(This story appeared in the April 10th issue of The Stall, the student run newspaper of Brookdale Community College.)
The men’s basketball team finished third place in the NJCAA National Championship, which took place from March 13-15th at Paul Gerry Fieldhouse in Loch Sheldrake, N.Y. The Blues lost to Rock Valley College (Illinois) in the semifinals, the team that went onto win the National Championship, by a score of 80-59. The Blues then bounced back to win the third place game against Eastfield College (Texas) 82-74. Head coach Paul Cisek discussed he team’s trip to the national tournament, which was the team’s third consecutive trip there.
“We had a great year, we finished 31-2. This group of sophomores went 61-3 in their two years which is tremendous. Going into the tournament, we knew that from scouting the first team that we played, we were better than them. We beat Lincoln College of New England (Mass.) and played real well. Going into the Rock Valley game, I had scouted them on tv and on some video. They had every piece to the puzzle and we knew that we were going to have to play exceptional to beat them. They had a lot of good players and they came out and held us down. We were forced to play zone which we hadn’t done all year. The third game against Eastfield we were down 17 at halftime and came back to win by 10. That was a great climax to the end of the year and to finish third in the country is a great honor.”
Coach Cisek just finished his 21st year as head coach of the team. He has taken the Blues to three consecutive trips to the National Tournament, winning it last season.
“I think I realized last year when we won the national title that we have had a lot of great players and teams over the years that did not reach that point. Going into my 22nd year now, the way that I’ve always looked at it is the moment you don’t want to go to practice or on road trips is when you think about maybe it’s time to stop coaching and I haven’t felt that yet. I’m looking forward to the future, we have to rebuild because we’re losing six really good sophomores.”
Included in that group of sophomores is guard Joe Nickerson, who missed the first half of the season with an injury. Nickerson returned to action for the stretch run as well as the tournaments, and he really carried the team down the stretch.
“We didn’t have Joe for the first half of the year but when he came back, he took control and had a great year. He was the player of the year and he’s being heavily recruited right now. Joe was a great leader from the freshman. It’s hard for freshman because they come from all different programs and have different ideals to how it should be, so it takes a year to kind of mold them. Joe was great at helping them adapt to our program. He was a key player for us he was player of the year, and he had a great run at nationals.”
This year’s group of freshman got a lot of playing time, and Cisek feels that can be beneficial as they transition to sophomores next season.
“Our freshman this year got a lot of good experience this year, including a taste of the Nationals against some really high-quality programs. Jaimik Moore had a great year as a freshman. He was MVP of the region tournament and also made first-team at nationals. Rahsann Johnson was player of the week a couple times for us. Tevon Bennett will more than likely be our point guard. Our two guard (shooting guard) is Mason Jones who had some real big games for us. Jaleel Chain and James Jenkins also stepped up, so we have about six really solid guys coming back.”
Cisek has an optimistic view on next season, knowing that he has a lot of talented players returning in the fall, but also knowing there is work to do on the recruiting side.
“I’m optimistic right now. I have a great coaching staff, I have five assistants that love the game of basketball, and they put their heart and soul into it. They are always looking for players for us; they know what we like to coach. There are a few things that we need to do we need some pieces, we need some size, we need a couple of shooters. As far as recruiting goes we have to go into what I call the ‘super six,’ try to find five position players and then find that one great athlete. Unfortunately everyone else is doing the same so it’ll be a trying time but we have until September until we get there so we’ll see how it goes. The bottom line for us at this level without scholarships and dormitories, it makes it more difficult so we have to kind of ‘beat the pavement’ as I always call it harder than anyone else. Hopefully we turn over a couple of rocks and find a couple of pearls.”