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Jayhawks will lean on four returning players

Submitted Photo Above is the 2021 Jamestown Community College men’s basketball team, which opens its season at 6 p.m. next Friday against Bryant & Stratton of Albany at the Physical Education Complex. Seated, from the left, are Isaac Allen, Henry Brown Jr., Joseph Okonoboh, Jafar Yahuza and Kyle Butler. Standing are Josiah Ransom, Karl Jayseus, Jake Hougan, Shem Gordon and Kane Kenyon.

Xavier Churnac has been equal parts head coach and chief philosopher as he prepares the Jamestown Community College men’s basketball team for the long-awaited start of the 2021 campaign.

“I try to remind these guys that they need to remember they’re blessed to have a season,” he said earlier this week. “So many schools have … canceled their seasons. This is a blessed opportunity for us to still be able to play the game that we love amidst all that’s going on.”

COVID-19 has certainly changed things in the last year, and Jamestown CC has decided to roll with it as best it can, heading into its season opener next Friday when it entertains Bryant & Stratton of Albany at the Physical Education Complex. No spectators will be allowed.

In addition, the Jayhawks’ schedule will include just 11 games, four of them against Niagara County CC, the only other Region 3 Division II program that has elected to play this season. Consequently, both teams have an automatic berth into the regional title game on April 3 at the home of the higher seed.

“It’s a little different than what we’re used to,” Churnac said. “With it being such a short season, and diving right into the playoffs, we don’t really have much time to figure each other out.”

“While we have four returnees, we still have a few guys that haven’t played at the college level,” Churnac added. ” … It’s going to be a learning curve. We’ll have to figure out as best as we can who we are and take advantage of that.”

The four sophomore returnees from last are 6-foot-8 forward Jake Hougan (Chardon, Ohio) and guards Kane Kenyon (6-2, Surrey Reigate, England), Isaac Allen (6-0, Houston) and Kyle Butler (5-7, Liverpool, New York). They were part of a squad that finished 8-17 and was eliminated in the subregional.

Other than Hougan, no one on the team is taller than 6-5, but Churnac says he’ll be able to make up for lack of overall height with the ability to get out and run.

“I think that’s our strength right now,” he said. “We also want to rely on Jake. Jake has improved a good amount from last year. We want to get it inside as well.”

The remaining roster includes freshmen Joseph Okonoboh (6-3 guard, Boston); Karl Jayseus (6-5 forward, West Palm Beach, Florida); Josiah Ransom (6-5 guard/forward, Orange Park, Florida); Jafar Yahuza (6-2 guard, Staten Island); Shem Gordon (6-4 guard/forward, Vaughn Ontario); and Henry Brown Jr. (6-3 guard, Bushkill, Pennsylvania).

“Honestly, (recruiting) wasn’t that difficult,” Churnac said. “The only thing different was we couldn’t see them in person. You don’t get to do the ‘eye test.’ Outside of that, because of the technology age we’re in, it wasn’t that much different. If we were in 1995 or the early 2000s, it would have been more difficult because social media wasn’t around then. Social media assisted us really well.”

Now, after a 12-month pandemic-related hiatus, it’s time to see how that translates to the court.

“I think it’s going to be exciting just to get back out there,” said Churnac, who will be assisted on the bench by Jim Rissel and Sam Robinson. “Get the guys on the court, hear the starting lineup, figuring out in-game adjustments. It’s been a while since I’ve had to do that.”

SCHEDULE

Feb. 22: Intersquad scrimmage, 5:30 p.m.

Feb. 26: Bryant & Stratton Albany, 6 p.m.

Feb. 27: Lackawanna College, 5 p.m.

March 3: at Niagara CCC, 7:30 p.m.

March 6: at Lackawanna College, 3 p.m.

March 12: Niagara CCC, 7:30 p.m.

March 14: at Villa Maria College, 3:30 p.m.

March 19: at Niagara CCC, 7:30 p.m.

March 24: Niagara CCC, 7:30 p.m.

March 27: Union County College, 6:30 p.m.

March 30: Villa Maria College, 7:30 p.m.

April 3: Region 3 Championship

vs. Niagara County CC at higher seed, TBA.

April 9: District Tournament at Region 19, TBA.

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