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TMC men's basketball preview: Theirs for the taking

A talented roster has Mustangs aiming high this season

Posted: December 9, 2013 10:11 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2013 10:11 p.m.

The Master's College junior guard Derrick Fain, left, will be counted on as a heavy contributor to this year's TMC team with high hopes.

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It’s put up or shut up for The Master’s College Mustangs men’s basketball team this season.

After finishing sixth in the Golden State Athletic Conference in 2012-13, the Mustangs have assembled perhaps their best roster since head coach Chuck Martin took over the program in 2006.

For years, the Mustangs have done their best to simply compete in one of the NAIA’s toughest basketball conferences, but this time around TMC’s goal begins and ends with a conference championship.

“Last year if we couldn’t get our main three or four guys going it was over for us,” said TMC junior guard Derrick Fain. “This year we can afford for that to happen. We have so many talented and athletic scorers — we’re way better than last year.”

Fain was the fourth-leading scorer and started 18 games for a Mustangs squad that finished above .500 with a 16-14 record a year ago.

However, TMC went just 5-9 in the GSAC — meaning its path to improvement in 2013-14 logically begins with a better showing against conference opponents.

Though, in the GSAC that’s easier said than done.

“All eight teams in our league are winning against tough competition. The records in the GSAC so far are unbelievable. We’re (7-2) and that’s only good enough for fifth best at this point,” Martin said. “We don’t have what you’d call a conference doormat. It can have a huge effect on your confidence. Usually you can go into every season counting on a couple of easier wins against certain teams, but that hasn’t been the case here recently.”

Only two starters return from last season’s team, but fortunately for TMC one of them is last year’s second leading scorer, senior guard Jason Logan.

Logan averaged just under 12.9 points per game a season ago, and he did so shooting an efficient 55 percent from the field — including a 47 percent clip from behind the three-point line.

Logan’s efficiency last season suggests that he’ll only get better now that the Mustangs have a deeper roster to relieve defensive pressure on him. Through his first six starts, he’s averaging 13.3 points per contest.

Joining Logan as the only other returning starter is team co-captain Chris Patureau, who is the team’s do-everything glue player.

Patureau is averaging 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game so far this season, and coach Martin’s trust in him says everything you need to know about what Patureau means to this team.

“Coach gave me a lot of freedom and control with how I handled myself around the team,” said Patureau. “The past couple of years I have had some captains do things I liked, and things I didn’t. I’m remembering what those things were so I can lead the right way.”

As far as the new pieces go, there’s a reason why TMC players are so excited about their potential in 2013-2014.

Junior college transfers Bernard Ireland and Dominique Lanier are both averaging double-digit scoring numbers this year.

Ireland, a 6-foot-5 guard, is shooting 41 percent from behind the arc and is currently the team’s third-leading scorer.

Lanier, who’s 6-foot-4, leads the team in assists per game with 4.1.

But perhaps the Mustangs’ biggest new asset, literally, is 6-foot-6 245 pound junior forward Zach Stalin.

Stalin has been a force inside, averaging 13.5 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest.

So far, these pieces have helped the Mustangs improve on offense immensely.

TMC is already better on that end of the floor in 2013 than it was a season ago, averaging 76 points per contest on 48 percent shooting as opposed to last year’s marks of 70 points per game on 43 percent shooting.

Unfortunately, the Mustangs’ upturn in offensive production has come along with a drop off in defensive efficiency, at least so far.

Last year, TMC held opponents to 67 points per game on 43 percent shooting.

Through the first nine games of 2013-14, opponents are averaging close to 70 points per game on 46 percent shooting.

Unfortunately for TMC, perhaps the biggest variable in its success is one that is entirely out of anybody’s control: health.

Various Mustangs players have been in and out of the lineup with minor injuries already this season, and while none of them have been too serious, Patureau and Logan have already suffered minor tweaks that caused them to miss limited action.

This year, TMC is trying to make the jump from an OK team to a good team.

To start the year, the Mustangs are 7-2 and in the middle of a four-game winning streak — OK won’t cut it anymore for TMC men’s basketball.

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