November 5th, 2019
Lakers open hoop season Friday vs. Middlesex
GC features five returning players and an international flair
McHenry, MD – Garrett College opens its 2019-20 men's basketball season with a lot of optimism, thanks to five returning players off last year's 16-13 squad and an impressive group of freshman recruits.
"My expectation of this group is very high," said GC head coach Dennis Gibson. "All of the pieces are there. The point guard position is the only position that's not settled. We have depth and we also have a very strong academic group, which leads me to believe we are going to be a strong second-semester team."
Local fans can get an up-close look at Gibson's squad Friday night when the Lakers open their season with a 7 p.m. contest against visiting Middlesex County College, which won its region championship last season. GC then has a quick turnaround, hosting Community College of Allegheny County for a 4 p.m. game on Saturday.
While the Lakers lost all three double-digit scorers and their most experienced ball handlers off last year's squad, the quintet of returners should provide solid sophomore experience.
Forward Strahinja Ivic (8.9 points, 4.2 rebounds) – the highest-scoring player back from last year's squad – had 28 of the 39 starts made last year by the five returning Lakers. Guards Ron Ghebreyesus (8.7 points, 3.5 rebounds) and Merlon Devine (8.5 points, 3.4 rebounds), and forward Nathan Payet (6.5 points, 5.2 rebounds) also saw significant time, with Payet having the highest rebounding average of the returners.
Forward Kevin Salley, who averaged 1.6 points while playing 17 games in a reserve role, is the fifth player back from last year's squad. "This group of sophomores is really rock-solid – all guys you really want to work with," said Gibson. "They're focused on being successful."
Gibson said the lack of returning double-digit scorers is "not a concern."
"We've scrimmaged some really good teams and we've been able to score the ball," said Gibson, adding, "Garrett is not a run-and-score team."
As usual, Gibson's squad has an international flair with recruits from Canada (forward Iziah Alexander), Nigeria (center Ngoye Bob-Manuel), Australia (point guard Oliver Jacquot), and Reunion (point guard Reyhan Lebon). Combined with Ivic (Serbia) and Payet (Reunion), the Lakers will field a team that includes players from five foreign nations.
"I love it," Gibson said of his program's international flavor. "The [international] kids just bring a different dynamic. Each one of them comes from a country with a different perspective."
The roster has six other freshmen, including players from New York (forward Stefan Jean), Virginia (forward Sam Martin and guard D'Monte Brown), and West Virginia (guard Cameron Selders). Alex Morrow (Tuscarora High, Frederick) and Kenyon Stone (Duval High, Lanham) are in-state recruits.
"Four freshmen have really stood out so far – Cam Selders, D'Monte Brown, Reyhan Lebon, and Iziah Alexander," said Gibson. "They could be really special and they're really skilled."
The Lakers have more depth than the varsity roster illustrates, thanks to a new junior varsity team. All JV players may play 30 games – combined JV and varsity – meaning some of those players could eventually be called up to play on Gibson's varsity squad.