By Rob Potter
LOCH SHELDRAKE With a deep, experienced roster, including the 2011 National Player of the Year, Sullivan County Community College (SCCC) men’s basketball team is on a single mission this season win its fifth National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III national championship in school history.
“Winning the national championship is the goal we have talked about from the first day of practice and during the offseason,” SCCC Coach Kevin DeVantier said. “We have seven sophomores returning this season. They were all in the locker room after our double overtime loss to Rochester [Minnesota Community and Technical College] in the national tournament [semifinal] back in March. They still have that bad taste in their mouths.”
One of those sophomores is Cleanthony Early, a 6-8 forward who averaged 20.4 points and 11.5 rebounds per game last year in leading the Generals to the national semifinals and earning the NJCAA Division III Player of the Year honor. Early was highly recruited in the off-season and will be attending Wichita State in 2012 on a full basketball scholarship.
Joining Early on the SCCC roster are six other sophomores William Davis Jr., Frankie Drayton, David Haughton, Marvin Jean, Brandon Williams and Curtis Williams. They are joined by freshmen Dante Agnew, Shaine Carter, Darien Croft, Deavon Daniels, William Dobie, Alex Garstka, Marcus Henderson, Sheridan Webb and Willie Williams III.
This is DeVantier’s third year of leading the Generals. Helping him guide the team are assistant coaches Dan DeVantier and Gregg Semenetz.
“We have a talented group of players,” Kevin DeVantier said, noting that his recruiting class filled some deficiencies, especially outside shooting. The Generals will rely heavily on their up-tempo, pressing style to create turnovers and easy baskets a formula that has served them well in winning their previous national championships.
DeVantier expects his team to be challenged this season. “The other teams in the conference and region know what happened last season,” DeVantier said, referencing the Generals’ Mid-Hudson Conference and Region XV titles. “They will be looking to defeat us and win those titles this season.”
In addition to playing several challenging games in the conference and region against the likes of Bronx CC, Nassau CC and Suffolk CC, SCCC will face some difficult non-conference opponents.
“We went out and scheduled some tough games,” DeVantier said. “We will be playing against some very good [NJCAA] Division I teams.”
While keeping the ultimate goal of a national championship in mind, DeVantier wants the Generals to remain focused in each practice and each game.
“We need to continue working hard in practice and games and take the season one game at a time,” he said.
Get Redemption in Opener
The Generals opened its season with a 85-71 victory over the Redemption Christian Academy at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse on SCCC’s Loch Sheldrake campus.
SCCC (1-0) grabbed a double-digit lead at 22-12 in the opening eight minutes of Tuesday night’s game against Redemption Christian Academy.
With 4:58 left in the first half, Redemption’s Sterling Smith made a 3-point shot to bring his team within five points at 31-26.
But Willie Williams III and Cleanthony Early each scored a basket during the next minute to push the Generals’ advantage back to nine points at 35-26.
After holding a 41-31 lead at halftime, SCCC increased that lead in the second half. With 13:40 displayed on the scoreboard clock, Marvin Jean stole the ball near midcourt, drove to the basket and dunked the ball to push the Generals’ advantage to 59-40.
The Generals led by as many as 22 points on their way to the victory.
Early, Jean and Frankie Drayton all scored in double digits to lead SCCC to the win. Early scored a game-high 35 points, Jean had 20 points (including six 3-pointers) and Drayton finished with 12 points.
Early grabbed eight rebounds, Jean had five rebounds and two assists and Drayton dished out seven assists and made three steals.
Also contributing for the Generals were Willie Williams III (five points, 20 rebounds), Dante Agnew (five assists) and Brandon Williams (four rebounds).
While DeVantier was pleased to start the new season with a win, he noted that there is room for improvement.
“We didn’t have too many positives,” he said. “We didn’t perform well on defense. Early in the first half, we played good defense but after that our effort wasn’t where it should be.”
DeVantier noted the play of Drayton, Early and Jean.
“All three of them played very well on the offensive end of the floor tonight,” DeVantier said. “But they all need to play better on defense.”
Like DeVantier, Redemption Coach Kevin Simmons was not pleased with his team’s performance on defense.
“We gave up a lot of points on loose balls and we were outrebounded,” Simmons said of his Troy-based team. “You can’t give up 85 points and expect to win the game.”
The Lions are now 0-4 on the season, but Simmons remains optimistic.
“We have five big men who are going to join the team soon,” he said. “There is still plenty of basketball to be played. We are only four games into the season, there are 35 more games to go. We will get this turned around.”
Yosman Bernardez paced the Lions with 19 points. Teammates Christian Kessee and Sterling Smith netted 12 points and 10 points, respectively.
11-1 def. Redemption Christian Academy, 87-71
11-5 at Essex CC, 2:00 pm
11-8 at SUNY Ulster, 7 pm
11-10 at Hostos CC, 8 pm
11-12 at Monroe CC Tournament
11-17 at Westchester CCC, 7 pm
11-19- at Borough of Manhattan College, 3 pm
11-21 vs. SUNY Dutchess, 7 pm
11-29 vs. Bronx CC, 7 pm
12-1 vs. SUNY Orange, 7 pm
12-3 Queensborough CC, 3 pm
12-6 at SUNY Rockland, 7:30 pm
12-12 at Kingsborough CC, 7:30 pm
12-16 at Suffolk CCC, 7:30 pm
12-17 at Nassau CCC, 2 pm
1-24 at SUNY Orange, 7 pm
1-25 vs. SUNY Ulster, 7 pm
1-28 vs. Suffolk CCC, 2 pm
1-31vs. Westchester CCC, 7 pm
2-2 at Bronx CC, 7 pm
2-4 vs. Nassau CC, 3 pm
2-7 vs. SUNY Rockland, 7 pm
2-11 vs. Borough of Manhattan College, 3 pm
2-16 at SUNY Dutchess, 7 pm
2-18 vs. Kingsborough CC, 3 pm
2-21 vs. Hostos CC, 7 pm
2-23 at Queensborough CC, 7 pm
2-25 at Harcum College, 2 pm
3-2 NJCAA Region XV Tournament at Monroe CC
3-15 NJCAA Division III National Tournament at SUNY Sullivan.