By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE April 1, 2008 “I think we had a great season this year with 14 freshmen and one sophomore,” said Sullivan County Community College Head Coach Chris DePew, who completed his 10th year of guiding the SCCC men’s basketball team.
During the 2006-2007 season, the Generals climbed their way to the top of the mountain. They posted a perfect 32-0 record and won the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III national championship, which was the fourth national title in school history.
As an added bonus, DePew was tabbed 2007 NJCAA Coach of the Year.
In the 2007-2008 season, SCCC recorded a 22-10 record and never made it to SUNY Delhi, site of the NJCAA Division III national championship tournament, to defend their title.
SCCC’s season ended in the opening round of the NJCAA Region XV Division III Tournament. In a Feb. 29 quarterfinal game at Suffolk Community College-Selden, Rockland Community College defeated the Generals, 90-82.
“We had 14 kids who never played together before, and winning 22 games is a great achievement,” DePew said.
Once a season has ended, it’s OK for a coach to do a little armchair quarterbacking.
“We had the talent to win another national championship, but the chips didn’t fall where we needed them to fall,” DePew said.
He noted that while his players had a wealth of talent, their “inexperience and youthfulness” caught up with them when it counted.
During the season, SCCC lost six games by less than five points.
“Those are games you win by experience,” DePew explained. “We couldn’t cut that corner unless we got the ball into B.J.’s hands, because everybody else wasn’t sure what to do next.”
DePew was referring to the ability of Bertram “B.J.” McDowell, the only returning player from the 2006-2007 national championship team, to proverbially step up to the plate at crunch time.
“Quite frankly, I think I did a better coaching job this year than last year,” DePew said. “Last year I had 11 kids who knew exactly what needed to happen, and we fine tuned what they learned the year before.
“This year it was learning the system, and I’m really confident that next year is going to be an amazing season,” he added.
DePew said he expects all his players who don’t graduate to return next year, except possibly for a couple of them who weren’t satisfied with their court time.
“A couple of kids are leaning toward not coming back because of lack of playing time,” the veteran coach said. “I think they see the writing on the wall, but we’re still hashing it out.”
During the 2007-2008 season, three Generals sat out until January, but are slated to join the team for next season. Those players are Earl Mills, Moses Dayed and Pat Campbell.
Mills is a 6-foot-6-inch inside post presence, Dayed is a guard whom DePew said is “a tremendous player, we’re excited he’s going to be here the next two years,” and Campbell, a guard who was a member of a three-time high school state championship team.
DePew said that with most of his players scheduled to return for the 2008-2009 season, and a list of 70-some players on the recruitment list, the coaching staff is looking to fill specific slots on the roster.
Among those particular roster spots are a couple of post players to “really make a difference” and take over for the Generals who played out of position this past season. Those players included Robert Adon and David Williamson, who took to the floor as power forwards and centers, and Andre Martin, who started in the power forward spot until he rotated to other positions.
“They did what was best for the team, and did good things for us,” DePew said. “I want to be able to move them back out to their natural positions of threes [small forward] and fours [power forward] instead of fours [power forward] and fives [center].”
For DePew, it’s like comparing clydesdales to stallions.
“We want to bring in some big work horses to work the inside,” he said.