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COC men's basketball preview: Homegrown outfit

Athletic, tough-minded Cougars will lean on local products this season

Posted: November 22, 2010 11:06 p.m.
Updated: November 23, 2010 4:55 a.m.

(From left to right) College of the Canyons’ Rafael Love, Ben Kimble, Parker Dominguez, DJ Smith, Wesley Bartole and Brad Wyche will be important contributors this season. Except for Love, all of them attended Foothill League schools.

 

The Santa Clarita Valley is growing as a basketball community, and the College of the Canyons men’s basketball team is taking advantage.

Sure, the Cougars have recruited the area before, but 11th-year head coach Howard Fisher has taken notice of that growth.

“I think this valley has turned out some outstanding football and baseball players, and basketball was not a focal point,” he said. “I think now, there has been an increase in the talent and it has definitely risen.”

Fisher hopes it can help his team this season.

Half of College of the Canyons’ 14-man roster hails from Santa Clarita Valley high schools, and the Cougars will lean heavily on several of those players.

Two of the key returners are forward Parker Dominguez and guard Ben Kimble, a pair of Hart High graduates who took it upon themselves to bring the team together over the summer.

Kimble said the team spent more time together off the court, and Dominguez thinks the results have spoken for themselves thus far for the Cougars, who are coming off a 13-15 season.

“I haven’t really been on a team ever before that’s as connected as we all are,” he said. “A way that we’ve been able to see the type of bond that our team has is at the end of games. We come together very strong.”

College of the Canyons (3-3) has already demonstrated an ability to win close games. All three of its victories this season have been by 10 points or less, including an overtime win at this past weekend’s Toyota Classic at Irvine Valley.

One thing the team does lack, however, is size. Fisher said the team will have to use its toughness and athleticism to overcome that.

“I think we have some toughness about us,” he said. “I think we’re going to play some good defense and hopefully that will allow for us to get some easy baskets where we can run out a little bit.”

That should play into the hands of Kimble and the rest of his physical backcourt mates.

“Without defense, we’re nothing, so in order for our offense to work, we’ve got to play tough defense,” he said. 

Kimble will help push the tempo on defense, along with guards D.J. Smith and Brad Wyche, who went to Saugus and Hart, respectively.

Another new addition is Santa Clarita Christian graduate Davion Cotterell, whom Fisher said is a good athlete who’s still learning to play at the pace of the Cougars’ system.

As a whole, Fisher said his backcourt has shot the ball well so far despite a lot of youth.

In the frontcourt, Dominguez will be joined by impact newcomers Rafael Love and Canyon High graduate Wesley Bartole.

None of them are taller than 6 feet, 5 inches, but Fisher said they fit the system because of their toughness and athleticism.

While pushing the tempo every night would figure to tire out the players, Dominguez said that’s no problem due to COC head strength and conditioning coach Robert Dos Remedios.

“To be on the basketball team, you have to go through Dos and his workouts,” Dominguez said. “I would say the conditioning level and the preparation for our season has been the same, and it’s pretty much one of the hardest programs.”

As prepared as the players might be for the tempo, Fisher said the team still needs to improve in some areas, especially rebounding.

“We have to rebound the ball better and more consistently,” he said.

In fact, Fisher said the team’s overall consistency needs to improve if it wants to compete for the Western State Conference title, which COC last won in 2007.

“Their effort as a whole needs to be consistent,” he said. “They do play hard. There are some lapses here and there that they need to recover from a little faster … but they play hard and there’s no quit.”

That’s becoming the norm with Santa Clarita Valley basketball.

“SCV basketball has improved,” Kimble said. “I was looking at other players who went off to (NCAA Division I) schools. From my freshman year at Hart, guys weren’t going D-I anywhere. But now the SCV’s starting to become known.”

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