This morning, Mott Community College head men’s basketball coach Steve Schmidt appeared to be in midseason form. The hall of fame coach, fresh off a speaking engagement at a Nike-sponsored coaches clinic in Cleveland, put his team through a high-intensity workout before breaking off for a 40-minute scrimmage at game speed.
This season’s team has much more in common with the 2011-12 squad than the team that lost in the first game of the national tournament in March — that, of course, is a good thing. The 2011-12 team, led by All-American John Taylor, went 35-1 en route to Schmidt’s fourth national championship.
Granted, there’s no John Taylor on this roster; but, there’s a little more height and a lot more depth to make up for what they lack in star power. Mott returns four sophomores from a team that finished eighth in the nation.
Guard Malik Albert, the team’s top scoring option, is a surefire D-1 guard who can score in bunches. Schmidt said Albert is on track to be the next All-American from Mott, a school notorious for producing top-level guard prospects. Albert’s backcourt mate from last season, guard Devin Foster, also returns after growing an inch or more in the offseason (6-4). Chester McFadden, a 6-4 shooter, and Myles Busby, a 6-4 defensive specialist, round out the returners.
Another important piece to the puzzle is 6-6 forward William Abbott, who enrolled at Mott last fall before being dismissed from the school after an altercation on campus. Abbott learned from the experience and is working his way into game shape. With his size and athleticism, he will be counted on to protect the basket, screen out and finish in transition in Mott’s uptempo, four-guard offense.
The highest-impact freshman, at least in the early going, may be Marcus Johnson. He’s an ultra-quick point guard with range. He appears to be ideally-suited for a team that will score a high percentage of its points in transition. Another freshman to watch is 6-5 forward Ruston Hayward from Houston. He has excellent size and athleticism. I could see him in the starting lineup by the end of the season, if not sooner.
One surprise is the presence of 6-5 Flint Kearsley freshman Matt Romano. He has put on some bulk since high school and can be a serviceable frontline option at the junior college level.
There are far too many unknowns about this roster to make any predictions on the season. One thing I know for sure, however, is that they will play an exciting brand of basketball and score a lot of points.
Mott will participate in the Midwest JUCO Jamboree in Toledo next weekend. The first game of the season is Nov. 1 at home versus GRCC.