As the 2011-12 basketball season begins, spectators await to see what TJC’s basketball teams have to offer. After months of training, both teams have come prepared not only to maintain the reputation that already precedes them, but also to exceed everyone’s expectations for them this season.
While most athletic teams have a “star” player that stands out from the others, Mike Marquis, men’s head basketball coach, thinks the contrary when it comes to his team.
“In our system, it’s kind of unique (in a sense) that you better look out for all of them. We have Johnson (6-5,W) that gets a little more attention because he’s a local athlete but there’s none of our 12 players that we don’t think of as a valuable commodity,” said Marquis.
Trenia Jones, women’s head basketball coach, did however, have a few players in mind that the public should look out for.
“Markisha Hawkins (5-8,G). She’s All-American player, All-Conference and All-Region. She had the option to leave TJC and play for a D-I school after year one but chose to come back. Cecilia Akoye is a 6-1 kid that can jump out of the gym and plays post. Ashley Benjamin (5-9,fwd), who is just a workhorse and will out work anyone on the floor. Shawnee Johnson (5-7), a left handed point guard is so verbal, and I think is capable of taking the role of being a leader in the team,” said Jones.
Both teams have several returning players this season. Marquis believes that sophomores shouldn’t feel obligated to take on more responsibility than already given to them and obligates the coaching staff to take on the leadership role.
“There’s a lot of ways to lead. You can lead vocally and by example. We haven’t really pushed them to lead. We ask them to do their jobs…they’re all young at the junior college level. We haven’t really asked them to do anything that they’re not capable of,” said Marquis.
Jones on the other hand, feels that the women’s basketball team would benefit from upperclassmen leadership.
“They’re learning their leadership role. We lost a star point guard that was a great leader in work ethics and verbally, and nobody has come in to take that leadership spot,” said Jones. “We’re waiting for that one player to say, ‘I’m going to take the team on my shoulder and I’m going to lead them in the right direction.'”
When it comes to how freshman are adjusting to competing in the college level, both coaches agreed that athletes are meeting their expectations.
“It’s quite interesting with 10 freshmen. For some of them, the transition has been easy and they’re competitive everyday and for some it’s been more difficult, but they’re improving everyday. It’s like a roller coaster. There are some slow parts, some fast parts and some fun parts. Overall, they have done well,” said Marquis.
After being eliminated at the Region XIV Tournament last season, coaches are confident that both teams have enough talent to ensure a successful season.
“It’s going to be game by game. We’ve got one of the best conferences, both men and women. You have to come to play. We have a history in Tyler that when a team beats us, its almost like if had they won a national title. It’s tradition. For some teams, that’s as close as they’ll get to winning a national title,” said Jones.
The men’s team has already begun showing improved skills by defeating Southwestern Christian College, a team they lost to last season.
“We’re probably one of the youngest out of the 14 schools, with the most freshman…it’ll come down to how we play together and how close games go. In our league, the best teams win the games decided by two possessions. If we win those, we could have a great year,” said Marquis.
Being able to work as a team is something Marquis feels is a major asset in order to have a successful season.
“Everyone would love to be the shining star. One of the quotes we stand by is ‘Are you willing to be happy for a teammate’s success?’ It’s actually posted in our locker room,” said Marquis “Once we get that with our talent, we could really be something special. It’s a work in progress.”