LPC Basketball 2016-2017 Season Outlook
A lot of good things are happening around the Las Positas College men’s basketball program, with hopes around the team for plenty more this upcoming year. As they move forward to the 2016-2017 season, let’s take a quick look back on the memorable times from a season ago that has led to some positive momentum for the current team.
A Year to Remember: 2015-2016 Season Recap
When Las Positas hired Coach James Giacomazzi to take over the men’s basketball program, it didn’t take long before teams throughout California recognized the Hawks as a force to be reckoned with. After winning a conference championship and being named Big 8 Conference Coach of the Year at Cosumnes River College, Giacomazzi took over the LPC program and was quick to work in getting to know his new team and implementing his system. As to be expected, this required some time to adjust and some growing pains. After a shaky start in November where Las Positas suffered some key injuries and worked to find team chemistry, the Hawks caught fire.
Beginning in the month of December, the Hawks won 10 straight games, including two tournament championships at Diablo Valley College and Skyline College. Despite not having a player taller than 6’4”, the team bought into the system and began developing good chemistry. Their style of unselfish play became contagious. The Hawks shared the ball extremely well, finishing in the top 10 in the state for team assists (18.3 per game), led by First Team All-Conference point guard, Cameron Moses (6.6 assists per game).
After finishing with the most conference wins (8) in school history, the Hawks earned the #4 seed in Northern California for the CCCAA State Playoffs. Las Positas won 16 of their final 20 games before narrowly falling to College of Sequoias in the Sweet 16. That finish was a tie for the farthest the men’s basketball team has ever made it in the postseason. Individually, sophomore Brandon Eboigbodin became the first player in school history to earn First Team All-State honors. He went on to sign a full scholarship to Peru State University in Nebraska. Freshman shooting guard and leading scorer, Keith Hunter, was named Male Athlete of the Year. As a testament to their selfless team play, the Hawks were the only team in California to have all five starters average double figures in scoring. Despite not being on anybody’s radar in the preseason, they finished the season ranked #8 in the final state poll out of 94 community college teams.
Bigger and Better: A Look at the 2016-2017 LPC Hawks
Las Positas College men’s basketball is officially on the map and won’t be sneaking up on anyone this season. After an offseason of recruiting and player development, the Hawks have added some size and depth to an experienced core of skilled guards. Let’s take a quick look at who’s back and some of the new faces within the program at the guard and forward positions.
Key Returners: Kameron Johnson, Keith Hunter, Aaron Berry
Two of the Hawks’ top scorers return from a year ago at the guard position in Kameron Johnson and Keith Hunter. Johnson, a Livermore product out of Granada High School, proved to be one of the most consistent and complete players for the Hawks in his freshman campaign, averaging 12.4 points to go with 5 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game. An All-Tournament selection at the Diablo Valley College Classic, he was routinely called upon to defend the opponent’s best perimeter player and brings great versatility, athleticism, and strength to his position. Johnson will step into the primary point guard role as a sophomore and will be looked to as a leader. A blur in the open floor, Johnson’s speed puts pressure on defenses in transition and he’ll look to show off his improved shooting stroke from beyond the arc, much the way his teammate Keith Hunter did last season. The smooth lefty shooting guard out of Oakland High School is back after leading Las Positas in scoring at 13.9 points per game as a freshman, knocking down a team-high 45 three-pointers. Hunter can score in bunches, as evidenced by his performance in the Diablo Valley College Classic, where he averaged 21.6 points in leading the Hawks to a championship to go with tournament MVP honors. Hunter is one the team’s key leaders, serving as team captain a year ago. An improved defender as a sophomore, his ability to play with great pace under control mixes well with his natural instincts as a cold-blooded scorer.
Moving back to the guard spot is sophomore Aaron Berry out of Heritage High School in Brentwood. Perhaps the team’s most explosive athlete, Berry brings a high level of excitement to the guard position with his raw jumping ability and skill in finishing around the basket. A threat in the mid-range and above the rim, he averaged 6.5 points and 4.2 rebounds as a freshman. Look for Berry to have a big year for the Hawks as he develops into a major problem for opponents in pressing situations and defensively creating transition opportunities for himself and his teammates.
Transfers/Freshmen: Caleb Baskett, Javier Perez-Guerrero, Nick Evans, Daniel Gonzales, D.J. Hamilton
Javier Perez-Guerrero comes to the Hawks by way of Foothills Christian High School in San Diego. The 6’1” freshman is a pure point guard with excellent court sense and feel for the game. A highly skilled ball-handler and crafty passer, he has a way of making his teammates better and seeing plays develop before they happen. His smooth jump shot will provide another scoring threat from outside for LPC.
Redshirt freshman Nick Evans transfers to Las Positas from Holy Names University in Oakland. A First Team All-League selection at Freedom High School, Evans can flat out put the ball in the basket. With a slick, quick handle and ability to create his own shot, Evans has established himself as one of the best shooters and scorers on the team.
After a season at South Puget Sound Community College in Washington where he was the team’s fourth leading scorer, sophomore Daniel Gonzales has made his way back home to the East Bay. As a senior at Pittsburg High School, he was named First Team All-League. Gonzales is a gifted shooter and team player that will look to contribute when called upon throughout the season.
Freshman D.J. Hamilton enters his first season at Las Positas after playing for Cooper International Academy in Pomona. He brings great work ethic and love for the game in addition to a solid three-point shooting stroke.
Key Returner: Spencer Wood
The lone returnee to the forward position for the 2016-2017 season is California High School’s own Spencer Wood. The 6’4” sophomore out of San Ramon saw limited action as a freshman but has expanded his game to a new level this offseason. Bringing a positive sense of direction and leadership to the team’s newcomers, Wood has been an extra coach on the floor, while simultaneously knocking down threes left and right. He plays as hard as anyone and has grown into one of the team’s main vocal leaders. Wood is a “glue guy” - he knows how to play the right way and makes his teammates better. Look for Wood to stretch the opposing defense and improve cohesion and flow within the framework of what the team is looking to accomplish.
Transfers/Freshmen: Donald Mims, Stokley Chaffee, Anand Hundal, Jushan Samra
The frontcourt got a big time boost this offseason. One case of familiar faces in new places is the reuniting of Coach Giacomazzi with Donald Mims, who played center on the Cosumnes River College championship team of 2014-2015. After sitting out a year, Mims is back with the Hawks at LPC, having grown to 7 feet tall and as intimidating as ever under the basket. You could say he’s one big fella. As a freshman, Mims was a dominant defensive force in the paint, leading the state of California in blocked shots at 4.4 per game. He will look to do much of the same for the Hawks as a sophomore. For his size, he possesses good quickness and leaping ability, though he doesn’t have to jump too high to play above the rim. When he catches it in the paint, he finishes a high percentage of his shots at the rim. Look for Mims to provide the Hawks with great energy and give the team a little extra flavor and fun this season.
Las Positas will feature some tough matchups for opponents in highly talented forwards Stokley Chaffee and Anand Hundal. The Hawks recruited Chaffee out of high school, but he decided to attend the University of San Francisco. After transferring back home, the team is excited to have Chaffee as part of the Hawk family (or, if you’re Keith Hunter, he’s your actual family. The two are cousins). The 6’8” sophomore out of Amador Valley adds length and serious athleticism to his position. A versatile defender, he’s able to switch onto guards with his great lateral quickness while also being strong enough to defend bigger players on the low block. He scores it well in the mid to low post, provides a shot-blocking threat at the rim, and is especially effective in anticipating and pursuing rebounds on both ends of the floor. His hunger to get better will serve him well in his time with the Hawks and beyond. In thinking about basketball after Las Positas, 6’10” freshman center Anand Hundal will receive his fair amount of attention this year from four-year college coaches. After receiving two Division 1 scholarship offers, Hundal elected to stay close to home for the time being and develop his game at Las Positas. He was a key part of the Manteca High School state championship team and was named Second Team All-State as a senior. Hundal gives the Hawks another legitimate threat in the post, but he sets himself apart from other post players with his deft shooting touch from the perimeter. Always playing within himself, Hundal’s poise and decision-making with the ball make him one of the team’s most dangerous weapons. He is a skilled passer, has great footwork around the rim, and is expected to make a big impact for Las Positas all season.
Freshman forward Jushan Samra adds quality depth and high basketball IQ to a group of tremendously talented frontcourt players. Samra was a First Team All-League pick and named Third Team All-East Bay during his time at Dougherty Valley High School in San Ramon. Samra is a gifted rebounder and scores very well around the basket, adept in finishing with either hand. A true team player, Samra finds ways to help his team win with scrappy defense and making all the hustle plays. He competes hard, listens well, and fits in perfectly with the team-based, winning culture established by Coach James Giacomazzi and his staff at Las Positas College.
WHAT’S ON DECK?
Las Positas has high expectations for the upcoming season and has been featured in a number of preseason state polls. The CCCMBCA coaches poll has the Hawks ranked third in the state entering the season. Also, according to John Bynum's Signal the Light Basketball site, the Hawks are ranked as the top team in Northern California.
The Hawks open their season at home hosting the 10th annual Tony Costello Tip-Off Classic. They’ll face off against Modesto Junior College on November 3 at 5:00 pm. They’ll also hit the road to Ukiah for another appearance in the Mendocino Tournament, with first round action against Los Medanos College. After a home game on November 26 against last season’s Coast-South champion, Cabrillo College, the Hawks will head to Sacramento for the James Clark Classic at Cosumnes River College. From there, they’ll look to defend their title at the Skyline College Tournament for the third straight season before playing a home game against De Anza College on December 20. The Hawks close out non-conference play on the road at Monterey Peninsula College on December 30.
The competition only gets tougher as the season progresses. The Coast-North Conference, given the highest RPI in Northern California a year ago, will be no walk in the park for anybody. Of the seven teams in the Coast-North, five of them are ranked in Northern California’s top 20 teams, according to the opening CCCMBCA state poll. League play begins January 4 at Foothill College. LPC will close out the regular season on February 17 at Skyline before postseason play begins.
The Hawks will once again host the CCCAA Basketball State Championships. This season will feature the final 8 teams in the state (top 4 in the North, top 4 in the South). The 2016-2017 state champion will be decided right here in Livermore with the final games set for March 9 and 11-12, 2017.