The De Anza Men’s Basketball team played two games at the Nor-Cal JUCO Showcase, at Skyline College, on Thursday afternoon. The Dons fared well in their first tests, beating both a local JUCU All-Star team and Cosumnes River College.
With a young group, laced with a few experienced sophomores, the De Anza Dons Men’s Basketball team had the opportunity to take on some new competition. The competition was not the teams the Dons would eventually beat, but it was seemingly the pressure. After preparing for the college showcases over the past few weeks, the young Dons were faced with the daunting task of fighting the pressure of playing in front of four-year college coaches and harder to overcome, battling the pressure they were putting on themselves.
At times, it appeared as if De Anza was paralyzed by the watchful eyes of the coaches seated around the gym as well as by their own over analysis of their individual performances. But within the very heart of the problem laid the answer, it’s just basketball…play. And play they did.
The Dons got out to a slow start against a local JUCO All-Star team made up of former JUCO players still looking to land a spot in a four-year program. By the end of the first half, De Anza seemed to have found their legs. Six-foot-six-inch freshmen Buddy Ames was a force on the wing and in the paint, dominating the glass and producing fast break opportunities with pin-point outlet passes and strong finishes at the bucket. The Dons’ starting backcourt of sophomores Denzel Copeland and George Henderson steadied the De Anza ship and guided it down the stretch. A late run by the Dons proved to be the difference, as they prevailed with an 8 point victory.
The second game would be a much tougher test against a proven opponent from the Sacramento area, Cosumnes River College. Well coached and a perennial 20 game winner, CRC was sure to provide stout competition. Early on, the Dons had the better of it, setting the pace with their defense leading to transition baskets. It would be a different trio of Dons who would provide the spark in a tightly contested summer affair. Freshmen Shaquille Gilbert, 6-foot-4-inch frequently attacked the basket along with his wing partner fellow freshmen Abu Tratter.
Drawing fouls and getting to the free throw line were the keys, as the Dons wore down CRC. Midway through the second half, following a defensive stop by the Dons, Shaquille Gilbert found himself on a fast break, just in front of a CRC defender. Gilbert took off from just outside the paint seeking a thunderous finish to the play. Instead, he was hit and spun like a helicopter blade, crashing to the floor. In the mayhem, Gilbert managed to get the shot up onto the glass, banking it in. A three point play for sure except for the official’s inability or refusal to blow a whistle on the obvious foul. Sophomore guard Sean Taylor provided a much needed spark with his ball handling and timely shooting.
De Anza would prevail in the end and would depart the two-game showcase with two wins. More importantly, the young Dons managed to get better as the games progressed and as they became more comfortable playing with each other. The biggest win of the afternoon may not have been against an All-Star team or another JC, but may very well have been the victory over the pressure. After all it’s just basketball…play.
The summer showcases continue at Foothill College, Friday and Saturday July 13-14. The Dons play Friday at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. then again on Saturday at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. For updates and De Anza Basketball information, follow De Anza Men’s Basketball on Twitter @DeAnzaMensBBALL