PASADENA, Texas – The accolades keep coming for the San Jacinto College men’s basketball team, which returned to the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Division I Men’s Basketball Championship this season, after a nearly 10 year hiatus.
“It felt good to get back to Hutch,” said third-year Head Coach Scott R. Gernander. “It hurt losing in the first round, and took a little while to get over it, just like any season-ending loss, but when I look back, it was still a very successful season. I was proud of our team and the way it handled adversity throughout the season.”
Last month, the region announced its post-season award winners. Gernander was named the Region XIV Coach of the Year, while five player grabbed all-Region honors, led by first-teamer Willie Mangum (Richmond, Va. / Marshall HS / Western Nebraska Community College), and second-team selection Donte Thomas (Washington, D.C. / Ballou HS / Hagerstown Community College). Both student-athletes also earned all-Region South Zone first- and second-team honors, respectively, and Mangum was named to the NJCAA all-American third team. Joining them on the South Zone team were Honorable Mentions Jevonlean Hedgeman (Pearland / Pearland HS), Naiel Smith (Brooklyn, N.Y. / West Oaks Academy / Texas State University) and Michael Hunter (Houston / Willowridge HS).
“These five guys definitely deserved the recognition from the region,” added Gernander. “They were the backbone of our team. We had different individuals step up each night, and they all had each other’s back the entire season. We know our season ended early, but we also know we did some things on the court that we are excited about.”
Mangum averaged 20.6 points per game this season, a mark that ranked 23rd in the nation. The sophomore guard played and started in all 34 games for San Jacinto College, while shooting 38 percent from the field. He also averaged 3.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.
Thomas, a sophomore guard, was second on the team in scoring at 12.3 points per game. He played in 33 games, shot 49 percent from the field, and grabbed 3.5 rebounds per game.
Sophomore forward Hedgeman averaged 10.1 points per game, a mark that was third on the squad. He played and started in 31 games, grabbing a team-best 7.4 rebounds, and shooting 49 percent from the field. He was also the team’s top free throw shooter at 77 percent.
Smith, a sophomore guard from Brooklyn, N.Y. (West Oaks Academy / Texas State University), shot 53 percent from the field last season, averaging 6.8 points per game. He was also second on the team in assists, with a 4.8 per game mark, and grabbed 4.4 rebounds per game.
Willowridge HS product Hunter averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assist per game, seeing action in 33 games.
When asked about what’s next now that it’s the off-season, Gernander replied, “There isn’t much time to reflect on the season, because we have a lot of work to do this Spring and Summer. We are doing off-season workouts and trying to build a team for next year. In addition, our guys are busy finishing the Spring semester, and our sophomores are getting ready to graduate.”
That focus by the head coach is reflected in the success of his team off the court and in the classroom. As a team, San Jac owns a 3.04 cumulative GPA.
San Jac finished the season ranked 12th in the nation with a 28-6 overall record. The return trip to the NJCAA national tournament was the first since the 2006 season, and the College’s 20th overall appearance. Tryouts for the 2015-2016 season are scheduled for Saturday, June 13, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., at Anders Gymnasium on the San Jacinto College Central Campus.
About San Jacinto College
Surrounded by monuments of history, industries and maritime enterprises of today, and the space age of tomorrow, San Jacinto College has been serving the citizens of East Harris County, Texas, for more than 50 years. As an Achieving the Dream Leader College, San Jacinto College is committed to the goals and aspirations of a diverse population of approximately 30,000 credit students. The College offers 186 degrees and certificates, with 46 technical programs and a university transfer division. Students benefit from a support system that maps out a pathway for success, and job training programs that are renowned for meeting the needs of growing industries in the region. San Jacinto College graduates contribute nearly $690 million each year to the Texas workforce.