News: Men's Basketball 2013-14 Preview: Lancers Athletic, Defensive-Minded
The Pasadena City College men's basketball team and head coach Michael Swanegan felt it was time to change up the program's philosophy especially in practice. In recent seasons, the Lancers had favored an up-tempo offense that sometimes led to inadequate transition defense and sloppy play.
So the Lancers decided not only to recruit a team deep in athleticism, but one that could focus on defense. PCC employed its fierce man-to-man defense on Thursday in its 2013-14 season opener and left the first round of the Ventura College We Play Hard Tournament with a 61-38 victory over Los Angeles Valley College.
The Lancers (1-0) will face host Ventura on Friday night in a 7 p.m. championship semifinals tip-off.
Only two players return from last year's 8-18 team in 6-foot-6 power forward Bryce Clifton (8.3 points and 3.5 rebound averages) and point guard Jeffrey Dockett (10.8 points and 3.8 assists per game as a freshman). PCC also returns guard Rashad Smith from the Lancers' 16-12 team of 2011-12. A key transfer is center Taj Spencer, a 6-7 post player who played two seasons ago at Mt. San Antonio College under then South Coast Conference champion head coach and now PCC assistant Criss Freeman.
Spencer picked up a double-double v. LA Valley with team highs in points (13) and rebounds (10). Clifton got the Lancers going with four straight baskets that opened a 13-3 early lead for PCC. The Lancers would end up leading 35-17 by halftime and never were threatened. Pasadena forced 14 steals overall, three by Dockett.
"We had players who were too complacent a year ago," Swanegan said. "Some felt they were owed a starting spot and our reserve players didn't want to work to take away the starters' spots. This year, players are going to have to earn their playing time based on how hard they play in practice. We need to establish that old-fashioned work ethic to succeed."
To open the season, Dockett, Clifton and Spencer have been joined in the starting lineup by guard Brandon Joseph, who played a few years ago as an All-Conference wide receiver in football at Long Beach City College, and Monrovia High product and shooting guard Jonathan Henderson (All-Rio Hondo League pick). Henderson scored just four points in his college debut, but was able to dish out a team-high six assists.
The Lancers are deep in talent that includes local freshmen players in guard guard Adrian Miles (Pasadena High), guard Jevon Shields (South Pasadena HS, All-Rio Hondo League First Team selection), and point guard Marsalis Ellison (Blair High, All-Rio Hondo League selection). Other first-year standouts are guard Kenta Iima (from Japan), guard Kalen Verhoeven (Burroughs High, All-Pacific League honorable mention), 6-7 center Faruk Oyalade (Nigeria), guard Curtis Moore (from Houston, Texas), and 6-4 forward Brandon Croom (Walnut High).
Shields and Iima are players that have impressed coaches in practices.
"We have a deeper team than in previous seasons," Swanegan said. "We don't have to force minutes out of our top players like we did last year. This seems to be a group with some potential with a good blend of sophomores and freshmen."
Besides the addition of Freeman, Swanegan returns his long-time assistant Jesse Ellis and Hosie Ward to his coaching staff.
[Photo--Bryce Clifton goes up for a shot during the Lancers' 61-38 win over LA Valley on Friday, image by Richard Quinton, sports information photographer.]
Release Date: 11/07/2013