Written by: Dylan King
With the start of the basketball season a month away, the Riverside City College Tigers still have decisions to make about how the team will look and play before Nov. 5.
A new beginning should bring hope to a team that did not finish well last season. The Tigers compiled a 10-17 overall record last season, going 3-7 in the last 10 games.
An influx of new players could change things this upcoming season despite not having a guarantee of what their substantial impact would be , as specified by the head coach Philip Matthews.
“I know my team, but I don’t know what their talents are yet,” Matthews said.
When asked about which players impressed the coaching staff during a recent practice, Matthews took a critical look at what he considered a lack of individual and team aggression.
“I’m not impressed with anyone,” Matthews said. “Not one guy.”
The Tigers could benefit from more offensive firepower as evidenced by sophomore leading scorer Taj Adams’ 11.8 points per game average. Adams also led the team in rebounds with an average of 8.2 last season, his last with the Tigers.
Forward Sage Woodruff and guard Jelani Mitchell contributed as the second and third leading scorers respectively, averaging just over 10 points per game.
The team averaged 63.9 points through 27 games, while giving up 65.4 PPG to its opponents along the way.
Matthews has a plan to improve how the Tigers will compete in crucial game situations, though it is unclear whether players from last season’s team will have any involvement.
“We’re going to press and run,” Matthews said.
Preparation for an encouraging journey began in earnest on Oct. 1, officially the first day of practice. Expectations of increased productivity in all statistical categories become a priority for RCC, as the team develops its playing style and identity.
Practice has confirmed a need for stability defensively, which is why the entire coaching staff has placed a premium on player conditioning.
Matthews has not been satisfied with his team’s energy level thus far.
“Their discipline and focus has not been there yet, but that’s what practice is for,” he said.
To sustain execution of basketball strategy effectively, the coaches may have to demand more accountability from themselves, as well as players.
The assistant coaches Shannon Taylor and Joseph Huff labor to improve on-court success by taking a stern approach to film study concerning the team’s strengths and weaknesses. The coaching unit will provide leadership to an unproven team this season.
“They do a lot of scouting, formulate the scouting plans, and then implement them during practices,” Matthews said of his assistants.
There is reason for optimism this year, as players become more comfortable with their positions and chemistry on the court. Establishing rivalries against opponents could build team morale in addition to boosting excitement with fans, and the Tigers have their sights set on the top team.
“Saddleback is always good, they’re the state champions, so playing Saddleback is always good,” Matthews stated. “There is excitement (here at RCC) because we have good talent, but young talent. They’re going to have to learn to play hard. That’s what we’re going through now. They are learning how to play hard.”
According to the head coach, the team philosophy has been distinctly simplified on both ends of the floor.
“They’re not working hard enough, that’s why they run (during practice),” he said.
The opening game of the 2015-16 season is scheduled to begin Nov. 5, with the Tigers participating in the San Jose City Tip-Off Tournament at 1 p.m.
The first home game of the season will commence Nov. 18 in the Wheelock Gym at 7 p.m. against San Diego Miramar.