After winning a conference title last year, the Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball team is back for another run at a national title.
That title run starts tonight as 10th ranked GRCC goes on the road to face No. 2 ranked Mott Community College in Flint at 7:30 p.m.
“We are flattered by the ranking, but we haven’t made any baskets that count yet,” GRCC Head Coach T.J. Carnegie said.
A new season means a new start and another chance for the Raiders to reach their goals.
“I’m excited,” Carnegie said. “We have a good group of guys, and they have been working hard. I’m excited to go through this season with them, and see them come together and grow.”
The Raiders return six players from a team that finished 21-10 and earned a berth in the National Junior College Athletic Association tournament.
“I expect all of the returning players to have break-out seasons,” Carnegie said. “I thought they had good years last year, and this is their second time going through it. I expect them to pick up where they left off last year. “
Sophomore returning starters Miles Robinson and Daryl White look to lead the Raiders as they set out to make a return to the national tournament.
“I’m excited for this season, I can’t wait to play,” Robinson said. “I think I have improved. In the off-season, I think I did everything I could to help the team win.”
White returns as a team leader, and one of the team’s leading scorers from a year ago.
“I think I will be able to help the team with my leadership and my defensive skills,” he said. “I don’t think about individual stats, I just want to win.”
Sophomore forward Deontae Hudson returns as the team’s leading scorer. Hudson was named All-Conference second team, and was also named MVP of the conference tournament last season.
After a season where the Raiders only suited up eight players, GRCC has gone out and recruited players from across the state, as well as the country.
“We have some good newcomers that will step right in and hit the ground running,” Carnegie said. “
Among those recruits are C.J. Mackey from Tapron, FL, Cameron Burhannon of Indianapolis, IN and Rahmil Almond, who is from Baton Rouge, LA.
“I’ve never been to Michigan before,” said Mackey, who is a 6-foot-6 freshman forward. “I just wanted to come and try something new, something different. “
Carnegie said that the recruiting process wasn’t difficult due to the Raiders past success.
“When you have a good product that you’re offering, it makes it easier,” he said. “We have a long history of winning and being successful, and people want to go to places like that.”
The Raiders will dress 16 players this year, and Carnegie thinks that will be a positive for the team.
“Our depth will be a strength,” he said. “We have a lot of players that can play different positions, and we can put a lot of different looks out there.”
Another new addition for the Raiders will be Courtney Hill of Muskegon. Hill is a transfer from Kalamazoo Community College, who sat out last season, but expects to have a good season.
“I’m real excited for this year,” Hill said. “I came here because it was a good school, and a winning program. I have prepared for this day, and I am ready.”
Carnegie thinks newcomers Hill and Mackey will play a role in the team’s success.
“I expect big things from them,” he said. “I think there are a lot people that can contribute to what we are trying to do, and time will tell how good we can be.”
If the Raiders can gel as a team, Carnegie believes they can go as far as they want.
“It’s hard to make chemistry,” he said. “The guys will have to genuinely get along and trust each other, and I think we have a good group of guys.”
White believes that chemistry will not be a concern for the Raiders this season.
“We all are friends on and off the court, so it won’t be a problem,” White said. “We should be a lot better this year. We have to play every game like it’s our last, so we can get back to where we were at.”
The goals are set, the team is prepared, and all the Raiders have to do now is go out and play.
“I think the players understand what we are working towards every day,” Carnegie said. “We have a lot of different things we can accomplish. If we play together as a team, the winning will take care of itself.”