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COC men’s basketball preview: Endless possibilities

A large, promising roster gives team a wealth of options for its success

Posted: December 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: December 4, 2012 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons basketball players, from left, Ronald Harris, Jaylen Bland, Jawhar Purdy and Temjae Singleton represent a big piece of the team's talented roster full of experience and potential.

College of the Canyons men’s basketball has played with several different starting lineups this season.

Early on, head coach Howard Fisher wants to get a look at all possibilities for this year’s diverse, but talented group of players.

With an unusually large roster of 16 players, all with unique abilities, searching for a stable starting lineup is a good problem to have.

“Their ability to get things done on the court, obviously there is a hierarchy that is being established just based on skill level and everything else,” Fisher said of the roster size. “But after sitting down and explaining to them the situation, I felt this was going to be a group we’d be able to go with a number like that.”

The 12th-year COC head coach said the 16-man squad is the biggest he’s ever had at the school.

It includes an intriguing mix of returning players, newcomers and transfers.

Through eight games this season, the two leading scorers are a pair of NCAA Division I transfers, guard Jaylen Bland and forward/center Temjae Singleton.

Bland is a sophomore who comes in after playing last season with Murray State University, where he played in 12 games and averaged just 5.2 minutes per game of playing time.

So far for the Cougars (5-3), the 6-foot-3, speedy guard is putting up a team-high 15.4 points.

“It’s awesome. I missed it so much,” Bland said of his increased play time. “I really felt like I was missing out on a lot last year because I didn’t really get on the court as much as I wanted to, and I knew what I was capable of. I just didn’t get the opportunity.”

Listed at 6-foot-7, Singleton is averaging the exact same amount of points as Bland, including a 53.3 percent clip from three-point range. He also has a team-best 50 rebounds.

Singleton redshirted for New Mexico State last season, which means he still has two years of eligibility with the Cougars.

Both Bland (Cleveland High of Reseda) and Singleton (El Camino Real of Woodland Hills) played high school ball in the San Fernando Valley.

But this team will be more about role players than it will be about relying on stars.

Already, the Cougars have four players averaging double figure points, with returning sophomore forward Tyler Barber scoring 11.5 per game and Ronald Harris chipping in 10.9 to follow the two transfers.

Harris, a returning 6-5 forward and 2006 Saugus graduate, led the team in rebounding last season, which saw COC finish 15-13 and 6-6 for third place in the Western State Conference, South Division.

The Cougars made the Southern California playoffs, but lost in the first round last year.

This squad is expecting much more.

“I think we’re good enough to get to state,” Singleton said. “We should get to state and get a high seed in state and get a lot of wins.”

Singleton will be big on both ends of the court this season as the team will emphasize getting defensive rebounds and pushing the ball and getting up the court as quickly as possible.

“We have big things to come,” said sophomore guard and Saugus graduate Jawhar Purdy. “The main goal we always talk about is we still have a lot of work to do. But that’s what (non-conference) is for, and that’s what the different tournaments are for.”

Purdy was COC’s starting point guard in 2011-12.

Also looking to contribute for COC this year are a pair of Valencia graduates who have taken nontraditional journeys to make their way onto the team.

David Horst, a 2005 Valencia graduate who was named Foothill League MVP as a senior in high school, is making his first attempt at the college game. In terms of athletics eligibility, the 25-year-old is a freshman at COC.

He’ll be joined by fellow Valencia graduate Terrez Scott, a 22-year-old guard who graduated high school in 2008 and played the 2008-09 season for COC.

After a three-year break, he’s back with the Cougars and coming off the bench for a decent share of minutes.

Together, this year’s crew is filling in nicely for the departure of the team’s top three scorers from last season.

That list includes 2011-12 All-state selection Rafael Love, All-WSC South first teamer Wesley Bartole and All-WSC South second teamer Brad Wyche.

Collectively, those three contributed more than 42 points of the team’s 72 point-per-game average.

But player turnover is natural at the community college level, and Fisher isn’t concerned.

“Every year brings a little something different, so I think there are subtle changes every year depending on the players we have and their strengths and weaknesses,” Fisher said.

The difference this year is an increase in depth.

That’s what COC is hoping will take it up another notch.


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