Wednesday night, fans got a first look at this year’s Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball in the first annual alumni game and the new school Raiders didn’t disappoint, cruising to a 120-102 victory.
New faces have been added to this year’s squad, including Anthony McIntosh who played at Moberly Area Community College in ‘16-’17, Jaylen Carter who played at Southeastern Illinois College in ‘13-’14, and Curtis Davison who played at Lansing Community College in ‘15-’16.
Last night’s game also featured notable alumni like former GRCC head coach, David Selmon and former All-American Jeffrey Drake-Todd.
The alumni came out swinging, getting a 12 point lead over the Raiders, but as halftime approached head coach Luke Bronkema’s new squad stepped up the intensity, evaporating the alumni’s lead at the half.
In the second half, the Raiders blew the game wide open knocking down three after three, to put the alumni team away.
The Raiders shot 44 percent from the three point line, along with shooting 53 percent from the field. Returning Sophomore Zachary Pangborn led both teams in scoring with 23 points. Teammate Greg Robinson followed suit, finishing with 16 points and four rebounds. Curtis Davison, Darron Ewing Jr., and Jeremiah Davis all tallied double figures in scoring.
For the alumni team, Eric Chess led the way 18 points off 63 percent shooting from the field. Along with Courtney Hill finishing with 14 points.
After the convincing win, Bronkema feels optimistic about his freshman-dominated squad.
“I feel really good, we have a lot of talented players on our team and I feel like if we can gel later on in the year I think it can be a good year,” Bronkema said.
Last year in his first season as the men’s head coach, Bronkema finished the year with a 22-14 overall record and made one of the best national tournament runs in GRCC men’s basketball history, leading the Raiders to 6th place in the National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament.
Replicating that success won’t be easy, but Bronkema believes it can happen.
“It’s going to be really hard to meet the expectations and top last year, but I think this group has the potential to do it,” Bronkema said. “It’s still really early, but we have a lot talent and it’s just the matter of seeing if their going to gel and just continue to work hard everyday.”
Getting their first taste of live action this season, the players walked away feeling good about what they can potentially accomplish heading into a new season.
“It was nice to get the feel for running being on the court,” Freshman Jeremiah Davis said. “I think we got a good team, and we have talent off the bench, we just got to put in the work.”
For returning sophomore Darron Ewing, leading the younger guys to trust the process will one of the vocal points he plans on stressing this year.
“I feel we’re going to start gelling together really soon,” Ewing said. “We have a lot of potential and we have a lot of young players this year, so we just try to keep our same mindset as we had last year, and try to get back to where we were last year in the tournament.”
With Ewing being a part of last year’s team, which finished in 6th place in the NJCAA tournament, he also feels this year’s team as the talent and capabilities to top last year’s success.
“Absolutely we can,” he said. “It’s all going to come back to us gelling together with each other and keep the mindset positive coming into it. As a freshman, sometimes you be thinking, ‘Am I ready for this game, am I really ready?’ That’s when we have to come in as the older guys and say, ‘Yes, you are ready’ and ‘Let’s do it.’”
The Raiders will now prepare for exhibitions at the Delta Jamboree on Oct.14, Rock Valley Jamboree on Oct. 21, and against Ferris State University on Oct. 28. Their first regular season home game will be on Thurs., Nov. 2 against Aquinas College JV at 7:30 p.m. at the Ford Fieldhouse.