Santa Maria Sun / Sports Lead
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 14, Issue 36
The Bulldogs' basketball season kicks off with a new coach and intense focus
By KRISTINA SEWELL
The Allan Hancock College men’s basketball team kicked off its 2013-2014 season against College of the Sequioas at the Cuesta College tournament on Nov. 8. The day before, the newest addition to the Bulldog basketball family, head coach Tyson Aye, reviewed game situations with his players with quiet and focused competence.
In his 14th year at the junior-college level, Aye said one of the biggest challenges of coaching basketball is the range of athletes he comes across.
“At the junior college level, you deal with so many diverse backgrounds and personalities that you have to bring together for one common goal,” he said.
The common goal for the Bulldogs is to add another conference championship banner in the Joe White Memorial Gymnasium. Aye, who spent the last eight years as head coach at Imperial Valley College, is looking forward to what lies ahead.
“We like to play up-tempo and run our half of the court,” the veteran coach said. “I’m looking forward to getting the guys out there to compete.”
Aye said that while he aims to improve the team’s play, he also wants his players to understand the game.
“We try to teach them the concepts of basketball so that they can be basketball players, not basketball robots,” he said.
He shared that the strengths of this year’s team members will come largely from their depth, but their main strong point is versatility.
“We can score from the inside and outside,” Aye said. “We have a number of guys that can lead us in different categories on different nights. It’s nice to have guys who have had experience at Hancock.”
The Bulldog coach added that the team would need to improve its mental toughness as far as playing through mistakes and focusing on wins rather than personal statistics.
Aye said one of the challenges this season will be defending without fouling. He explained that the NCAA recently implemented a rule that forbids defense to put hands on the offensive man. The NCAA 2012-2013 basketball season saw some of its lowest scores on record, partly due to defense getting away with a lot of fouls.
The 2013-2014 team carries a nice balance of newcomers and return players. According to Hancock Athletics, Aye assembled a roster of 15 players from seven different states and as far away as Japan.
Returners include Josh Varney, a 6-foot-7 sophomore who averaged 13.5 points and 9.4 rebounds per game as a freshman.
“Josh has great hands, a soft touch, and is a great passer,” Aye said.
He also highlighted sophomore guard Rijo Jackson, who he called one of the team’s “purest shooters” and said should provide an outside threat. Sophomore Marquis Rivera will start at wing for the ’Dogs. Although Rivera saw limited play last season, Aye said he’s a versatile dribbler capable of playing four positions.
Rivera, a Connecticut native, also played for coach Ralph Gorton, who previously manned the head coaching position at Hancock. Rivera said Aye has a fundamental style and is great with details.
“Coach Aye is really good at figuring out why you’re at a junior college and figuring out what needs to be strengthened for you to get to the next level,” Rivera said.
The sophomore said his goals coming into this season are to improve as a player.
“I just want to get better at basketball and help my team win,” he said. “Hopefully by doing whatever is asked I will get to where I have to go.”
To get to the next level, Rivera said he would need to get stronger and to keep working on ball handling. Teammate Danny Lopez, a sophomore guard from Miami, Fla., also brings his experience and determination to the team. Coming into a season with a new coach and a new group of players, Lopez knew what he wanted to do.
“I’m a leader and want to bring everyone together,” he said. “Personally, I want to continue working on my shooting and improving every aspect of my game.”
Lopez, who also played under Gorton, said Aye has taught him the importance of detail and the process behind certain techniques.
Both sophomores are determined to make it to the next level and demonstrated confidence in their team’s ability. Rivera said the team has players who can score from all over the court.
“If we have attitude, effort, consistency, and are ready to play, we are a tough team to beat, period,” Lopez said.
According to the players, the team is operating by the motto, “don’t settle, be great,” this season, and everyone thinks of the team as a family.
“Every championship team has a family outlook,” Rivera said.
When asked who will come up as Hancock’s toughest competition, Aye and the boys said that they are taking things one day at a time and focusing on the game at hand.
Outside of leading his team to victory, Aye is aiming to help his players achieve their own life goals by emphasizing attitude and effort.
“My goal is to help all the guys on my team achieve their goals whether it is education or basketball,” Aye said. “We have talked about attitude and effort for basketball or school—those are the two things you have to control.”
Staff Writer Kristina Sewell is fouling out. Contact her at email@example.com.