Men’s basketball new look ready for a deep run


Justin Briggs dunking in Acker Gym. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

The Chico State community was provided with their first chance to see the men’s basketball team Saturday in the annual Cardinal vs. White scrimmage. Though it was just an in house scrimmage, it was an opportunity to see exactly the new identity the team has after a rocky and strange season last year due to the Camp Fire.

“We’ve been itching to get back on the court and have a competitive game,” assistant coach Thomas Ammon said. “Especially after last year, where we had a little bit of a down season, that always makes you a little bit hungrier to come in and really get after it and show people last year was a fluke and this year things will be different.”

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Isaiah Brooks shooting a three-pointer at Acker Gym. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

The Cardinal vs. White scrimmage featured a much faster pace than Chico fans were accustomed to seeing a season ago. Chico State signature defensive tactics and effort level was on display as the black team (cardinal), with senior Justin Briggs and seasoned point guard Isaiah Brooks, taking the bragging rights on the day.

“I think the biggest thing that (head) coach (Greg Clink) has been emphasizing is to really exert yourself on defense, push yourself to the point of exhaustion, and rebound,” assistant coach Ashton Pomrehn said. “ We have a lot of depth, so just making sure that guys are coming in and paying as hard as they can every minute they’re in the game.”

Justin Briggs, as one of two seniors on the team, is looking forward to a monster return after suffering a devastating ACL tear last season. Before the injury, Briggs was the team leader in blocked shots in 13 games, and was an all California Collegiate Athletic Association honorable mention in his second season. He was obviously the most dominant force on the floor Saturday trying to get comfortable on the floor again.

“I can still score (laughing),” Briggs said. “The transition has been fine. The main thing is just getting confidence back on the leg. It’s not like I’m scared or anything, it’s just getting confidence to do things I was doing before I got injured.”

There is an entirely new personnel and style of play with Wildcats this season, adding more athleticism to their roster. They have brought in two new transfers Trenton Mitchell and Colby Orr along with two freshmen Andrew Parker and Julian Vaugns. Their game plan is much different than in recent years as they can lean on their athletic ability more.

“We brought two transfers in that you can see were out there and ready to go, Brennan Wheeler said. “The seniors last year were more in a half court type of setting, more systematic players. This year we are more athletic and get out and run.”

As the leader of this fast paced offense, Junior point guard Isaiah Brooks is returning with a whole lot more confidence in his second year as a starter. Brooks was in complete control of the floor and in constant communication with his teammates.

The biggest thing that everyone on this team has been talking about, is the amount of players who are ready to play huge minutes for the squad. It is the main attribute this team holds over the rest of the conference as they are confident in anyone who is out on the floor. It is a luxury they can fall back on throughout the season.

The team huddled up after their Cardinal v.s. White scrimmage on Oct. 26, 2019. Photo credit: Wesley Harris

“The amount of depth that we have this year is pretty amazing,” coach Ammon said. “Last year we dealt with some injuries. At points we only had 9 guys sometimes in the year and now we have 14 strong.”

The Wildcats are more than ready to get this season started. With the Camp Fire altering the plans of the season last year, they are ready to prove last year was nothing but circumstances they did not see coming. With their first game approaching November 8th, the players eyes light up when talking about their excitement to make a deep run at a national championship this year.

“It’s just a polar opposite to last season,” Brennan Wheeler said. “We didn’t get exhibition games then we had the fires cancel a couple games. This season I feel like we are a lot more prepared.”

Wesley Harris can be reached at [email protected] or @jiggy_wes on twitter.