As fall temperatures steadily drop into the cold of winter, things have only begun to heat up inside the North Gym at City College.
That only means one thing: Basketball season is here.
The North Gym is a second home for head coach Andrew Jones. A City College player from 1987–88, Jones began coaching the men’s basketball team in the same gym in 1991 and has patrolled the sidelines ever since.
Jones has coached and won more games than any of his Panther predecessors, but he’s quick to point out the other side of the coin.
“I’ve also lost the most games,” Jones says with a smile.
Jones’ display of humility and unwillingness to be self-absorbed has rubbed off on his players, as they enter the 2017–18 season as a team-first bunch.
“Nobody on this team is me, me, me,” says sophomore guard Jhalen Lumpkins. “It’s not about you, it’s not about me. It’s about us. That’s the only way you’ll be able to get to your ultimate goal, and that’s getting another banner.”
Lumpkins is one of three returning sophomores for the Panthers, along with guards Gabe Serna and Marquiest Murphy. The rest of the 12-man roster consists of seven freshmen and two sophomore transfers, including point guard Raphael “Cinco” Durr, formerly of Montana State University Billings, and Troy Owens, a 6-foot-1 guard who led Diablo Valley College in scoring two years ago.
With a 4-2 start through mid-November, Jones has seen a small sample of the team’s depth and ability to put the ball in the basket. At the time of its last game on Nov. 11, City had made more 3-pointers than any other team in California, and its 83 points with nearly 20 assists per game are the highest averages among Big 8 Conference teams.
“We can score,” said Jones. “We’re hard to guard. We’ve got some pretty good ball-handlers and we’re very competitive. I don’t call plays that often, but we just execute really well.”
Execution was key in taking first place in the Ball in the Fall Tournament at Solano Community College Nov. 9–11, as City got contributions from a number of players.
Ryan Reed had 26 points and 14 rebounds, including six 3-pointers, and Kyle Williams drained a game-winning 3 at the buzzer, giving City a 99-97 victory over Los Medanos in the opener. Against Reedley in the semis, Williams came off the bench to score 14 points and shut down the Tigers’ best player on defense while Serna scored a career-high 30 points in a 92-79 victory.
All five Panther starters scored in double-figures, and the team collectively shot an efficient 63.5 percent from the field in the 79-68 final against Solano. Lumpkins and Durr were chosen for the All-Tournament team.
“We really gelled as a team,” said Serna, who was named the tournament MVP. “We didn’t have as much talent last year as we do this year. We’re playing with that chip on our shoulder.”
The growth in both the team’s abilities on the court and the chemistry between the players off the court is what has the team confident they’ll be a force on the hardwood this year. The Panthers were 18-11 a year ago with a 10-4 Big 8 mark, which was good enough for second in the conference. City reached the postseason in each of the past two seasons.
“We fear nobody,” said Lumpkins. “It’s starting to click. We haven’t reached that point to where it’s automatic, but we’ll get there. It starts right here in practice.”
City’s next tournament will be at Cosumnes River College from Nov. 30–Dec. 2, followed by a four-day tournament beginning Dec. 6 at Modesto Junior College. The Panthers’ first home game is the conference opener Dec. 21 against Modesto in the North Gym.
For more info on SCC Men’s Basketball, visit sccpanthers.losrios.edu/sports/mbkb.