For the past two seasons, one of the top JUCO programs in the country has looked pedestrian at best. A shell of its former self, Mott (19-12) will once again have to regroup after a second consecutive 12-loss season and early ouster in the District 10 tournament.
The Bears were knocked off by Macomb in the semifinal matchup on Friday night at Delta College, 71-66. The Bears struggled throughout the game with inefficiency on offense and miserable shooting from the perimeter. Even after a furious late rally shaved Macomb’s 12-point lead down to one, the Bears simply could not execute in crunch time. It was the Bears’ second loss to the Monarchs this season.
“I’m really proud of that comeback; they hung in there,” Mott head coach Steve Schmidt told MRSN Radio. “They fought hard these last two weeks … we just didn’t execute the plays well enough to win. But (Macomb) is a good team.”
The Bears had numerous opportunities to tie or take the lead in the final three minutes, but virtually every time the shot rimmed out or the whistle didn’t blow.
Freshman guard Diandre Wilson finished his season with 19 points. Mott’s second-leading scorer (after the loss of Jalen Adams) Lorenzo Collier, managed only eight. Mitch Rubio added nine. Freshman DJ Mayo, Mott’s best outside shooter, did not score.
Schmidt said he hoped his team of mostly freshmen stay committed to the program and dedicate themselves to getting better. Last year’s 12-loss team had very little promise. The players didn’t seem to mesh well and there was an obvious lack of commitment to the program on and off the court. Wilson will more than likely be the odds-on favorite to be the player of the year in the MCCAA. Mayo, in spite of his poor performance, is an offseason of strength and conditioning from being a high-impact player.
This group stands in stark contrast with the 2014-15 team; with a few key recruits, especially in the frontcourt, the Bears could have something special next season. The teams competing for the Eastern Conference championship this season are deeper and much more experienced. By this time next year, that description could be used for Mott.
That said, it’s a long slog for the program to get back to where it was. Bear in mind that Schmidt’s teams won 25 or more games in 19 consecutive seasons before the streak was snapped this time last year. That level of consistency is unparalleled.
Truly, 24 losses in two seasons at Mott just doesn’t seem possible. Add to that Mott’s three-year absence from the NJCAA National Tournament — for more than a decade, it was the program’s second home.
The future of the program boils down to recruiting. If Mott can’t figure out a way to find tough kids who hate to lose, the type of players who made the program great, seasons like this one will become the new normal. Like consecutive 12-loss seasons, that, too, doesn’t seem possible. Mott will be back.