By Pierson VanGorp
The Grand Rapids Community College men’s basketball program faced countless instances of adversity in their 2021 season, but with the new season on the horizon and a new conference, the Raiders look to bounce back and improve on their previous record.
Although GRCC finished the 2021 season 10-19, their record did not display how close they were to having more success. The team’s first seven games were all decided by less than 10 points, where the Raiders finished 4-3 with multiple overtime games in that span. This would be a common occurrence for the team, as they lost a total of 11 games by less than 10 or in overtime. Head coach Joe Fox believes these close games will turn into wins this year.
“We lost over five overtime games last season which is more overtime games than I’ve seen in my coaching career,” Fox said. “We competed at a high level last year but our biggest issue was depth. This year, the team’s depth is much better which means we have a good amount of quality players.”
As soon as the offseason hit, many players were frustrated with the previous season and took no time getting back to work. Players would organize open gyms along with team lifting sessions. Coach Fox also wanted his team to be in the best shape possible so they did consistent conditioning sessions throughout the off-season and preseason.
“The off-season and preseason have been great up to this point. Since the preseason started on Oct. 1, we have had four scrimmages and have put an emphasis on conditioning so the team is ready to go before the first game.”
The team returns nine players and looks to become a more connected group compared to last season. One of those returners, sophomore Herman Brown, has been away from basketball for two years due to work. He looks to make an immediate impact alongside Division I JUCO transfer Chris Coleman. The Raiders bring in seven freshmen alongside the addition of Coleman. With these new teammates along with the nine returning players, the basketball team has seen a highly anticipated culture change.
“I would say the biggest culture difference would be the way we approach our mindset. We have more of a winning mentality across the board and are focused on something bigger than ourselves,” sophomore Brockton Kohler said. “We have meetings to talk about mental health and focusing on staying in a neutral state while competing.”
As for the season, the Raiders have a new schedule this year. They move to the MCCAA Northern Conference where they will play a few familiar foes along with some new ones.
“There are three new teams joining, two of those teams haven’t had a basketball program in a few years and the third is a team we’ve never played,” Fox said. “With the conference change, we will miss the rivalry with Kalamazoo Valley but are fortunate to continue the rivalry with Muskegon Community College. We also will have to travel more with the new conference.”
The Raiders first matchup is against the Olivet College JV team on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the Ford Fieldhouse. With the newly added depth to the roster, and the minor culture change within the team, GRCC looks to improve on their previous season while taking it one game at a time.
“I’m excited for the first game, then the one after that. I try not to look too far down the road,” Kohler said. “Like coach Fox says, ‘be where your feet are.’”