The Fullerton College men’s basketball team has big goals coming into this season. The Orange Empire Conference playoffs and the CCCAA State tournament are always priority number one, and returning sophomore guard Sean Newman Jr. made that very clear in his conversation with The Hornet, “I could beat around the bush, but I’ll be 100 percent real. First, win conference, and then win a state championship”
Sophomore guard Kobe Newton shares the optimism with his teammate, “we’ve built a culture, so we have high expectations. We want to get into the playoffs, win conference, and just get better throughout the whole year.”
Newton also made it very clear the group always comes before the individual. His goals are team oriented first and foremost. “I just want to win. Whatever I have to do personally to get that done, I’m willing to do.”
Head Coach Perry Webster echoed this mentality, while also discussing the team’s tough schedule. “We put a tough schedule in front of us because we feel we have a talented group. I expect us to be tough out for anybody.”
Webster is confident in his team, but they have to be prepared for the juggernauts they are facing during the preseason. “Santiago Canyon College, Riverside City College, and us have been the top three in the league the last few years. Those are two programs we have to worry about. During our preseason we play San Francisco City who is the defending state champ. We also play College of the Sequoias who is a top team in Northern California.”
East Los Angeles College, West Los Angeles College, and San Bernardino Valley College are also solid competition for the Hornets, according to Webster. No matter who it is, Webster seems to like his chances. “We’re confident we’ll go into those games and be successful.”
The theme for this year’s squad is the same as it’s always been, but the skill of this team in particular could be special, “[The theme] doesn’t really ever change. It’s always defend, rebound, and share the ball. We have so many individually talented players. We feel that if we share the ball and play together, we’re going to be a real tough team to stop offensively.”
Chemistry is vital to success in any team sport, but even more so in basketball. Newton has been impressed with his teammates so far. “I 100 percent think our chemistry is very good right now. Sometimes teams have to wait till midway through the season to get that chemistry down. We already have a good sense of chemistry in our program right now.”
Newman shared the secret on how the team has gotten close in such a short time, “we go out to lunch as a team, we laugh together, do everything together. It’s definitely a good culture we built here.”
Webster specifically mentioned two returning players he is excited to see back on the court. Both Newman and sophomore guard RJ Banks are coming off of injuries.” We really lost our way when we lost both of them,” Webster said. “To have those guys back, it’s something we’re really looking forward to.”
Webster believes that with returning players from last season, plus Newton and sophomore guard Coree Joseph, he has four key players who have established leadership roles. “They’re doing a good job of leading and bringing new guys into the fold. Everyone’s hitting the ground running,” Webster said.
The Hornets coaching staff is excited about newcomer sophomore guard Shaquil Bender. The Mt. San Antonio College transfer averaged 19 points per game last season for the Mounties. “He’s a real tough, physical, downhill driving guard that can score the ball in bunches,” said Webster.
Ending last season with a 25-4 (14-2) record, finishing 1st place in the OEC, the Hornets came up short against Citrus College in the 3rd round of CCCAA playoffs. “Our loss last year to Citrus in the third round, that’s what’s been driving us all nuts the past four to five months,” said Newton.
Coach Webster, on the other hand, took the big picture approach, but did still share some of his own feelings on the matter. “I think it’s important to let go of each year, win or lose your last game. It’s important to focus on a new team and a new group. We do feel like we left a little bit of meat on the bone, we’d like to get ourselves back in the state tournament again.”
With a new year on the horizon, the Hornets look to make some noise and put themselves right back where they belong: playing postseason basketball.