Garden City men have plenty of work to do
By ADAM HOLT
Call it a work in progress.
It was never going to be easy for the Garden City Community College men's basketball team this season. Head coach Rand Chappell took over in June and had to assemble a team essentially from scratch in a span of a couple of months. The only returning player who saw game time last season was reserve Kowan Russell, who played sparingly last season.
So an 8-6 record at the conclusion of non-conference play isn't such a bad thing, considering the odds the program faced after Kris Baumann's resignation to take another job late in the spring.
"I think as we review, it's easier to put a team together when you start with two or three parts, and you gotta to fit a couple in," Chappell said. "And I think we started needing to fit five together, or more. I think we've made some good progress, and we still have a ways to go."
Finding consistency — especially on the offensive end — looks to be the key for the Broncbusters, moving forward.
Chappell said he likes the defensive effort by the Busters, who are middle of the pack in the conference in scoring defense, allowing 66.7 points per game, and opponents' field goal percentage, at 40.9 percent. Garden City leads the Jayhawk West in blocks, averaging 4.93 per game, and is average in rebounding.
Offensively, there have been as many unacceptably poor shooting nights as good ones. As a result, the Busters are last in field goal percentage, at 42.2 percent for the season.
Encapsulating the team's inconsistency is the fact they split their two games in all four weekend classics they played in.
"Those weekends are challenging," Chappell said. I guess it would be a sign of maturity, in a young, developing team, when you can put together great efforts on short rest, and that kind of thing. We really kind of missed on that at the end of the semester. "
Part of that is inconsistent play from the team's young forwards, who have struggled to score in the paint. That weakness has let opposing defenses key on the Busters' strength, which is their guard play.
Guards Chris Hall (14.9 points per game), Reuben King (14.7) and Frank Agholor (13.6) have been the team's top scoring options — and at times, their only ones. The Busters' next leading scorer is center Arkeem Joseph, at 6.4 points per game. Agholor, Hall and King have combined to take 508 of the team's 854 field goal attempts, accounting for almost 60 percent of that total. And 196 of those 508 shots by the trio have come on 3-pointers, with Hall taking 107 — most in the conference by a good margin. Hall is shooting 38-for-107 (35.5 percent), with King 25-of-72 (34.7 percent) and Agholor 4-of-17 (23.5 percent), so none of the three are shooting exceptionally well from behind the arc.
With so many of the Busters' shots coming from their guards, and coming on low-percentage shots, it's not surprising that Garden City has had so many poor nights shooting. More often than not, they've felt they've had to shoot from outside of 15 feet, due to the Busters' inconsistent frontline.
Two of Garden City's top three forwards are freshmen, in Joseph and Mike Chandler. Joe Ebondo is a sophomore, but his strength lies on the defensive end and in rebounding.
"Arkeem Joseph turned 18 right before he got here in the summer. He's a young kid," Chappell said. "He's changed his body quite a bit since he's been here, gotten into better shape. You can see him moving better on both ends of the floor. He finished plays late in the semester."
Chappell said he thinks the three will continue to improve, and that the addition of 6-foot-5 forward Jade Cathey, of Liberal, who gains eligibility for the spring semester, will help.
"Jade's another person who's actually a more physical athlete than the others," Chappell said. "So you hope that some improvement, the addition of Jade, that we get a little better on the front line as the season goes."
As for the three guards, all have the ability to knock down shots and take the ball to the rim. The only issue is that all three are at their best with the ball in their hands.
"The tools are there to become hard to guard," Chappell said. "I think it just falls upon them to further develop the chemistry and get a feel for each other. You feel like one of these days, it might click real good, and then all of a sudden, we become a pretty good, dynamic offensive team."
At times though, things have clicked for Garden City. The Busters have had games where they've shot above 45 percent as a team, and gotten balanced contributions from upwards of five players in the scoring column.
When the shots from outside aren't falling, or the production in the paint isn't there from the forwards, the Busters have tended to get a bit impatient, and the ball movement has suffered.
"Really, it comes down to making decisions," Chappell said. "You drive to the paint, and you gotta make a decision. Is it a jump shot, is it a dump to a big man, or is it a kickout to a guard? And you've gotta make it in a split second. We've struggled with those decisions a little bit at times. Hopefully, we'll become better decision makers in that situation as the year goes on."
GCCC will find out quickly where it stands once conference play begins. Garden City hosts 12-2 Butler on Jan. 5, then goes on the road to face No. 4 Hutchinson (14-0), and hosts No. 9 Barton (12-0) in a span of five days.
"Are we where we want to be? Probably not," Chappell said. "Because it's gonna get tough from here on in conference play. But I do think we have a team that has had a good attitude, come to work. I'm looking forward to Dec. 29, getting back in here for about six, seven, eight practices before we start conference play."