WYE MILLS - Many Chesapeake College men’s basketball fans interpreted the Skipjacks’ 2020 record of 18-9 – its best mark in seven years – as a sign that their return to glory would not be far behind.
Meaning now – this season.
Chesapeake has amassed a sparkling 17-1 record, and the National Junior College Athletic Association ranks the Skipjacks No. 5 in the country in the men’s basketball Division II poll.
“I knew we would be good, but I didn’t know if we would be this good,” Chesapeake coach Andrew Sachs said. “It’s about taking the program to a level it’s never been before. We want to be a consistent winner and that’s what we are really trying to do.”
It’s more than Chesapeake climbing up the poll that keeps them motivated. The team has a legitimate shot to surpass the school record for wins in a season (21 set in 2009).
Indeed. The Skipjacks – whose only loss (4 points) came to Division I, nationally-ranked Division I Harcum College of Pennsylvania are riding a 13-game winning streak and blowing out a lot of opponents along the way. They’re outscoring foes by an average of nearly 20 points per game.
“At the beginning of the year, we drilled the school record into the player’s minds,” Chesapeake assistant coach Delonte Joyce explained. “Our guys are really trying to take up that challenge.
“Once we got ranked, our guys kept seeing we were climbing the polls, the guys are buying in and know we can continue winning,” he added.
Chesapeake is putting together a memorable year for several reasons: stellar guard play, balanced scoring, tenacious defense and growing confidence.
The Skipjacks start four guards -- freshmen JayShaun Freeman and DJ Earl, sophomores Craig Turner and Mahzi Thames. All four players are scoring in double digits.
“If you look at the best teams in the years that I've been a coach, those teams have had four or five guys scoring in double figures,” said Sachs, who has coached for 31 years in college as an assistant and head coach. “We have guards that can handle and shoot the basketball. We are a good three-point shooting team. They are tough and dependable. That helps us in the league because it’s guard-heavy.”
The 6-foot-2 Thames could be the team’s valuable player. He leads Chesapeake in points (17.4), assists (4.6) and steals (2.2). He’s had 32- and 34- point games.
Freeman gives the Skipjacks a nice one-two scoring punch.
He’s averaging 17.2 points.
“The Covid year we sat out last year, he got so much better,” Sachs recalls. “He really has embraced being a college player. He is the first guy in the gym and the last to leave. He’s been such a pleasure to coach.”
Early is contributing 14.9 points per game and Turner leads the team in three-point shooting percentage (39.6, 12.2 scoring average).
“Craig has a great stroke and he is one of the best shooters in the league,” Sachs said.
Sophomore 6-foot-6 forward Jabraun Shingler (10.4 points, 7.3 rebounds) rounds out the starting lineup and his playing can’t be overlooked. He is scoring in double figures and leads the team in rebounds.
“He can score inside and outside,” Sachs said. “He rebounds well and defensively, he is solid. He does a lot of good things for us.”
Freshman guard Matty Ryan, sophomore guard Jalen Freeman and freshman Andre Brantley work as the top reserves.