By Ricky Guandique, Sept. 7, 2021
It has been 18 months since the CPP men’s basketball team last stepped onto the court as their past two seasons were cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from the difficulties brought about by the transition back to in-person activity, plenty of changes have taken place within the men’s basketball team specifically, including the addition of seven new players to the team roster.
Only six student-athletes that are currently on the final roster for the 2021-2022 season were with the team for their final game against UC San Diego in the 2020 California Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament championship game, meaning the team is now mainly comprised of new players.
Those returning include senior guards BJ Standley, Phoenix Shackelford, and Tavion Henderson, as well as freshman guards Chris Gayles Jr. and Will Chavarin, and junior forward Finn Eckhardt.
Despite the adjustment in the team dynamic, men’s basketball Head Coach Greg Kamansky is prepared to continue pushing for a successful season.
“We have three guys in our program that have played a basketball game for us, so we have a lot of catching up to do,” said Kamansky. “We have nine freshman guys coming in, but it’s a good challenge for all of us to take on.”
The returning players on the team shared a similar perspective toward the new season.
“The makeup of our team is very different,” said Shackelford. “We have a bunch of new guys coming in and they’re going to have to learn our system and get in game shape for this level. We just have to take everything day by day.”
Eckhardt is expected to miss the rest of the season due to injury, according to Kamansky. However, as he enters his 22nd season as head coach of the team, Kamansky remains optimistic about the team’s return to the court.
“The year off wasn’t the worst thing in the world,” said Kamansky. “You control what you can, and I’m very happy with our recruiting class.”
As the veterans of the team, Standley, Shackelford and Henderson are expected to lead the team throughout the season.
Returning guard Will Chavarin also has high expectations for his own performance due to the absence of experienced players on the 2021-2022 team.
“My effort this year should be at a senior or junior level,” said Chavarin. “I had to redshirt my first year and am now in my third year at CPP. I think it’s important to talk to the younger guys and give them as much advice as possible and let them know that they just need to work hard with us.”
Chavarin was benched during the 2019-2020 season in order to extend his eligiblity to play.
With an almost completely new roster, Kamansky expects everyone to see the floor this season.
This includes student-athlete transfer Tay-Aubry Thomas and incoming freshman players Christopher Mitchell, Daryl Sledge Jr., Jordan Carpenter, Brase Dottin, Jaden Winfield, Caleb Nelson and Dane Erikstrup.
“They know it’s going to be challenging getting back in shape and accustomed to game speed,” said Kamansky.
Despite the restrictions and guidelines still in place for contact sports, returning players have been doing what they can to be prepared for the challenges of playing competitively in the midst of the pandemic.
“Being in quarantine you have to try and figure out how to work out by yourself,” said Chavarin. “They told me my role was going to be a lot bigger than it was two years ago and they emphasized effort to me.”
According to Shackelford, players have engaged in team bonding activities. He sees this as a good time to talk to the new recruits, help ease them into the life of a collegiate student-athlete and spend some leisure time with them outside of class and practice.
“This is my last season, so I just want to have fun and enjoy it,” said Shackelford. “I don’t want to get caught up in the personal accolades, but just be present every day and every game.”
The men’s basketball team is set to tip-off its season against Seattle Pacific Nov. 12 in the Conference Crossover Challenge at Kellogg Arena.
To view the full men’s basketball game schedule for the upcoming season, visit the CPP Athletics website.
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