It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for the Northwest College men’s basketball program, as the team prepares to take to the court this week with its third head coach in as many …
It’s been a tumultuous couple of years for the Northwest College men’s basketball program, as the team prepares to take to the court this week with its third head coach in as many seasons.
But after surviving the move of former head coach Brian Erickson to the athletic director’s office and a season under Dawud Abdur-Rahkman that showed flashes of brilliance between long stretches of mediocrity, new head coach Jay Collins is hoping to bring a new culture to the program.
“It’s obviously a very new team with very little experience,” Collins said. “But the guys are certainly putting in the time and effort. I’m proud of their work ethic and how hard they prepare. We’ll see what we’ve got this week.”
The Trappers open the 2019-20 season on the road, with a game at Williston State today (Thursday) followed by a trip to eastern Montana to face Dawson Community College Friday and Miles Community College Saturday.
“We’re a little behind the eight-ball — the teams we play this week have already played three games,” Collins said. “We’ve got the dust and the rust still on us, and they’re in mid-season form. So we’ll see how it goes.”
Despite the late start to the season, the Trappers have scrimmaged against several junior college teams in Colorado while hosting the Rocky Mountain JV squad a couple of weeks ago. Collins said the controlled scrimmages served more to help teams figure out lineups and strategies, though he was pleased with how NWC competed.
“It went well — I thought our guys played hard and kept things close against some very good teams,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of work yet to do, but we’re excited to get out there on Thursday.”
Last year’s squad was heavy on one-and-dones and junior college transfers; players who knew coming in they’d likely only be here for the season. Of the four players returning from that roster, only one — redshirt sophomore and New York City native Kyle Brown — saw significant playing time. The other returners are Max Dehon from Belgium, Lovell’s Mysen McArthur and Bayshore, New York’s Ron Fell, who grayshirted last year.
“Kyle Brown has been a great leader for us so far, and he’s in a position where he really needs to step up and lead these guys. We’ll be counting on him a lot this year,” Collins said. “Ron Fell has been a pleasant surprise for us. Max [Dehon] played very little last year, but he’s given great effort so far, as well. He’s been good to coach.”
Because of the time frame of his hire, Collins didn’t have a whole lot of time to recruit, though he’s found some players he was surprised to find available. Josh Petteno from Italy is one player Collins is high on and Alan Swenson, another player from Belgium, has also impressed early.
“Josh [Petteno] has been fantastic — he can really shoot. He’ll need to be good for us,” Collins said. “Alan Swenson has been a tremendous addition at the point. He’s incredibly fast, and really has a great motor.”
At 6 feet, 8 inches, Phoenix, Arizona, product Seth Mason is another player Collins expects to make an immediate impact.
“Seth is kind of what we expected him to be. He’s long, he’s skilled, he’s not your typical 7-foot center or anything,” Collins said. “But he’s athletic enough and long enough that he can guard those tall guys, as well as step out and knock down shots.”
The Trappers also have some Wyoming talent on this year’s roster. Joining McArthur as part of the local contingent is former Powell Panther William Preator and Cody’s Elijah Leyva. Preator played an integral part in leading the Panthers to the 3A State Championship game last season, while Leyva was the leading scorer in class 4A last season, averaging 25.7 points per game.
Dyllon McDermid, from Deer Lodge, Montana, is also in the mix.
“All those guys have been working hard, and are looking to contribute,” Collins said. “They’re great kids.”
Collins also has a pair of New Jersey natives that he’s excited to have on the roster: Corey Greer, a 6 foot, 2 inch combo guard out of Camden High School, and Maurice Murray, a 6 foot, 6 inch guard out of Timber Creek Regional High School.
“Corey Greer can really score, and has a really good reputation at a high level,” Collins said. “Maurice Murray will make big plays and he’ll be dynamic. I think he’ll be a tough matchup, because he has the size and length to score around the basket, but he’s got the ability to handle the ball and play on the perimeter as well.”
Collins said this team is unique among the teams he’s coached in the past, simply because he has only one player (Brown) who’s actually played and proven himself at the NJCAA level.
“Even in practice, when these guys are doing well, you just don’t know how they’ll respond until you get them out there against real competition. ... I’m as curious as everyone else to see what we have,” the coach explained. “But I really like our guys. I’d be shocked if they didn’t go out and play extremely hard and selfless every night. They’re doing all the right things.”
“These first three games,” Collins said, “will tell us a lot about where we’re at.”