Cabrillo College men’s basketball coach Tony Marcopulos is entering his 20th season with the program and he is facing one of his biggest challenges yet.
It’s the first time in more than a decade he’ll be taking on such an inexperienced group that’ll feature just two returners who last year saw limited playing time.
“Hopefully things will start to change and we’ll start to grow and figure things out,” Marcopulos said. “Right now my main concern is them getting through finals and studying.”
The Seahawks are nearly done with final exams but there’s still plenty for the young squad to study before the season fully kicks into gear when conference play begins next month.
Last year, the Seahawks finished with a 20-9 overall record and went 9-3 in Coast-South Conference play. They lost against Cañada College in the second round of the CCCAA NorCal playoffs.
It was the first time since the 2009-10 season that Cabrillo had not earned at least had a share of the conference title.
Cabrillo sophomores Gabe Mack and Hunter Seymour along with Myron Dews, a red-shirt sophomore, will return from last year’s team. The other 11 players are freshman.
Seymour said he knows what Marcopulos expects from them as leaders and he’s been doing his best to get everybody on the same page.
“I know what (Marcopulos) wants and I’m just trying to tell them to make sure not to let anybody get in their heads,” Seymour said.
Cabrillo currently owns a 4-6 overall record and has four preseason games left on the schedule. The Seahawks are also set to compete in the San Joaquin Delta Tournament, which begins Friday.
Seymour said it has been a roller coaster season. They won their opener against Napa Valley College at the Cabrillo College Tip-Off.
But since then, they’ve had a two-game and a three-game losing streak.
“When we first got here we looked really good for a period of time and then you started to see how young we were,” Seymour said.
Seymour said the immaturity and inconsistency began to show but the team has improved over time and he has seen what some of the players can do in certain roles.
“Guys get down on themselves when they don’t play well,” Seymour said. “They have all these expectations of themselves that they feel like they need to meet night in and night out and are just kind of unrealistic.”
Cabrillo sophomore Gabe Mack said it’s been a difficult but fun road, thus far. They’ve played through a solid schedule against teams such as defending Big 8 Conference champ San Joaquin Delta College, Las Positas College and Coast-North Conference champ City College of San Francisco.
“Our growth from then to now is amazing because it’s only three sophomores on the team,” Mack said.
The group is made up of mostly freshmen but the returning starters believe they’re loaded with talented players such as Brandon Harmon, Alphonse Alfred, Jonel Aponte and Marquelles Kelly.
Marcopulos said everything from the level of maturity, commitment to practice and being able to take care of minor details is a challenge when taking on young team.
“We just keep coaching them and keep working with them,” Marcopulos said.
The Seahawks were the runners-up to conference champ Gavilan College. Prior to last season, they won nine of the past 12 conference titles.
Marcopulos said they put a lot of emphasis on conference play and he tells the team to play their best basketball in January and February.
“If we go undefeated in the preseason, they’re not going to give you anything for it,” Marcopulos said. “In league play, you get a trophy. They don’t give those things away, you have to earn them.”
West Valley College currently sits atop the conference standings with a 6-4 overall record, followed by Cabrillo (4-6), Gavilan (4-7), Monterey Peninsula College (4-7), Hartnell College (4-8), San Jose City College (3-7) and De Anza College (2-9).
Seymour said he believes nobody can stop them if they listen to Marcopulos and follow his set of directions.
“We have all the pieces we need, we just have to put it all together,” Seymour said. “We can go as far as we allow ourselves to go.”
Mack said each team in the conference will be a battle on any given night. He believes this year’s team is talented but from here on out they need to take each game seriously.
“The sky is real high,” Mack said. “Right now we’re still learning and we’re still getting better. But I promise you at the beginning of conference play we’ll be way better than what we are right now.”
The Seahawks continue the season at the San Joaquin Delta Tournament against Contra Costa College (1-7) on Friday at 8 p.m.
Editor’s Note:This article will be published in the Dec. 13 edition of The Pajaronian.