Bad injuries and bad grades hammered the men’s basketball team into the losing side of the ledger this season.
Though the SWC men’s basketball season was an exercise in perseverance in the face of disappointment, the young Jaguars rallied at the end to create hope for 2018, finishing 6-21 overall and 3-7 in conference.
SWC was lean, mean and very green with only one sophomore with collegiate basketball experience. Sophomore guard Richard Grove said it fell on him to teach the importance of constant improvement.
“(College is) a whole other level,” he said. “This isn’t high school. We’re sometimes playing seven footers that could be at Division I schools if they had the grades. You have to constantly be getting better. No plateaus.”
Inexperience hurt but so did the injuries. Before the season even started, guard Iman Chatman-Dixon was knocked out of the lineup due to a football injury.
Forward Edward Winslow went down with an MCL tear and meniscus rip. Surgery was not required, leaving the window open for Winslow’s return.
Head coach John Cosentino said the injures made it difficult for the team to find their footing early in the season.
“The injuries that we had were brutal,” he said. “We had all freshmen to start with, so we knew we were going to struggle. And we’re not that big, so when Winslow went out, that really hurt us.”
Injuries were not the end of the Jags’ problems.
After the fall semester the bench was depleted when three players were deemed academically ineligible, slicing the roster to just eight.
Cosentino said all three players were point guards, leaving the Jags with few options.
“Terrell (Brown) stepped in, but he was never a true point guard,” said Cosentino. “My hat’s off to him. He’s good now, but it took a few weeks.”
With three weeks to play, Winslow returned from injury and Beni Mokili became eligible just in time to string together some conference wins. Mokili took advantage of winter intersession classes to reestablish his eligibility. In their first game back the re-energized Jags beat Imperial Valley, 84-75.
Forward Emilio Arellano credited the win to a renewed intensity.
“We were able to come out in the second half stronger,” he said after the victory. “We were really struggling in the second half with low intensity, but this time we came out and threw the first punch and that really helped out a lot.”
Guard C.J. Tamborrino said the return of Winslow and Mokili was game changing.
“They really helped us in a big way,” Tamborrino said. “We had a lack of motivation because of all the adversity we’ve faced this season, so just picking up the energy with those players back really helps.”
SWC next beat Cuyamaca College 66-63, winning two straight games for the first time this season.
Chatman-Dixon said that despite the team’s record, the players never wavered.
“Our goal is to win every game. It might not happen that way, but it doesn’t change the goal.”