The Glendale College men's basketball team begins a new cycle this season.
Gone is the sophomore nucleus that helped the Vaqueros reach the final of the Southern California regional playoffs last season, where they lost in overtime to eventual state champion Rancho Santiago.
Guards Vigen Serop and Bruce Heicke are now at UC Davis. Forwards Dave Swanson and Justin Lord are at Cal State Northridge and Westmont, respectively. Post player Gary Fowler, meanwhile, is awaiting a transfer to either San Jose State or Cal State Fullerton.
That leaves Coach Brian Beauchemin with a team that consists of nine freshmen and three sophomores, none of whom have experience as starters at the JC level.
"We're at the same point we were two years ago with last year's team when they were all freshmen," said Beauchemin, who is beginning his 12th season with the Vaqueros. "Hopefully, this group can develop the same way."
Glendale, which lost to Antelope Valley, 88-84, on Monday, plays in the Rancho Santiago tournament Friday and Saturday in Santa Ana.
Beauchemin characterizes this season's team as one of the quickest he has had at Glendale.
"There is pretty good athleticism, which we really haven't had collectively," Beauchemin said. "Whether we can blend that with the other aspects of what makes a good basketball team remains to be seen."
Last season, Glendale finished 24-12 overall and 10-5 in Western State Conference play. The team's success was largely due to its balance as four players--all shorter than 6-foot-5--averaged in double figures.
Beauchemin said this season's team also figures to spread the offensive load. And once again, the Vaqueros will play without a true center.
Chris Cooke, a 6-9 sophomore from Pasadena, is Glendale's tallest player.
"He shoots the ball and runs the floor well, so sometimes he forgets he's 6-9," Beauchemin said. "He needs to improve his inside presence."
Kelly Crosby, a 6-6 sophomore from Glendale who did not play last season, will also start and is being counted on to produce from the outside.
Crosby and Cooke provided the leadership against Antelope Valley as Crosby scored a team-high 32 points while Cooke added 28 points and 13 rebounds.
Enoch Mack, a 6-4 sophomore from Pasadena, joins those two in the starting lineup after spending last season as one of the Vaqueros' key reserves.
"Enoch's made a marked improvement from last season and we're looking for him to be one of our core players," Beauchemin said. "He plays excellent defense and he's improved his outside shooting to such an extent we're going to give him some freedom with it."
Glendale's backcourt will feature two freshmen, point guard Mike Cassidy and off-guard Alphonso Pule.
Cassidy, the son of Cal State Northridge Coach Pete Cassidy, was an all-league player at St. Genevieve High last season.
Pule was an All-City and Times' All-Glendale pick after averaging 20 points a game for Franklin High last season.
The first two players off the bench for the Vaqueros will likely be Clarence Williams and Juwan Smith, both 6-4.
Williams, a 240-pound sophomore, played for Glendale in 1988 but sat out last season for personal reasons.
Smith, a freshman from Franklin, could be the most talented player on the Vaqueros. Once he grasps the Glendale system, Beauchemin said, he might develop into the team's best player.
Freshmen Alan Freemon, Osiris Nalls, Doug Castaneda and Brad Mills--all perimeter players--will also see action during a preconference schedule that includes tournaments at Rancho Santiago, Golden West, Antelope Valley, Glendale and Palomar colleges.
Glendale opens WSC play Jan. 3 at home against Santa Monica.
"The conference is going to be very balanced again," Beauchemin said. "Ventura and Moorpark are very good and everyone else will be very competitive. It's going to be another one of those years when every game is going to be a difficult one to win."
Last season, Glendale compensated for its lack of size by playing excellent team defense. Beauchemin said this season's group could be even better.
"We shoot well and run the floor well and I think in time they'll defend well," Beauchemin said. "Last year, we contained on defense but we couldn't extend to the perimeter.
"This year, with the quickness we have, we may be able to do that."
As always, Beauchemin is hoping for a quick start. But with the team's youth and inexperience, he could be in for a slow beginning.
"I just like this group so far," he said. "They take care of business and you only have to say things once.
"Somewhere along the line, that work ethic is going to surface on a positive note for us."