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A bounceback year?

Men’s team looks to rebound after a season of struggles

Posted: November 12, 2008 9:25 p.m.
Updated: November 13, 2008 4:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons shooting guard Jason Holzwarth, foreground, warms up Friday at the Cougar Cage before a basketball game.

 

The College of the Canyons mens basketball team went from co-champions of the South Division of the Western State Conference in 2006-07 to among its least successful last season.

This season, with four returning sophomores and a talented group of freshmen, Canyons has the opportunity to once again contend.

"We want to get better as a team, compete for the state championship," said Canyons head coach Howard Fisher, who is in his ninth season. "We had a turnover in terms of assistants and players."

With an 0-8 start to its conference season last year, it cannot get much worse.

The Cougars are making an attempt to make a vast improvement this season. Think as vast as a canyon.

Canyons' backcourt is led by co-captains Jason Holzwarth and freshman point guard Terrez Scott, a Valencia graduate and former All-Foothill League second-teamer.

COC has gotten off to a 1-1 start thus far.

In Friday's season opener at the Clash of the Canyons at the Cougar Cage, COC beat Grossmont College 98-89. It lost a game at the buzzer to Moorpark College on Saturday 82-80.

Holzwarth led the team in scoring Saturday with 15 points. He was third on the team in scoring with 10.8 points per game last season.

Along with fellow returning sophomore Justin Smith, a 6-foot-6 starting forward, Holzwarth was selected as an honorable mention to the all-conference team.

"It was a big learning year," Holzwarth said of last season. "Having mostly freshmen, it took us a while to get together and get accustomed."

Yet nine freshmen are on this team.

It was just two seasons ago that the Cougars were 26-7 (11-1 in conference). They advanced to the first round of the state's regional tournament where they lost to L.A. Trade Tech.

That team had eight sophomores.

Last season, COC struggled out of the gate. At its lowest point last season, the Cougars were 6-18 (0-8). They finished by winning their final four contests.

The addition of Scott gives COC a different look than years past.

Scott is a strong 6-feet-tall ball handler who is more of a distributor and an outside shooter than a pure scorer. He led the Vikings in assists at 5.5 per game and steals (1.8) and helped them reach the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division II-AA playoffs. His assists-to-turnover ratio was 7-to-1.

Scott said there will be an adjustment period, though.

"The height of the players is a lot bigger than what I'm used to," Scott said. "I have to improve on shooting. I'm a little too unselfish as a player sometimes."

Scott will be counted on heavily to help pick up the slack left by the loss of point guard Brian Kimble, a
former Hart player who led COC with 13.8 points, 5.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.

Kimble is redshirting this season.

Smith returns, though. He was second on the team in scoring with 12.7 points per game and was the leading rebounder with 6.4 per game last season. He will be flanked by fellow starting forwards Brandon Bradley, a 6-foot-5-inch freshman, and returner Travis Hayden, who scored three points per game as a backup last season.

"They bring energy, enthusiasm and rebounding," Fisher said of the trio.

Leaders like Holzwarth have noticed a few differences from last season.

"Knowing what it takes to win and instilling that in our freshmen is key," Holzwarth said. "Ending the season on a four-game win streak is good, because you remember those four games."

COC plays Thursday through Saturday in the Mulligan Classic in Irvine, before playing Nov. 19 at L.A. Pierce College in Woodland Hills.

Canyons' next home game is at 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 22 against Oxnard College. Its first South Division game is Jan. 10 at Bakersfield College.

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