It has been said that fortune favors the bold. If so, then the Atlantic Cape Community College Men’s Basketball team could be in for an exciting 2022-23 season.
Coming off of a tremendously-successful 2021-22 campaign, which saw the Buccaneer men finish 18-7 overall, tie for 1st place with Brookdale Community College at 15-3 in the Garden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) and go 15-5 in Region 19 play, the team fell in the Region 19 quarterfinal playoff round to conference rival Brookdale, 87-81. The game stayed within reach until the final minutes when a stretched-thin lineup of only six players wore down physically.
“I feel if we had at least 10 players on our roster instead of six we could have won (against Brookdale),” Athletic Director Jamal Edwards said.
“I felt we had the team last year to win,” Head Coach Allen Ragland recollected. “Overall last season was a success for the players and the school. It was good for our community.”
Ragland, though, is not satisfied. The Buccaneers men’s hoopsters, who have tasted some success and created a new identity, have lofty expectations and hopes for a national tournament berth this year. “We want to bounce back, win our region, get to the national championship and make a splash. We are changing the culture here into a family-run program and if we don’t have values we won’t have success.”
The team enters the 22-23 season currently in the top 20 in the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division III preseason rankings. Four consecutive games at home to start the season before playing seven of the next eight on the road are crucial to the team’s success. “It’s very important to set the tone and for how we are going to play for the season,” Ragland said. “We can’t allow anyone to come into our house and win.”
Without Region 19 All-Region First Team star graduates David Coit, who was named Region 19 Player of the Year after averaging 30 points per game and was accepted to Northern Illinois University, and Richard Jones, who averaged 21 points per game and was accepted to Miles College in Alabama, the Buccaneers will be counting on every player to do their part.
“We will win on the defensive side of the ball this year,” Ragland said. “I don’t believe in superstars. I want to have a well-rounded team.”
Edwards agreed with Ragland’s assessment. “It will be a team-by-committee effort. We want to play aggressive on defense, play fast and continually rotate in-and-out of the lineup to stay fresh. We expect all of our players to give us good minutes.”
The 22-23 Buccaneer team is returning two sophomores from last season in Jonathan Cosme-Almeida (G) from Denver, CO; and Naji Wright (F) from Trenton, NJ. Another sophomore, Tyrese Myrick (G) of Willingboro, NJ is a transfer from Division II Lincoln University in Lower Oxford Twp., PA.
Nearly a dozen freshmen could see significant playing time this season as the Buccaneers look to pick up where they left off last year. Instilling confidence, exhibiting a positive work ethic on and off the court, and maintaining the team’s newly-found identity will go a long way towards continuing the team’s winning ways.
Coach Ragland and Athletic Director Edwards both spoke about some of the income freshmen players that they feel could make an impact on the court this season for Atlantic Cape:
● Jeremy Ellis, a 6’7” G/F from Hamilton, NJ, “is an exciting player, a mid-to-high-major player and a highlight reel waiting to happen;”
● Nazim Chavies, a 6’2” G from Willingboro, NJ, “is capable of doing what David Coit did for us last year;”
● Maurice Williams, a 5’10” G from Hamilton, NJ, “is an exciting player, is very fierce, college coaches love him, he can turn heads;”
● Najhae Colon, a 5’10” G from Acworth, GA, “he’s the glue to having this team running the way we want it to run. He’s a two-way player that can shoot, pass and get to the basket. We are very high on him;”
● Chris Ferguson, a 6’6” G/F from Columbia, SC, “is a shooter that can play inside and out, he can spread the floor, and has Division I and II potential;”
● Olyn Knox, a 6’8” F from Columbia, SC, “, he’s a big guy with a presence, he’s the glue’s glue, he’s getting much stronger and better as we progress and can also be a mid-to-high-major player;”
● Jabre Mills, a 6’3” G from Lawrenceville, GA, “can play to one or two, he’s a lockdown defender, who can succeed on all three levels. I can see him being the key to the team.”
● Edison Reyes, a 6’4” C from Mays Landing, NJ, “was ACIT’s leading rebounder last year;” and
● Ramar Cook, a 6’2” G from Galloway, NJ, “was Cedar Creek High School’s leading scorer last year.”
With so many new faces, Coach Ragland will be expecting all of his players to attack the new season by giving it their all. “I feel that we could have eight or nine players averaging double digit points per game this year and I am excited to see this group perform.”
“His belief is no excuses, basketball is basketball, so work hard at it” Edwards said. “We have created an identity and his expectations are high.”
The Buccaneer men traveled to Florida for a mid-month slate of five exhibition games, three at the All-American Jamboree in Orlando on Saturday, October 15 and two at the Sports Network Showcase in Lakeland on Sunday, October 16. Despite finishing with a 1-4 record, the team gained invaluable experience playing against higher competition and often-overlooked team bonding while on the road.
“The trip was all about how we can grow as a team,” Edwards said. “It was great for team building having to travel together, eat together and play video games together.”
To achieve on-the-court success this season, Edwards and Ragland are stressing the importance of maintaining academic eligibility by working with the college’s professors to ensure that weekly progress reports keep the team’s student athletes on top of their classroom studies.
“We are continually having dialogue with the players to get the help they need. The new players see how tough it is to keep good grades and how much tougher college is,” Ragland said. “They (the players) know that we are leaning on them for their grades. We are more focused on the classroom than the court this year. No homework equals no practice.”
Edwards added that, “we need them to remain academically eligible, stay healthy and to use the college’s resources for help and tutoring.”
The program’s focus on achieving in the classroom led to Cosme-Almeida being named to the GSAC’s All-Academic Team for Spring 2022 semester for attaining a 3.0 GPA/or better. In the end, a strict focus on academic progress, combined with a positive winning team identity, helps Atlantic Cape, and its enrollment and retention, attract a larger pool of quality student athletes to choose from.
Ragland concluded by stressing the importance of a quality education for his student athletes. “It has been my motto and vision to do everything in my power to make sure that every kid graduates and to set them up to hopefully get scholarships.”
Atlantic Cape opens its 22-23 regular season schedule on Monday, November 7 at 6 p.m. against Salem County College in the Jonathan Pitney Hall gymnasium.
For more information, player roster and game schedule, visit atlantic.edu/mensbasketball.
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