The Jackson College Jets men's basketball team returns to the hardwood after a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Head Coach Chris Johnston takes over a young team that lacks college experience but ready to break out and be competitive in a league that has four teams ranked in the top 10 in the country.
2020-21 Record: Canceled (COVID)
2019-21 Record: Overall 10-19, MCCAA West 7-11
Coach: Chris Johnston
Coach Record: 0-0 at Jackson College, 0-0 overall
Key Departed Players:
Key Returning Players:
Key New Players:
Gabe Damey, Freshman, Guard
Jackson Barath, Freshman, Guard
Alex Daniels, Freshman, Guard
Akhwari Smith, Freshman, Guard
Brayden Pearson, Freshman, Guard
Azyah Brown, Sophomore, Forward, Transfer from Grand Rapids CC
With no returning players, the Jets will be lacking in the experience category. Only sophomore Azyah Brown (Allentown, PA) will have played in a college basketball game before they hit the hardwood for the first time.
"AZ gives us the experience in the middle that will help our young guys especially in the early non-conference schedule. I am sure there will be a learning curve early on, but I believe AZ can help some of the younger guys," Johnston said. "Guards will play a big role in the early going. They will not only be counted on to handle the basketball but extend the defense and make shots. Limiting our turnovers will be a priority and we must value each possession."
Gabe Damey (Ypsilanti, MI) and Damaso Lebron (Homer, MI) will be counted on to run the offense. "Both of these guys are very capable of playing in any situation and running our team. They play tremendous defense and can knock down the open jump shot. The wings will be looked upon to score and put the ball in the hoop. Shooting will be key for the Jets especially with skilled post players that can score in the paint.
"Knocking down shots from the perimeter will be key. We don't want teams playing off and protecting the paint." Extra time in the gym is why Coach Johnston has so much confidence in his guards. "Some guys are putting in three to four extra hours a day outside of practice making shots. That's what it takes to be a good shooter and play at the next level." Wings Alex Daniels (Atlanta, GA), Akhwari Smith (Cibolo, TX) and Jackson Barath (Monroe, MI) will fill those roles and will be counted on to make shots from the perimeter.
Rounding out the backcourt is Brayden Pearson (Ft. Wayne, IN), Brent Wiles (New Haven, MI) and JJ Tunstall (Muskegon, MI). "Brayden and Brent are kind of hybrid guards. They can do anything on the floor on any given night. They can post up smaller guards and score from the outside. It's a huge advantage to have these guys on the floor because they create match-up problems and fill all categories on a stat sheet. Brayden is also a lock down defender that can change a game on the defensive side. He will be counted on to keep some of the league's top scorers in check. JJ is a spot up shooter that can knock down the 3 and hit several in a row. Once he learns the system, he will be a huge asset to the perimeter game and stretching defenses."
The front court is where Coach Johnston says will play a pivotal role during the season. With their size, the Jets will have a big advantage in the paint. Along with Azyah Brown, the Jets have three other post players that are 6-foot-6 or taller. Dayton Cole (Whitehall, MI), Colby Cathey (Detroit, MI) and Alex Smith (Amanda, OH) will man that paint with Brown.
"I think if we can win the rebounding war, we can win a lot of games. We have post players that can score in the paint but can knock down shots from outside. Dayton and Alex are guys that can control the game on both sides of the floor with their size and athleticism. Colby is a post player that can also play outside which is a big advantage at 6-foot-7, so this group will pose some matchup nightmares.
"It's a long season and there will be some highs and lows, how we react to adversity will be the key. Staying healthy is very important and I believe we can compete with some of the top teams in the West Division if we can avoid the injury bug. I am glad we are back on the court and representing Jackson College."
The Jets will open the season at home against Spring Arbor JV on Nov. 10. Women start at 5:30 with the men starting at 7:30 p.m.
Key non-league games:
Nov. 13 – Owens CC
Dec. 4 – Henry Ford College
Dec. 18 – Delta College