December 7, 2012 in JUCO
Playing for first-year coach Matt Dennis last season, the Kalamazoo Valley Community College men’s basketball team won just eight games last season. It took the team just eight total games in Dennis’ second season for the team to match that.
KVCC’s undefeated start this season includes a win over Oakland Community College, a team that finished 26-5 last season, and two wins over a strong Owens Community College team that just beat defending national champion Mott Community College and ended the Bears’ 27-game winning streak earlier this week.
The keys for KVCC this season have been both a strong defense and an unselfish offense that features several players capable of having big scoring nights but who are also unselfish enough to play supporting roles when their teammates have it going.
“Our biggest thing is we are not a team that just has one star,” Dennis said. “We’ve had six or seven different guys lead us in scoring this season. The biggest thing for us, both offensively and defensively, is that these guys just buy in to what we’re doing and support each other.”
The Cougars have three players averaging in double figures this season, led by Jevonte Hughes. Hughes, a freshman, is averaging 15.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game this season, leading the team in both categories. His athleticism has also added a dynamic element to the lineup.
“Jevonte has been my biggest surprise this season,” Dennis said. “He’s a natural leader. He’s vocal on the floor, on the bench, getting the crowd fired up. When you combine the passionate way he plays with the dunks and athletic plays he’s capable of making, it makes him a special player to watch.”
LeDale Griffin is averaging 12.5 points per game and Daequan Mitchell-Fields is averaging 11.3. Quay Wilson, a transfer from Lake Superior State, is manning the point guard spot and averaging seven points and 3.8 assists per game. De’Tavia Moore is averaging 8.5 points per game and he’s been a force defensively for the Cougars.
“LeDale is 6-foot-4, he can create his own shot and he’s a powerful player,” Dennis said. “Quay has been great for us at point guard. He loves to play defense and he loves to pass. Moore probably takes more pride in his defense than anyone and his offense has really improved. He’s knocking down the 15-footer consistently for us.”
The impressive start to the season has KVCC’s fans and supporters excited for the season, but the fact that many of the team’s key players are local also has generated more community interest in the team. Seven players on the roster are from Kalamazoo and two others are from nearby.
“The community is really proud of the local guys here, so they’ve kind of rallied around and supported the team,” Dennis said.
While the on-court success has been welcome, Dennis, a teacher in Kalamazoo Public Schools, is also happy that the team is working hard in the classroom.
“With seven kids from Kalamazoo on the roster, myself and the coaching staff had a relationship with these guys for a long time, so that helps,” Dennis said. “I look at myself as a teacher first, so I want the players to know that I’ll stay late to help them study or help them proofread papers or do whatever it takes for them to succeed in class. It’s ultimately about them getting that degree.”
The team leaves today to play two games in Chicago over the weekend, one against Olive Harvey College and one against Richard J. Daley College. Dennis believes the games will be another good test to see where the team is at as tough games in the MCCAA loom.
“This weekend should be a great test against these teams, mainly because we’ve never seen them and don’t know anything about them,” Dennis said. “I’m interested to see how we stay together and work against the unknown.”