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Men's Basketball: Season Preview
Entering his second season as the head coach for the men’s basketball team at CCC, James Whitaker has very high expectations for the team. “With 9 returners and several talented newcomers, we should be very competitive with all the teams on our schedule.” The men will compete in the NCCAA Division II, South Region. “Our region is very tough top-to-bottom which makes our schedule very difficult,” he added.
Last year, the Cougars made an incredible run late in the season, winning four of their last five games. During the regional tournament, they lost in double overtime to Atlanta Christian College in the championship after upsetting the #1 team in the nation at that time, Wesley College. Their final record last year was 9-19.
This year, the Cougars expect to be even more competitive for the region championship. Over the off-season, Clearwater didn’t lose any major players, but they did pick up a number of quality newcomers. Four of last year’s starters are returning to the lineup this year.
The Cougars’ go-to-guy will be junior power forward Lonzo Saunders. “Zo” is from Haines City, Florida. Last year, he finished with over 20 points per game and 6.6 rebounds a game, and he was named to the First Team All-Region.
6’4” Senior Jeremy Ham of Pitman, New Jersey, is expected to continue to be a major outside threat. Ham averaged 14.4 points per game last year and shot 42% from downtown. He was named to the Second Team All-Region. Coach said that Jeremy worked hard to improve his overall game. “He will be relied on heavily to score and also provide leadership to our team.”
Troy Hadlock, sophomore from Carthage, North Carolina, was a huge asset in several big games last year. Troy averaged almost 8 points per game last year, and he was named to the All Freshman Team.
Taylor Jensen joined the team after Christmas last season and immediately began making an impact in the post. At 6’9” Taylor was able to create plays down low. He averaged 7.8 points per game and 5.9 rebounds and was given an Honorable Mention for the All Freshman Team.
Senior point guard Keoni Haole is from Kapolei, Hawaii. Coach is looking to Keoni for leadership and hustle on the court and energy on the defensive side of the floor. Keoni is also on the men’s soccer team at CCC.
Sophomore Shooting Guard, Mike Walker, an accounting major from Troy, Michigan, is “a quality shooter and defender who has worked hard to improve.” He is expected to compete for a starting spot.
Lyle Carrera, a sophomore guard from Melbourne, Florida, will “provide energy to the lineup off the bench. He is also expected to knock down some open threes.”
Travis Harrison is a forward from Indianapolis, Indiana. The sophomore is expected to “do the little things like rebounding, defending, and picking up offensive rebounds. He’s a hard worker and a great teammate,” Whitaker said.
6’6” junior George Youstra “has shown a lot of improvement at the center position and will be counted on to provide solid contributions, especially on defense and on the boards.”
To supplement the experience of those returning players, CCC also has some new faces on the court this year. One of the top newcomers to this year’s team is Terrance Fisher. He is an athletic forward/wing player who can slash into the lane to create quality opportunities. Terrance is a freshman from Richmond, Virginia.
Another new addition is Ryan Butler. Coach described him as a “smart guard with a great knowledge of the game. He is a good defender and playmaker who should make contributions to our team as a freshman.” Ryan is from Coral Springs, Florida.
Bryan Copeland is a transfer sophomore from Tampa. Coach said, “Bryan is an explosive guard who has the ability to get to the rim and score and create opportunities for others.” He is expected to contribute right away for the Cougars.
Mark Cannon, a junior from Brandon, Florida, is “an athletic big man who will be expected to contribute big especially with his defense and rebounding this year.” Mark also adds shot blocking abilities, athleticism in the post, and a good transition game. He is returning to the team this year after taking last year off.
Sophomore Austen McCoy is another new addition to this year’s team. The guard from Atlanta, Georgia, is “one of the hardest working players on the team.” Whitaker also added that Austen will be looked to for the little things that help make the Cougars successful.
Coach Whitaker will be keeping two redshirt freshmen this season—Jon McLanahan from Quakertown, Pennsylvannia, and Jon Wiedmann from Ypsilanti, Michigan. According to Coach Whitaker, both players will be “expected to become solid players here at Clearwater.” He also added that they both have great work ethic.
Another new face on the Clearwater bench will be Jim Sanney, former CCC player, who will be the assistant coach.
With quality players of all experience levels, expectations are high for the men. “We should be a good shooting team,” Coach Whitaker said. “We have a number of guys who can really fill it up.” However, to be successful, Whitaker said, “We just need to be consistent. We need to develop an identity as a tough, hard-nosed defensive team.” He added, “The keys to success are playing together as a team, playing with confidence when we go up against quality teams, playing consistent team defense every night, and shooting the ball well.”
To help with that vision of a unified defensive unit, the Cougars have chosen their theme for this year to be “One Heartbeat.” The team’s theme verse for the season is Colossians 3:23, “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily as to the Lord and not unto men.”
The 2008-2009 schedule consists of 28 regular-season games. They will face 6 NAIA opponents, 1 from the NCAA, and 10 south region opponents. The Cougars’ first chance to display their tough defense will be in exhibition games against the Tampa Swish on October 29th and against the Alumni on November 8th.
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