It was November 13, and I had just finished watching the SC4 Women’s basketball team dominate their opposition with ease and was happy to learn the Men’s team was up next. I decided to stay and watch this game as well, however something triggered the fire alarms in the gymnasium and the building was evacuated outside to the chilly November evening while the Fire Department verified the building for safety. Having recently relocated to Port Huron from San Diego, it must have seemed colder to me than it actually was, and I decided at that point to head home. After sitting in on a recent Men’s team practice I now regret leaving that evening.
The 2015-16 Men’s squad is made up of only a few returning athletes from last year’s team mixed with a talented influx of new players, however the returning sophomores are very good and the team expects to be much improved from last year. I was fortunate to get an opportunity to talk with a few of the Skippers players who were clearly enthusiastic about this season. Sophomore Jason Watts is known to be the most prolific dunker on the team, being described as a Dwight Howard style power dunker. Jason stated, “We play together more, and have a lot more guys who want to work at it and learn together.”
Players from the Men’s team expressed that in both practice and in games thus far they are getting a lot better, learning to play together while becoming more comfortable with each other and the talents each teammate brings to the court. Sophomore point guard Jay Springs commented, “Compared to last year, the chemistry of the team is a lot better, right from the beginning in setting our goals. With conference games in January, we’re still a work in progress, still trying to figure each other on the court. Got to get better in practice, stay healthy.”
It is a close structure with this group, and it was evident they enjoy being on the court together. Xavier Edwards, a strong all around post player and rebounder who reminded me of NBA star Larry Johnson said, “Love these guys, they’re my family, I like the team, it’s a good team this year for sure.”
Freshman point guard Josh McClelland responded, “We can really do something in this conference. Everybody can defend well. Every game and practice were getting a lot better.”
Hard work ethic and the determination to improve as a team are obviously shared attributes for these players, and it is exhibited without difficulty. When asked if there were any final comments, the answer was simultaneous from the group “Go Skippers!”
While watching the Skippers at practice, Christopher Parker was brought to my attention, the Skippers leading scorer who is averaging roughly 27 points per game this season. Parker, a sophomore guard, has an effortless shot that never seems to hit the rim, only net. I think I saw him miss one shot, not sure though, because everything else went in. He is a natural talent on the court, moving with ease in transition, always seeming to be in the right position at the right time, and his jump shot was fast, smooth, and automatic.
Currently the Skippers are focused on the start of conference play in January, and same as the Women’s team, the conference is one of the strongest in the nation considering that the Skippers Eastern Division has two nationally ranked teams in it with Schoolcraft as the #1 team overall, and Mott at #13.
Head Coach Dale Vos commented on the significance of the conference strength saying “Our conference is so good top to bottom, there are no bad teams. We know Schoolcraft is going to be very very good, they’re ranked the #1 team in the country right now, they return 7 or 8 guys from the team that won the conference last year. Macomb will be a much better team, Oakland is always good, Mott is always good. There is never a night off.”
Coach Vos was also excited for the season to continue on, describing this year’s contingent as a uniquely balanced team that shoots the ball very well from outside the lane including three pointers, while also possessing a solid inside game that can score efficiently from the post. Despite being undersized in some positions, this years’ team has a nice mix that can run floor on a fast break when the opportunity presents itself, but also has the composure and patience to execute the set offense when a five on five situation occurs.
Leaving the Skippers practice midway through, I found myself really looking forward to seeing their next home game. Heck, they do have the talent, but I recognized most the camaraderie and genuine enjoyment they had while getting pushed through a hard practice. Fist bumps and high fives at practice? I don’t remember that at practice from when I played in school, but here it was.
Upcoming home contests for the Skippers will be Wednesday Dec. 9 against Rochester College JV @ 7:30 pm, and Lake Michigan Community College on Saturday Dec. 12 @ 3pm. Conference home slate vs Macomb Community College starts on Wednesday, Jan. 6 @ 7:30 pm, followed by a Wednesday, Jan. 13 matchup vs Wayne County CCD @ 7:30pm.