Wanting to Win

Senior Michael Bethea playing at Grambling State. Photo Courtesy of Michael Bethea.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Senior Michael Bethea playing at Grambling State. Photo Courtesy of Michael Bethea.

Senior guard and transfer student Michael Bethea Jr. adds athleticism and strong shooting skills to the Wildcat men’s basketball this season as the newest edition to the roster.

The Staten Island native began playing at age six and hasn’t stopped since. While Bethea did not play basketball for his high school, he did play for the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). After not making the grades to go straight to Division I, he chose to hone his skills at junior college.

Making his first move out to the West Coast, Bethea joined the Ohlone Junior College team, where he played in 29 games and started in seven of them. After two years in the Bay Area, he transferred to Grambling State in Louisianna, a NCAA Division I basketball school.

“It was a change moving from the West Coast out to Lousianna, but I embrace change and I handle it well,” Bethea said.

Bethea averaged 18 minutes per game during his time at Grambling State and posted five points per game. The guard was a valuable sharpshooter from the free throw line, with an 81% accuracy average last season.

While many athletes stay for the duration of their college career once they reach DI sports, Bethea wanted to finish his senior year on a strong note.

Grambling faced its share of problems during their previous season, with only five wins and an 11-game losing streak. However, the losses Bethea faced while on the team added to his drive to win.

Junior guard Corey Silverstrom recognized Bethea as an asset to Chico State and found his decision to move down to DII reasonable.

“When you come from a Division I that isn’t winning, you develop that want to win. It wasn’t a fun experience for him to lose at that school. Division I doesn’t make losing fun,” Silverstrom said.

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Corey Silverstrom scans the floor to find a teammate to pass to. Photo credit: Jacob Auby

Through open gym in the Bay Area, Bethea got to know Chico State junior guard Jalen McFerrin. The two became good friends, and when Bethea was looking into transferring he knew that Chico State had a successful program.

“I want to win and I know that Chico State does that. They have a great program and coaching staff,” Bethea said. “It was also really good knowing Jalen. He is a great teammate and friend.”

McFerren said that he understood Bethea’s frustration during his stay at Grambling, and helped encourage Bethea to transfer.

“I talked to him throughout his season last year, and I knew his team was struggling. As an individual, he wasn’t performing the way he wanted to and we both felt the best option for him was to leave that program,” McFerran said.

Bethea’s excitement toward playing in Chico is largely due to the strong program already in place and his desire to contribute the skills he’s learned at the Division I level.

“I’m not here to be the spotlight player or to be a star,” Bethea said. “I am looking to help an already strong team in whatever way I can.”

Bethea has a strong routine already in place to help prepare him for the season because of the basketball camps he attended back home in LA.

“I try to go to the gym before class, but usually it ends up being after I get out,” Bethea said. “I go in and shoot 3-pointers, ten shots from each spot.”

The team also has a study hall that he plans on utilizing to make sure he keeps up on the six classes that he is taking this year.

“I am a criminal justice major so my classes aren’t light on work, especially as a senior. Keeping focus is important,” Bethea said.

Bethea strives for the same goal as his uncle, Dan Jennings, who managed to succeed in college and on the court, eventually making it into the NBA.

“He accomplished everything I want to accomplish in life. Graduating from college with his degree and playing pro basketball right after,” Bethea said,

This season at Chico State, Bethea hopes to help win the conference and move on to winning the NCAA tournament, along with helping in any way he can.

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Jalen McFerran dribbles the ball during the 'Cats home game last season. Photo credit: Jordan Olesen

Esther Briggs can be reached at [email protected], or on Twitter @EstherBriggs191.