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Men's Basketball

Mappas likes Chesapeake College’s potential
Veteran coach hopes Skipjacks’ work ethic catches up to their talent level

WYE MILLS – In recent history, 2002 through 2004 represent the Golden Years for Chesapeake College men’s basketball. Those two teams, led by all-American Cyril Djoukeng, compiled a 41-19 record and reached the state tournament semifinals each season.

On at least one level, Chesapeake head coach John Mappas sees some similarities between this year’s squad and those highly successful teams.

"Talent-wise, this is one of our better teams – probably on a level with those Cyril-led teams," said Mappas, whose squad opened the season this weekend in the high-powered Coca-Cola Classic at Louisburg (N.C.) College.

One area Mappas wishes this year’s squad resembled the Djoukeng-led teams is in work ethic.

"We need to start working harder," said Mappas Thursday as the Skipjacks prepared for the seven-hour bus ride to Louisburg. "We’ve got a lot of talent and potential, but we’re not exactly the hardest-working team I’ve ever coach."

Last year’s Skipjacks weren’t the most talented team Mappas ever coached, but the 14-15 squad peaked in time to reach the NJCAA Region XX Division I title game. Four players return from that team, which nearly stole the region title with a late-game comeback that just fell short in a 74-71 loss to heavily favored Allegany College of Maryland.

Three returners – 5-foot-9 guards Preston Faulk (McDonough High/Waldorf) and Terrance Wright (Poly Tech/Dover, DE), and 6-1 swingman Davon Heath (Dover High/Dover, DE) – were slated to start in Friday night’s opener against Central Carolina. Sophomore forward Andrew Lee, a 6-6 transfer from Morgan State University, and freshman point guard Aubin Reeves (Thomas Stone High/Waldorf) round out the starting lineup.

Mappas said Lee – whose father played for Mappas at La Plata High and brother played for him at Chesapeake – is "probably our most talented player and currently our biggest player." Lee and Heath, who developed into an accomplished rebounder during his freshman season, will have to hit the boards hard in Mappas’ guard-dominated lineup.

Mappas expects a lot from last year’s returners, starting with the well-rounded Faulk.

"Preston’s a good shooter and a tough kid who really works hard defensively," said Mappas, whose team was scheduled to play its second game in the Coca Cola Classic against host Louisburg Saturday afternoon. "Terrance is our best defensive player and Davon gives us a lot of athleticism."

The fourth returner – 6-3 sophomore forward Burton Moody (Southern Maryland Christian Academy/Waldorf) – is just back from surgery to correct a broken finger, but should see an expanded role after spotty playing time as a freshman.

"Burton’s improved his play and has also taken on some leadership roles," said Mappas.

Mappas hopes Reeves can provide some of the same strengths the heady Djoukeng brought to the point guard position from 2002 to 2004.

"Aubin has exhibited a lot of toughness, intelligence and court awareness," said Mappas.

Ty Newman, a 6-3 freshman guard from Easton High, "is one of our top two or three shooters, but needs to work on the other aspects of the game," said Mappas, while reserve freshman point guard John Dawson (North Caroline High) "will see good minutes off the bench because he does a lot well offensively."

Freshman guard Jayvon Mosley (Colonel Richardson High) and 6-3 freshman forward Brent Beck (North Caroline High) provide solid shooting off the bench, while Mappas called 6-4 freshman forward Barry Bratten (Delmar High) a coachable player "who has to learn what we’re doing defensively, but will play a big role for us inside."

The team’s tallest player, 6-6 Godwin Nwakudo (Cambridge-SD High), is also the Skipjacks’ only true center. Nwakudo, however, is recovering from a leg injury. Another 6-6 newcomer, Gary McHugh, is ineligible for the first semester but could make a major impact in January.

Chesapeake played well in preseason scrimmages against CCBC-Catonsville and Frederick Community College, but Mappas said the preseason also proved "we really have to work harder defensively." He said preparing the team for this season has been made easier with Damon Nichols and Ryan Albright joining the coaching staff as assistants.

Mappas said he hasn’t spent a lot of time worrying about the Skipjacks’ league and regional opponents, preferring to work on his own team’s preparations.

"You can pretty well guess who’s going to be in contention," said Mappas. "In the state, Cecil (2006 national champions) will be right up there with the best and Prince George’s will probably be very strong. In our region, Allegany is always good and Hagerstown should be much improved now that Terry Truax (former Towson University head coach) is the coach."

The Skipjacks open the season with consecutive tournaments, following this weekend’s trip to North Carolina with a much shorter drive to Howard Community College to participate in the Dragon Invitational. Chesapeake plays Friday at 5 p.m. against Tidewater Community College and takes on Monroe (N.Y.) Community College Saturday at 1 p.m.

The Skipjacks open their league season on November 16th with a 7 p.m. home game against Prince George’s Community College, which knocked Chesapeake out of last year’s state tournament. Chesapeake, which has only 10 home games on its 26-game schedule, plays 13 of its first 17 games away from home.

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