With an influx of nine freshmen to go with some returning sophomores and a key transfer, the 2017-18 Pasadena City College men's basketball team is looking to turn around a program that was in a down cycle the past two seasons.
Although the Lancers lost their season opener v. Antelope Valley College, 64-63, on Thursday in the first round of the annual Ventura We Play Hard Tournament, they showed signs of the type of competitiveness that could move the squad forward. PCC rallied from 15 points down in the second half to take the lead with 30 seconds left, but AVC hit two free throws with 12 seconds remaining for its win.
PCC has the "J Brigade" with an opening day lineup that featured letterman guard Will Johnson and freshmen in forwards Joe Hampton (Oak Hill Academy, Washington D.C.), Jordan Simpson (Etiwanda High) and guards Jordan Jones (Pacific High) and Josiah Woods (El Camino Real HS). For good measure, there is guard Justin Brown (Pioneer HS) coming off the bench. Hampton is the team's top recruit as he originally committed to Penn State University and then Long Beach State before ending up with the Lancers.
Johnson, from Washington D.C., averaged 5.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.5 assists last year as part of the team's regular rotation. Other returning players are 6-foot-10 center Augustine Tadale, who joined the team late last season and averaged 4.4 points and 3.6 rebounds in 11 games; guard and 3-point shooting specialist Todd Kitagawa (had a 16-point effort last season with 5 treys in a game v. Mt. San Antonio); redshirt sophomore guard Carlton Carter, and a returner from two seasons ago in Aaron Yu, who averaged 4.8 points and led the '15-16 Lancers in 3s with 29.
Transfer guard Kyle Mitchell, orginally from Morningside High, is one of the team's more experienced players. He transferred after playing as a freshman in 2014-15 at College of the Sequoias.
Two more players from Pacific High--guards Anthony Evans and Eric Wells, defensive-minded guard Malik Black (Houston Prep Academy), and forward Ivan Egbunike (Georgia Cumberland Academy, Georgia), the son of PCC track and field/cross country head coach Innocent Egbunike, round out the team's 15-player roster.
Against AVC, Hampton scored a team-high 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds. His jumper with 29 seconds left gave PCC a brief 63-62 lead. Simpson tallied nine points and pulled down 11 rebounds while Mitchell came off the bench to produce 16 points (9-for-12 from the free throw line), seven rebounds and three assists.
PCC is directed by head coach Michael Swanegan, in his 11th season at the college, and 19th at the community college level. Swanegan's assistant coaching staff is made up of Jesse Ellis, Idris Jones and Keith Hollimon.
The Lancers will play at 1 p.m. Friday, Nov. 3 in the Ventura tourney consolation semifinals against Moorpark College.