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College of the Canyons' Jaylen Bland: Right place, right time

COC guard enjoying success this year after transferring from Division I team

Posted: January 21, 2013 1:55 a.m.
Updated: January 21, 2013 1:55 a.m.

College of the Canyons sophomore guard Jaylen Bland (5) rises to take a shot between two Bakersfield defenders on Wednesday at COC.

 

Timing has been everything for College of the Canyons sophomore Jaylen Bland.

For better or worse, it took a lot of strange twists and surprises for him to end up in a Cougars uniform.

After enduring a frustrating freshman year of college basketball, it was actually an old high school rival who played a big part in bringing Bland back to the Los Angeles area where he used to live.

"I was really excited for the season to start and for me to get back on the floor and for me to play and everything," Bland says. "So I was really excited and ready."

It’s been quite a change for the sophomore point guard, who is leading the Cougars by scoring 17.9 points per contest through 19 games.

Bland is also leading the team with 2.6 assists per game and he’s second on COC with 5.7 rebounds a game.

"He’s a no nonsense guy and one of the things about Jaylen is he has a tremendous work ethic, whether it’s in the weight room or on the court," says COC head coach Howard Fisher. "He’s one of our stronger players."

Last year, despite playing for Murray State University, an NCAA Division I team, he hardly played. Bland played just 6.2 minutes and scored 1.7 points per game on average.

Bland’s arrival as a freshman at Murray State wasn’t his best timing. The former Cleveland High of Reseda standout was named first-team All-CIF Los Angeles City Section twice on his way to being recruited to Murray State.

Shortly after he committed to the program, the team’s former head coach, Billy Kennedy, resigned to take the head coaching position at Texas A&M in May 2011.

At first, Bland considered leaving the team right away. But he decided to stick it out for a year.

"I’m always trying to stay humble an keep working and help my team out as much as possible and have fun as much as possible," Bland says.

But one season spent mostly on the bench later, it became clear Murray State wasn’t the right fit for Bland.

That’s when COC teammate Temjae Singleton came in.

Singleton played basketball at El Camino Real High, which was a West Valley League rival of Cleveland.

Bland and Singleton used to play against each other all the time in high school, and it wasn’t a friendly rivalry.

Singleton says he remembers making a buzzer-beater against Bland’s team in high school.

"I think about it all the time," Singleton says. "We always talk about it. It’s crazy how everything works out because we used to hate each other in high school. Now we’re teammates and we’re best friends basically."

The first time the two players met, it was at a high school all-star game at Cal State Northridge when both were seniors.

Both were being recruited to Division I schools — Bland to Murray State and Singleton to New Mexico State — and the two of them bonded.

Similar to Bland, Singleton, following a redshirt year, didn’t feel like he was connecting well with the program.

So he decided to leave New Mexico State coincidentally near the same time Bland had left Murray.

Through a connection at New Mexico State, Singleton landed at COC. That prompted him to call Bland.

"I actually called him and (asked) him, ‘What’s your situation?’" Singleton says of the phone call he made to Bland. "And he was like, ‘I don’t know what I’m doing,’ so I told him about COC. I told him to come check it out."

Before long, the two one-time rivals were united as teammates and fellow four-year college transfers.

The move has worked out for both of them as they are the top two scorers on COC.

In Bland’s case, it put him back in a position he was in high school — the quick, shifty shooting guard who makes the offense go.

"Other guys look to him because of his experience at a four-year and I think most guys have aspirations of reaching the four-year level and they want to draw on his experiences in that regard," Fisher said.

And even with his accolades in high school and his Division I experience, Bland never came in with a sense of entitlement. He never assumed he was going to get playing time.

He came in wanting to earn it.

"I know you’ve got to work to get what you want so I came in with the mentality of, ‘I don’t want anyone to outwork me,’" Bland says.

After going through COC’s notoriously vigorous offseason conditioning program, Bland lived up to his word.

He’s doing whatever he has to do to elevate his game and get to the next phase of his basketball career.

"I should probably be in the gym a little more," Bland says.

Well, almost everything.

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