There’s not much room for the Chipola men’s basketball team to improve from last season’s second-place finish in the NJCAA national tournament.
While it’s common for most junior college programs to rebuild each year, Chipola is reloading again with talent.
The Indians lost the national player of the year, JaMarcus Ellis, and big-bodied low-post player DeAndre Thomas to Indiana University, Johnnie Harris to New Mexico, swingman Victor Dubovitsky most likely to professional ball overseas, Bay product Michael Vogler to Troy and point guard Ed Berrios to University of Alabama at Birmingham.
So is coach Greg Heiar looking to cash in on his success and move up while the getting is good? To the contrary. Heiar said that judging from summer workouts, next year’s team will be even better.
“So far, the workouts are going really well with probably the best group A to Z,” he said. “It’s the best group of guys I’ve had at Chipola. They’re going to class early, going to study hall early, going to practice early.”
Heiar believes that he’s replaced all the Division I talent the Indians lost. Four of his eight recruits for next season either signed with or have played in a Division I program.
Alvin Malik transferred to Chipola from the University of Texas at El Paso because of academic issues. At UTEP, he started 21 games, averaged 24.4 minutes and eight points per game. Joey Cameron started 11 games at Auburn his freshman year and then transferred to Seton Hall, then left that program because of family reasons. Gary Flowers, who Heiar said “has a little Kevin Durant in him,” transferred from Oklahoma State where he didn’t play last season. Flowers, Heiar said, is 6-foot-9 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan.
Seven-foot Jon Kreft, a former FSU recruit, didn’t play last season after being arrested for possession of cocaine and other drug-related charges in 2006 according to Rivals.com. Heiar said Kreft is “doing really good here,” and has been through drug court and is participating in community service.
The egos that accompany top-level players haven’t been an issue thus far, Heiar said. He said his sophomores, and some former players including Berrios, have focused the newcomers on the goal of winning a national championship.
The Indians came within 19 points of doing so this past season, losing 94-75 to Midland (Texas) College in March. Heiar said fatigue was one of the main reasons Chipola fell short. During summer workouts, when coaches are only allowed four hours per week per player with a maximum of four players per practice, Heiar said his staff has stressed what it will take to win that final game.
“We’re constantly talking about player development,” Heiar said. “That’s the thing at Chipola, our player development. Our assistant coaches do a great job. Our players really buy into that. It’s all about sacrifice and having the players buy into that.”
When Heiar isn’t preaching to this team, he’s maximizing his summer practices.
The three-time Panhandle Conference coach of the year said the first 15 minutes of practice are spent on ballhandling drills with 50 cones spread out on the court.
Then it’s on to passing drills, and afterward offensive skills, which Heiar said is what the players want to practice during the summer.
“We don’t do anything defensively until school starts,” Heiar said. “I just don’t think, since they’re here in the summer — defense is obviously the most important — but during the summer the kids aren’t bought into developing their defense.”
Heiar spends a significant amount of practice working with his players on spacing, moving without the ball and how to read ball screens.
“That’s really what we stress,” Heiar said.
Heiar said his floor leader last year has become a mentor to his newcomers.
“Ed Berrios is still here (and) he’s done a great job of talking to those guys about what’s important in the program,” Heiar said. “He’s done a really good job of stressing to these kids if you work hard and be where you’re supposed to be on time, if you work hard a lot of good things will happen for you.”