Mix of vets, youth to guide CVCC men’s hoops in '19-20

Mix of vets, youth to guide CVCC men’s hoops in '19-20

HICKORY, N.C. — Coming off one of its best seasons in program history, the Catawba Valley Community College men's basketball program looks to achieve even more in the 2019-20 season.

Bryan Garmroth returns as the head men's basketball coach at CVCC with a little bit of the unknown heading into his ninth season of leading the program.

"In May, we looked like we were going to be pretty good on paper," he said. "Malik (Leach) couldn't come back. He played a ton of minutes at the point, but he had an illness and had to stay home. One of our leading scorers — Cole Johnson — got a full scholarship to a four-year school. Those things, combined with the loss of a few freshmen we thought would help us, leaves a little bit to the unknown. I feel like we've got a good group. They've worked really hard and seem to be coming together really well. It's been a good group to work with. It's going to be a matter of how fast some of these guys can mature."

Six sophomore leaders return to the court for the Red Hawks, including guards Jonathan McFall, Byron Sanders and Zach De La Cruz and forwards Jahleer Black, Jeremiah Keith and Sal-Bey Young.

Garmroth is excited about his returning players.

"Byron played a lot at the point last year," he said. "We expect him to have a good, solid season. Zach De La Cruz started in almost every game last year, if not every game. He competes and guards, but he hasn't found his shooting point just yet although he's a good shooter. Jonathan McFall got some minutes last year, but more later on. He's very talented. We need him to play as well defensively and on the boards as he does on offensive. Jahleer Black is solid. He's really improved. Him and Sal-Bey combined have improved more than any of the sophomores. They've all improved, but those two more so than the others. Jahleer can play the three and the wing and he can play inside. Jeremiah Keith has made some improvements also. He didn't see much time last year, but he's competing now for some minutes."

Entering the fold for the CVCC men's basketball team are a large group of 11 new freshmen, including six guards and five forwards — all of which offer something different to the team.

"I think it's a good freshmen class," Garmroth said. "I think at the guards, we've probably got some guys who have matured quicker than the post players. Jaylin Harper has looked good at the point. Charles Bryson has looked good. He missed some time, so he's a little behind, but he's come along. Jaylen Prioleau has an unlimited ceiling. It's just how fast he needs to continue to develop.

"We've got some good post players in Elton Hooper, Jehlon Johnson, Tony Hauser, Deng Akok and Cameron Walden," he added. "They all have a lot of potential. It's just a matter of them learning the system and learning how to play at this level. At this point and time, Tony Hauser has seemed to pick things up a little quicker than everybody else. The rest of them are doing a good job."

The Red Hawks are tested right out of the game early in the season, playing Division I rival Caldwell and conference foe Pitt twice in the opening month of play.

"To have Pitt twice — two Region games in November — we've never played a Region game in November before," he said. "It's the way Region 10 is and the way we do our scheduling. It's unique to the rest of the country. It'll be a good test. We'll see how we can come out of it. I think our sophomores will be ready, but there's not a lot of depth there so our freshmen will have to come on. They'll get an eye opener on the road quickly. We'll see how quickly they mature."

New to the Red Hawks' schedule are two teams — CCBC Catonsville from Maryland and Pasco-Hernando from Florida — that will give the program some new looks and tests this winter season.

"It's good to get a couple of teams from different regions," Garmroth said. "Getting to play non-JV teams to fill out the schedule and play a couple of teams from different areas I think can always be fun."

Last season, CVCC finished fourth in the final Region 10 standings — one of four programs who won at least 20 games.

Add into the mix a new conference team in Southwest Virginia Community College, and Garmroth expects Region 10 to be gauntlet and grind.

"Last year, I think the Region was probably as competitive as its ever been," he said. "You've got 12 teams. It's a really, really competitive Region. It's a grind. It's a marathon."

As for his team's goals this season, Garmroth is focusing a lot of his attention on his young players and their growth, development and success.

"If they mature and everyone can make their grades first semester and do what they are supposed to do academically, I think we can have a solid team," he said. "It's way too early to know. The biggest key is how quickly these freshmen can mature. They are getting throw into it right away. We'll see how that goes. I think it'll be a plus for us."