The Fullerton College basketball team is set to open their season on Nov. 7, and will look to improve on a season that saw them go .500 in both conference and non- conference play. They will look to make up for a lack of experience with solid play and athleticisim.
“We are fast and aggressive with a good inside game,” said fourth year head coach Andre Smith.” “ We are definitely more athletic than last year.”
Going into this season, the Hornets are a much younger team than last year, with only two returning sophomores in the starting lineup, who will play the leadership roles this season. Point guard Amin Sahwani and forward Joel Brokenbrough look to lead this young talented team to a conference championship and a trip back to the playoffs.
The Hornets lost three of last season’s starters. Jason and Tyler Payne signed with Cal State Dominguez Hills, and Julian Caldwell signed with Colorado State University Pueblo for this upcoming season.
Sahwani and Brokenbrough have stepped right into the leadership roles that were opened up by the three that took their game to the next level, and have put in the time and effort to get the team ready for the new season. Brokenbrough, a 6-foot-6-inch forward, is coming off a serious ACL tear injury, and says he feels about 95% healthy.
With two healthy knees, he looks to be the centerpiece of the offense, and has been in contact with both division I and division II schools in regards to his future.
“They respect us for the most part, we are leaders on and off the court,” said Brokenbrough. “When we step in the gym it’s all seriousness and getting down to business.”
The team has stressed the fact that defense comes first, and that good defense will transition into good offense with the type of tempo they run.
Being as young as the team is, Coach Smith did not have many struggles this offseason. He explained that the biggest speed bump he faced with this team was being disciplined at the beginning.
The energy was lacking, and the discipline wasn’t there, but the team has matured and it wasn’t a problem for long. He says they look ready, disciplined, now the energy is there.
Coach Smith has expectations to be a better team than last season, despite the young group he’s coaching. The team seems to be buying into Coach Smith’s system, where he stresses defense and a “run and gun” style offense.
The personnel of his players seem to be a good fit for his style.
“I am trying to pattern the team the way Coach Pitino does at the University of Louisville,” Smith said. “We want to run out of quick rebounds and run the floor for easy buckets.
Year in and year out, the Orange Empire Conference has proven to be one of the most competitive and talent filled conferences in the state.
“Our conference is always tough, best in California,” Smith said. “We want to duplicate what we did last year, and get back to the playoffs.”
He believes that his team does have the potential to be the top team in the conference. The biggest challenge in conference play will once again be Saddleback College, who is coming off an undefeated 13-0 conference championship, and Smith simply described them as the team to beat.
But if there is one thing that he preaches most as a coach, it is not about basketball, it is about what you do in the classroom. Smith heavily stresses graduating. He wants each and every one of his players to graduate, and constantly reiterates the importance of attending class.
With the season merging, a lot of questions await this Hornets basketball team. The main question is whether freshmen Roger Hamel, Kyle Kintzle, and Khristopher Nelson, will be able to deliver without having experience under their belt.
Coach Smith believes so, and expects to see his team competing for a conference championship in a few months.
The season will open up on Thursday at the San Diego Miramar Tournament, with tip off at 5 pm. The Hornets will have games three consecutive days for the tournament
“It’s a business trip,” said Sahwani. “we got to go down and take care of business.”