New coach, players, for Vikings
BARSTOW • The Barstow Community College men’s basketball team certainly looks different from last year.
Vikings fans will see little that they recognize from last season in the 2013-14 squad. There is only one player returning, and the team sports a new head coach.
It’s presented a few hurdles for everyone involved.
“I’ve never been in a situation where I took over after the recruiting season, so it’s a challenge,” said new skipper Gerry Wright.
Wright is no stranger to coaching, having done so for eight years in college and six in high school. He’s also had much success, having never coached a team to a losing record, and earning Foothill Conference Coach of the Year status with San Bernardino Valley College for the 2006-07 season.
Wright has quite the basketball pedigree. Prior to coaching, he played for the University of Southern California and for the University of Iowa. He was drafted by the Atlanta Hawks, and played professionally in Europe.
Now the coach turns his attention to the Vikings. He joined the team just before school began and was faced with the task of putting together a roster after recruiting season was over.
“I did all my recruiting on campus,” said Wright. “The players are all walk-ons.”
The lone returnee is Nate Lopez, a Barstow High School graduate. Lopez scored 93 points last season, which included 22 3-point baskets. The other 11 Vikings are all in their first year with the squad: Brandon Erwin, Jamal Ogelsby, Cedric Young, Javone Rabon, Raul Saenz, Daniel Gampe, Bobby Bonner, Antonio Clemmons, Emil McClinton, Jonathan Tuiasosopo, and Rayshaun Walker.
The first thing Wright wanted to do as coach was instill a positive attitude in his players.
“None of these guys has ever been ‘the man’ on their team, they were always the guy next to him,” he said. “They have to learn to be that guy. You can’t win without a winning attitude.”
And since this is a process, mistakes will be made. But Wright only sees that as an opportunity.
“Mistakes are just a learning opportunity; get it over with and don’t do it again,” he said. “To their credit, these guys are willing to work hard and listen. They want to be better and are willing to listen. If they listen and want to succeed, we’ll win some games.”
There are other factors involved, as well. Wright’s players are getting very familiar with the weight room.
“There’s a lot of work and conditioning to do. If you’re in better shape than the other team, you have a chance to win,” he said. “If you can force another team into your tempo, you have a chance no matter how big or talented they are.”
Having a chance starts with everyone being where they’re supposed to be. Wright has players who have been on the court long enough to have established positions, but when practices began, he told them nothing was guaranteed. Their preconceived notions of where they were going to play were often dashed.
“You have to put a player on the floor where they have a chance to succeed,” said Wright. “I know where they need to be. I won’t try to ‘fit’ them into a position that isn’t theirs.”
All this preparation will be put to the test starting Nov. 7, when the Vikings play in the Miramar College Tournament in San Diego. They’ll play in tournies in Fullerton and Porterville before their first home game, Nov. 26 against Fullerton. They host Porterville on Dec. 17 and San Diego Mesa on Jan. 4, before starting their Foothill Conference schedule at home against Rio Hondo on Jan. 11.