Last season, Grays Harbor College head coach Alonzo Cole began building a foundation with Choker men’s basketball. This season, the construction continues with a roster that includes just two returners from the last campaign.
“Last year, I got the job late so with recruiting, most of the best ball players around the country were gone by the time I got the job,” Cole said. “I just had to go out and put together a team and I did the best that I could do at that time. We got a couple diamonds out of the rough last year, something we could build around.”
Cole found jewels in sophomores Malik Redmond and Jacob Rainey, who both averaged around 15 points a game last season. In the recruiting process during the off season, Cole was able to pluck talent from North Carolina, Alaska, Utah, Michigan, Arkansas, Nevada, Montana and Washington to create a lineup he believes will be able to compete for a spot in the NWAC playoffs.
“I just look for guys that are coachable, who really want to play basketball and have a pretty good basketball IQ,” Cole said. “I just like this team. I like the chemistry. I like the togetherness.”
The Chokers will open the season on campus for the first time in recent memory. GHC will host Edmonds College at 4 p.m. on Saturday and cap off the weekend with a battle against Shoreline at 4 p.m. on Sunday.
A familiar name to basketball fans around Grays Harbor will crack into the starting lineup this weekend for the Chokers as Tiki Hickle, who played high school basketball at Elma before finishing his prep career at Rochester, will start at a post position.
Redmond and John Robinson will most likely start as wing players with Redmond also working his way into the paint. Redmond averaged 15 points and 5 rebounds for GHC last season, while Robinson played for the Chokers during the 2014-15 season and averaged 8.6 points over five games.
Rainey will bring experience to the floor as the shooting guard to start the season. The 6-foot guard averaged 15.6 points a game last season and will act as a captain along with Redmond.
The point guard position features the lone battle going in the first weekend of the season with Jamari Thomas and Keeandre Rowland fighting for playing time. Cole said he sees the battle as a toss up and is excited to have a strong sixth man no matter who wins the spot.
The injury bug has already bitten the Chokers early in the season. Cole said three players who will be starters once they become healthy are unavailable to start the season. Brandon Hayes from Raleigh, North Carolina, a player who Cole said may be the most talented on his roster, is struggling with an Achilles injury.
In addition to Hayes, the Chokers two tallest players, 6-foot-6 Jared Cordell Jackson and 6-foot-6 Trais Hoisington, are both ill. Cole said he expects Jackson, who medically redshirted last season, and Hoisington to both overtake Hickle for starting jobs.
Even with his two tallest players back in the lineup, Cole said he expects to play an uptempo style of basketball to make up for the lack of size on his roster.
“I like the way we run the basketball,” Cole said. “We realize that for us to have a chance, we have to be a running team. We have to run and hit quick. We have not just a fastbreak offense, but this year we have a fastbreak defense that gets back quick. I’m more concerned with toughness (than height). If you guys are tough and you play smart, we can win. If you guys run and get in tip top condition, we can win.”
Cole, who hadn’t been a head coach at any level of basketball prior to last season, said he has learned a lot through his first 12 months as the Chokers head coach. From how to have more patience with his players to how to scout the system of an opposing coach, Cole hopes his growth shows through his team.
“I just want to go out, game by game, play hard and be competitive and put a good product on the floor,” Cole said.