Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

PGCC all business during solid season

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As the players filtered into the Novak Field House gymnasium Monday afternoon, it was easy to tell that this season’s Prince George’s Community College men’s basketball team has a businesslike attitude.

Before Owls’ coach John Wiley even set foot in the gym, players were getting started with wrapping their ankles, talking basketball and waiting while the PGCC women’s team concluded practice.

The PGCC men are having their best season in three years, carrying a 15-6 record entering this week. Sitting at 9-4 and in fourth place in the Maryland State Junior College League, the Owls feel they have a good chance to win the state championship and advance to the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XX playoffs.

Consistency has been a catch phrase with this season’s team. And Wiley knew just the way to test the team.

‘‘The basic way to challenge them was that I expected for all of them to become the complete basketball player,” Wiley said. ‘‘What we do in practice, I wanted for them to do that in the game. Some guys practice well but don’t perform when they are in the game. They know we like to run the floor, push the ball up court and emphasize defense.”

The Owls have responded well and it has been the involvement of all of the players that has kept the team competitive. Wiley said the team’s depth has been the most significant factor in the team’s season, as the Owls lost a number of players to injury and academic troubles.

Among team’s best players has been Eric Vann, a sophomore out of Gwynn Park High. Vann has averaged about 20 points per game this season after transferring from Harford Community College. Also playing key roles are sophomore guard Robert Spencer (Gwynn Park) and freshman forward Kevin Baker (Bowie).

‘‘On the court [Wiley], challenged us by putting us in certain situations,” said Vann, who has been offered a scholarship by Virginia State University and also has interest from James Madison. ‘‘I think another reason why we have started so well is because we work hard in practice. We never have easy practices. We always work hard. When things are going good, coach tells us to stay within the offense.”

One of the biggest problems for the Owls this season is actually something minor. They have struggled with rebounding at times and Vann said that is due to having so many athletic players. The team tries to outjump opponents for rebounds instead of boxing out.

The Owls will finish with three consecutive contests on the road against Howard CC (Feb. 6), Harford CC (Feb. 9) and Montgomery College Takoma Park-Silver Spring (Feb. 13).

The play-in games for the Maryland Juco tournament begin Feb. 19 and Wiley is hoping the team can secure a home contest for the first game.

E-mail Terron Hampton at thampton@gazette.net.