Men’s team prepares for new season

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Practices for the Skyline College’s men’s basketball team are underway now, in preparation for their upcoming season.

Although the official first practice for the team was Oct. 1, 2015, Monday’s practice was part of their training for the first game of the season against College of Alameda, on Nov. 4, 2015. They had two non-traditional scrimmages against San Joaquin Delta College and Napa Valley College in September.

The men’s basketball team is led by Head Coach Justin Piergrossi, who is going into his twelfth season at Skyline.

Past experiences have paid off, and a lot of young men that have gone through the basketball program have grown into responsible young adults with a positive contribution to the community, according to Piergrossi.

There are 18 guys in the program this year with 14 new players on the team, but only some actually get to play this season.

“We’re excited,” Piergrossi said in response to how he felt about the upcoming season. “We have a pretty hard-working group of guys. They are still improving and we still have some work to do, but they put in a lot of time and effort thus far and their improvement on the floor shows.”

For returning sophomore Tavita Jimenez, who is a kinesiology major, he hopes that the team will have a good season. Last season, he was the shooting guard, and he will take on the role again this season along with being the team’s main scorer. They won a lot of games at the beginning, but they started to plummet towards the end of the season.

Jimenez said he believes in his team and hopes to make it to the state championships.

“With my team, I definitely want to achieve coming in first,” Jimenez said.

As far as their performance on the court, Jimenez says that they are a lot faster this year, and everyone seems to be on the same page with each other. As a returning player, he hopes to lead by example and be a good communicator with his teammates.

Piergrossi indicated that the team has to play with more discipline on the floor in order to win games, and believes that the team will be competitive when they play. Taking care of the ball is where they could use some work, and valuing their possessions can be improved more as they practice.

Offensively, they’re going to be a hard team to guard, but that all depends on if they start turning over the ball in games, which hopefully does not happen.

For new players like Robert Noland, an incoming freshman from Mills High School in Millbrae, the goals he has for his team are to win the league and to go into the playoffs. His goals for himself include getting better.

“Getting recruited was a good feeling,“ Noland said.

His role on the team is the point guard, the person who generally directs the team’s offense. He hopes to have a good season, and says that the team can improve on their focus and listen to their coach in order to win games.

Piergrossi’s advice to incoming freshmen on the team includes being “coachable,” as well as making adjustments to anything they might have done while playing high school basketball, which is different from playing college basketball. The competition is a lot bigger and faster, so some things that might have worked for them in high school may not work for them now.

Focusing on fundamentals of basketball is vital for the incoming freshmen. During their two hour practice time, they focus on conditioning, mental and physical toughness, and understanding the different drills. The team’s practices consist of various drills with few breaks in between, and then they’re back on the court. They practice foot work, positioning, understanding of offensive and defensive concepts, and transitioning in order to prepare for future games.

These drills and strategies are never the same every season. The strategies they use are based on their personnel, which changes every year, and they are running a new offense this year, which involves more spacing and ball movement.

All these practices will ultimately help them for future success in games, including making it to the state tournament, which would lead to the state championships. If the Skyline’s men’s basketball team makes it to the state championships and wins this season, it will be their first win in 34 years, with the last win going back to 1981-1982.

The basketball team put in a lot of work at their practice. Under the leadership of Piergrossi, these guys look like they have the potential to get there.

“I really love what I do here,” Piergrossi said. “I love being around the guys and [teaching] them and hopefully lead to future success for them.”