When former Garden City Community College head coach Brady Trenkle hired Patrick Nee as an assistant, he said it was a years-long goal fulfilled.
He knew Nee would be able to bring an offensive mind that would help lift his team to another level. It did, and the Broncbusters reached the Region VI semifinals. It also resulted in a record-breaking shooting performance as the Busters sunk 262 3-pointers in the season, the most in program history.
And now that Nee is in charge? Expect more of the same on offense.
“We’re going to be a very explosive offensive team,” Nee said Tuesday, days prior to the Busters’ season-opening game vs. Redlands (Okla.) Community College at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Conestoga Arena. “We’re going to try to maybe scheme a little bit more defensively — zone and press and trap and do some things like that — but offensively we should be an elite team this year.”
The Busters return post Jamir Thomas and guard Russhard Cruickshank, the latter of which was a big part of that record-breaking 3-point shooting by leading the conference in treys with 70 (making 37.4 percent).
Thomas, meanwhile, was a double-double machine a year ago, racking up eight while averaging 13.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per game while being named an All-KJCCC first team selection.
“Both Russhard and Jamir have really, really grown over the summer,” Nee said, noting that Cruickshank competed in a prestigious summer camp and Thomas lost some weight but got a little stronger.
“It’s great to be back,” Cruickshank said. “New team, new attitude.”
And a new scenario of Thomas and Cruickshank being the veterans on the team.
“Both of their confidence levels, knowing what they need to to do this year from a leadership standpoint, has been great from both those guys,” Nee said.
The Busters also return Elijah Kelly, but he’s out indefinitely with an injury.
“We’ve looked across the league, and outside of Coffeyville, we’re the only team that’s really returning two major factors like (Thomas and Cruickshank),” Nee said. “You’re talking about two, really, all-conference players.”
Cruickshank was not an All-KJCCC selection, but Nee said that was a snub.
Joining those two will be a mix of true freshmen and sophomore transfers. Wing Tony Hopkins is perhaps the biggest newcomer.
A University of New Orleans signee out of high school, Hopkins (6-6, 220) was a three-star prospect according to 247sports.com, and was an all-state first team honoree. The Busters also signed post Traylynn Spencer, who signed with Arkansas-Little Rock out of high school before coming to GCCC.
And Nee named guard Jakobi Pearson and wing Daishaun Woods as impact freshmen immediately.
For transfers, the Busters signed guards RJ Pair from Pittsburg State and Jaleel Simmons from Copper Mountain Community College in California, and post Cheikh Kebe from Miami-Dade, as well a couple of others.
Pair played 26.5 minutes per game for the Gorillas, averaging 8.4 points per game and shooting 38.2 percent from the field as a freshman. Simmons averaged 9.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game at Copper Mountain.
At Miami-Dade, Kebe averaged 6.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
“We’re really deep,” Nee said. “We almost have eight, nine starters is the way I’m looking at it … Don’t be surprised if you see some changes in our lineup, mainly because these guys deserve it. Not because somebody is outplaying somebody else, but because it’s so equal and so even, I want to reward these guys.”
Essentially, Nee said, the Busters will start two and always play at least two of Cruickshank, Pair, Simmons and Pearson at the two guard spots, Hopkins and Woods will split time at the 3-spot and Thomas, Kebe and Spencer will share time at the two other spots.
“It’s been real good,” Cruickshank said of the meshing of the returners, transfers and freshmen into a cohesive unit. “Everybody has been communicating well. We’ve been getting together well off the court, doing team bonding, stuff like that. So, we’re getting better with chemistry, and now we’re starting to see it on the court in practice.”
Friday will be the first big test of if that translates to the game.
Contact J. Levi Burnfin at firstname.lastname@example.org.