecting a lot out of him… a smart player with a lot of leadership.”
• Bertram McDowell, #42, freshman, 6’2”, Cornwall High School.
“A freshman shooter that I brought in… I try to bring in a freshman shooting player and a freshman defensive player, and I got both of them in Bertram… shoots the ball as well as anybody we have… he’s going to do good things for us over the next couple of years.”
• Ryan Sutton, #5, freshman, Canarsie High School.
“A defensive specialist, a very active, strong guard, an in-your-face type of player… turned a lot of heads in the tournament [at SUNY Delhi]… I stuck him on both team’s best player and he locked ‘em right up and held those guys to almost no points.”
• Adama Bagayoko, #55, sophomore, 6’6”, Integrated Arts High School.
“One of our reserve forwards… continues to improve… didn’t play a great deal of organized basketball growing up… a lot of street ball and park ball… just learning the game… a big, strong kid.”
• Jamal Raphael, #21, sophomore, 6’6”, Sheepshead Bay High School. During the 2004-2005 season, he played 10 games and contributed 14.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per game.
“Another kid who played for us two years ago… sat out last year getting his grades in order… nursing a pretty serious ankle injury and trying to work himself back in shape… strong, bruising inside player [and] can also shoot it a little bit.”
• Marion Lewis, #11, freshman, 6’3”, Lehman High School.
“Was a go-to kid on his high school team… good athletic ability, good tough hard-nosed player… understands the game and works real hard… we’re expecting a lot out of him.”
• James Morgan, #24, freshman, 6’2”, John Adams High School.
“A back-up point guard… transfer student from Southwest College in California… James knows his main job is to be our guy next year at the point guard position… we expect him to grow into a good, solid point guard for our program.”
• Hakeim Woodward, #34, freshman, 6’4”, Graphic Arts High School.
“One of our reserve forwards… I cut him from last year’s team, but decided to keep him this year… made tremendous improvement both on the court and in the classroom… working on his game trying to become a better basketball player.”
• Keith Green, #54, freshman, 6’5”, Metropolitan Academy.
“A reserve forward, Keith’s a big, strong kid… we think he’ll give us a defensive presence when we need it.”
A couple of hoopsters are waiting in the wings this semester until they get their grades up to par, and if they clear the academic bar, DePew hopes to add them to the roster in January.
• Sayed Ali, #40, sophomore, 6’1”, Truman High School.
“He’s a transfer student and a very very, very athletic player… very confident in his ability… I think he’ll bring a lot to the table in the guard position if he gets his grades in order.”
• Jakar Wells, #52, sophomore, 6’3”, Boys & Girls High School.
“Played on our team last year in a reserve guard spot… trying to get his grades in order… very athletic, a big-time athlete who can dunk the ball real well.”
“I’m looking for these two guys to join us at the halfway point and lead us to the next level,” DePew said.
Note: The Generals return to Paul Gerry Fieldhouse for two games this week. At 7:30 p.m. tonight, SCCC will host Ulster County Community College.
On Thursday night, the Generals will entertain Passaic Community College. Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m.