Last year went so bad for Aiken Tech that point guard Brandon Curry broke his foot not once, but twice.
Injuries to many of the team’s top players derailed the Knights’ promising season. Now, the class of sophomores, including Curry, believe good things are in store.
“Expectations for this year is Hutchinson (Kan.),” said Curry, referring to the site of the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament. “We don’t just want to get to there, we want to win in Hutchinson.”
Aiken Tech, which opens its season at 8 tonight at home against Richard Bland College, is looking for its first trip to Kansas since 2007. To do so, the Knights will first have to reverse the tide of three consecutive losing seasons.
Aiken Tech features six freshmen and nine sophomores on its roster. Of the returning Knights, none posted a double-digit scoring average last season.
“We may not have the individual talent, but the team chemistry is better,” sophomore guard Kevon Jenkins said. “I feel like (eighth-year) coach (Bruce Capers) has some good offensive sets to help us display our talent.”
Aiken Tech appeared ripe for a deep postseason run last season, with two of the top players in junior college in Jerel Stephenson and Anthony Rapley. But Curry started the season on the bench. Then, Rapley suffered a broken ankle midway through the season, while Stephenson took a shot to the mouth which required major oral reconstructive surgery.
The Knights finished with a disappointing 15-17 campaign. The returning players were determined not to suffer another losing season.
“After what happened last year,” sophomore guard Blake Bush said, “we just wanted to work hard.”
Capers believes he’ll be able to run an inside-out attack this season with 6-foot-9 freshman Robert Ojeah from Nigeria. Also, freshman Maurice Strong (6-2, 215) is expected to help Ojeah inside the paint.
“It’s tough to a find a No. 4 and No. 5 guy who are as big as they are,” Capers said. “The sophomore class is experienced, and that should help. But this is the most talented freshman class I’ve had in awhile.”