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INA, Ill. (Oct. 24, 2013) – With celebrations still fresh in their minds, the Rend Lake College Warriors basketball team has a familiar end-game in sight: clinching the NJCAA Division II National Championship for the second year in a row.
In March, the Warriors defeated Moraine Valley Community College 87-69 in the title game of the National Championship, making it the first such title for the team. With five sophomores returning from the win, and another nine new faces on the team, Head Coach Randy House said he expects the players to do great things.
“We should be very competitive this year,” said House. “It’ll be an interesting year. Our goal is to win half or better in our conference. If we can play that well, we’ll have a very successful campaign.”
RLC is the only Division II school in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference (GRAC), which means the team will face some strong competition. House said he expects the returning players will help lead the young team early in the season.
“We have five returning players. All were starters at one point last year, so they have some minutes on their record,” said House, speaking of Montez Buford, Cortez Macklin, Jeril Taylor, Trice Whaley and Montez Williams.
Buford (Louisville, Ky.) started 19 games last year for the Warriors and scored 253 points throughout the season. Fellow Louisville native Taylor ended the season with 220 points. Macklin, also from Louisville, made the NJCAA All-American team for RLC last year as the scoring leader at 13.1 points per game. Whaley, a point guard from Jeffersonville, Ind., was another high scorer last year and boasted the most points in one game with 28. Williams, a 6-7 center from East St. Louis, ended the season with 138 points.
“We have lots of newcomers too who are very talented,” House added. “We’ve got to work on getting them up to the speed of the game in college ball, and I suspect we’ll have more depth this year than last year.”
Freshman and incoming players this year include Jauan Akins (Vine Grove, Ky.), Richard Clemons (Louisville, Ky.), Eric Darrett (Nashville, Tenn.), Ruben Gosa (Vine Grove, Ky.), Devontai Halfacre (St. Louis, Mo.), Brandon Johnson (East St. Louis), Paul Knapp (Flora), Parish McCullum (Maywood) and Tim Witcher (Sesser). For freshmen standout players, House said it is still too early to judge.
“We have more size this year, with a couple guys at 6- 7, and we have some new wings and guards that will do well,” he said. “Right now we’re working on blending in the new players with the team. We should be bigger and more talented than last year, but we have to work on our team chemistry. Last year we played well because the guys all knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but we’ve still got a year to build on that.”
The Warriors will play their first game on Friday, Nov. 1 at Truman College in Chicago, followed by Elgin Community College on Saturday, Nov. 2 and South Suburban College on Thursday, Nov. 7. The first home game will be against St. Louis Community College at 7 p.m. Monday, Nov.11.
For all things athletic at The Lake, visit www.rlc.edu/warriors.
For more on the Warriors basketball team, visit www.rlc.edu/mens-basketball.