Djoukeng experiences successful return to Shore
Ex-Skipjack hits game-winner for Nicholls State at UMES
Cyril Djoukeng certainly packed a lot of memories into one weekend.
The former Chesapeake College guard’s jumper as time expired Friday afternoon lifted his Nicholls State University men’s basketball team to a 71-69 win over host University of Maryland Eastern Shore. Djoukeng’s jumper, which gave the Colonels their first road win in over two years, came just six seconds after UMES’ Troy Jackson tied the game with a three-pointer.
Djoukeng finished the weekend playing against the University of Maryland in a regionally televised game at the Comcast Center in College Park, just miles from where Djoukeng played his high school basketball at Montgomery Blair High. The No. 23 Terps beat Nicholls State, 88-56, but both weekend games illustrated why Djoukeng always wanted to play at the Division I level.
"I’ve been able to grow as a person and as a player," said Djoukeng Tuesday morning in a telephone interview. "I get to play against great schools and great players. Playing Division I basketball has been an unbelievable experience."
It would be hard to top Friday night’s experience at UMES. Jackson’s three-pointer with six seconds remaining created a 69-69 tie, but Djoukeng took the inbounds pass and raced down court, sinking a 12-footer right before the buzzer to win the game.
Nicholls State head coach J.P. Piper said he feels "very comfortable" putting the ball in Djoukeng’s hands at the end of a game.
"We kind of have an understanding that if the other team scores late, instead of taking a timeout we want to get it down court before the other team sets up its defense," Piper said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "As soon as they (UMES) scored, Cyril did a great job pushing the ball upcourt. He just took it and went, pulled up and knocked down the shot."
"I just tried to take it as deep as I could and do something with it," said Djoukeng, who finished the game with nine points, five rebounds, and four assists.
Djoukeng said the ride past Chesapeake College on the way to Princess Anne for Friday’s game "brought back a lot of memories." A number of Djoukeng’s family members also made the trek to UMES, and Djoukeng said it "was great having my family there for that game."
Djoukeng then started Sunday’s game against the Terps. He played 16 minutes, scoring two points as his outmatched Colonels played the fifth game of a grueling, seven-game road trip to open the season.
The Colonels began the season with losses at Indiana, Louisiana State, and Penn State by an average of 39 points before notching the win at UMES. They have road games at North Texas and Mississippi before hosting Kentucky Christian on December 17th.
Despite the rough start, Djoukeng feels the outlook for this year’s team is much better than last season, when the Colonels went 1-15 in the Southland Conference and 6-21 overall.
Last season started with head coach Ray Blanton the man who recruited Djoukeng resigning during the preseason and being replaced by Piper, who had been an assistant coach with the team. Djoukeng said the team "also lost a couple of big men to academic ineligibility, making us a very guard-oriented team" and causing regular match-up challenges.
"It was a difficult transition at times, but we learned from those experiences," said Djoukeng, who averaged 4.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.5 assists last season while playing all 27 games and making six starts. He finished second on the team in free-throw percentage (.809) and third in three-point shooting (.359).
Djoukeng who is majoring in psychology with a minor in criminal justice said he feels this year’s team has the potential to be very competitive.
"This year we have a very positive outlook," said Djoukeng, who is the only senior on the squad. "We know we’re a young team (nine freshmen) and we’re going to have a lot of ups and downs, but we think we can have a good season."
Piper is pleased to have Djoukeng around to provide some senior leadership.
"We’ve been thrilled with Cyril," Piper said. "I think he’s one of the hardest-working kids I’ve ever coached. He has a 4.0 grade-point-average and he is always in the gym working on his game. He gets better each day.
"He’s also our team captain, which is something that’s voted on by the players," added Piper. "That says a lot about him. He’s been a real pleasure to coach."
Djoukeng left a lasting impression at Chesapeake College, earning All-American honors for his play on the court and Academic All-American accolades for his perfect 4.0 quality-point average in the classroom.
The Skipjacks went 41-19 in Djoukeng’s two seasons, including a pair of state tournament semifinal berths. Djoukeng was a big part of that success, earning first-team all-state and all-region honors both his freshman and sophomore seasons.
"I really enjoyed my time at Chesapeake," said Djoukeng. "It was a wonderful experience."
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