By Derek Ortega
By Derek Ortega
Spring training is finally over. All that hard work from practice is going pay off on Nov. 9, when the men’s basketball team starts its 2005 season at a tournament held at Mt. San Jacinto College.
Leading the team is second year head coach John Smith. He brings to the table 15 years of experience in basketball. Smith was born and raised in Riverside and had the opportunity to watch his father play on the last state championship RCC basketball team coached by Jerry Tankanian.
Coach Smith’s father was not the only one to play under Tarkanian. He got the chance to follow in his father’s footsteps and was coach by Tarkanian at UNLV. In his sophomore year at UNLV coach Smith suffered a knee injury, which he did not recover well from. So he took a different route and ended at Dominican University located in San Rafael just outside of San Francisco. There he was coached by his brother, while he progressed on his basketball skills and knowledge of the game.
Coach Smith had great accomplishments this past off-season. They where finally able to practice from April to July.
“We had a very successful off-season to develop our offense and defense,” Smith said.
From last year’s team to this year’s team, there is a big difference.
“This team is far more advanced and talented than last year’s team,” he said. “Last year we started with only three players. And now we have seven returning players that understand the system and we add talent at every spot.”
The seven returning players are the mentors for the young ones out of high school.
“The new guys are getting help from the returning players and they are progressing at a good pace,” Smith said.
The whole team is developing at a great rate.
“Danny Renneisen has worked extremely hard on his game,” Smith said. “He has learned how to play at this level and beyond.”
The question remains, is this season going to be a successful one? “It doesn’t matter what I predict,” Smith said. “If they play hard every game, they will be successful.”
With all this talent on the team there has to be a star player who shines from the rest.
“We don’t have a star player on this team,” Smith said. “It’s a team of great athletes and players.”
The tigers run an up tempo offense. When they get into fast breaks down the court, they switch to a secondary break. The tigers put their motion offense to work.
“The motion offense is used by the University of North Carolina,” Smith said. “They were the national champions last year. Eighty percent of practice is focused on defense. We run a pressure defense.”
There is an injury on the team that may be a key withdraw for RCC. Jiovanni Viruete re-injured his ankle at the second day of practice this off-season.
“It hurts the team. He understands the system and we need a point guard to understand the game,” Smith said. “He will sit out the rest of the season.”
Smith has goals he wants to accomplish this season. One in particular is for RCC to play on his birthday during the championship game Mar. 12. If the season turns out in favor for RCC then hopefully coach Smith will enjoy his birthday present.
First year player Kyle Watkins plays point guard for RCC and he shares the same goals with his coach.
He wants to become the point guard that coach Smith wants him to be and to win state. “That will be a cool present for coach,” Williams said.
Coming from playing basketball at Bakersfield Christian high school to playing for RCC has been difficult for Williams.
“I thought playing college ball it would be a walk in the park, but when I got here it wasn’t like that at all,” Williams said. “The difference is the speed of the game. The players have to be bigger, stronger, faster.”One of the seven returning players is Trayvon Williams, whose position is combo guard and forward for RCC. He thinks that if the team stays healthy they will be one of the best teams in RCC history.
He has one goal, he wants to accomplish this season.
“To be the best player in RCC history,” Williams said.
As a mentor on the team Trayvon helps his teammates to understand college basketball.
“Everyone is adapting pretty well. They have to get used to the fast pace of college ball,” Williams said.
Williams is in his second season under coach Smith. He understands the game and style of Smith.
“Coach is a winner every time. He just wants to win,” he said.