Vikings attack schedule with inexperience, less height
CENTREVILLE — David Victor still wears the title interim men’s basketball coach as his Glen Oaks Community College men’s team begin the 2016-17 season.
But that hasn’t affected the way Victor, a Three Rivers High School alumnus and graduate of Wayne State University, has approached the season with high optimism despite some early-season adversity.
“I am probably the youngest head coach at any college in the state of Michigan,” Victor said.
Glen Oaks fields an inexperienced squad with just three sophomores, including just one that played for the Vikings a year ago, along with nine freshmen on its 12-man roster.
To make the season even more challenging, Victor’s tallest two players stand just 6-foot-3.
Victor took over the program mid-way through the 2015-16 campaign replacing long-time head coach Steve Proefrock.
The Vikings struggled to a final overall record of 11-16 during a brutal Michigan Community College Athletic Association Western Conference season that saw them finish 3-13.
“It was not how I expected to get my first opportunity to be a head coach,” Victor said. “It was not an ideal situation but a good learning experience for me and the players. We had a good group of guys, but from top to bottom we just didn’t play good enough basketball to finish very well.”
One thing Victor didn’t have last year is an assistant coach. Chuck Frisbie, a former head men’s basketball coach at Glen Oaks, returns to the bench to assist Victor.
“When they told me I was allowed to hire an assistant this season I had two applicants, one who was Chuck. His knowledge of Glen Oaks is very valuable. He has provided good advice and insight to me and I couldn’t be happier that I hired him to be my assistant. He knows the local coaches and players,” Victor said.
Sophomore Stephon Matthews, a 6-foot-2 guard from Indianapolis Ben Davis, returns as Glen Oaks’ most experienced player having started nearly every game last season for the Vikings.
“Stephon is the glue for this year’s team. He understands our expectations,” Victor said.
Freshman guard Darrius Baker (5-9) from Elkhart (Ind.) Memorial is expected to help out immensely.
“Darius is a hidden gem. He’s a good defender, a good long-range shooter and great at controlling the tempo and plays good defense,” Victor said.
Matthews and Baker are both academically ineligible first semester but will be back in January for the start of the conference season.
Gabe Sturgis, a Colon native, will see time at the guard position.
“Gabe is a plus because he’s an older, more mature player. He’s a blue-collar type guy who’s really strong when he decides he wants to go to the basket. He works his tail off and is a great guy to have in our program,” Victor said.
Ajenai Gary (5-11) is another freshman guard from Elkhart Memorial Victor is counting on.
“Ajenai is a crafty little scorer with high energy. He sets the tone and brings positive energy, He can shoot, score and plays good defense,” Victor said.
Freshman Seth Brown from Niles Brandywine, who was recruited to play baseball at Glen Oaks by Vikings’ head coach Scott Chase, will also play the roundball sport.
Brown (6-0) will see action at guard.
“Seth is someone we saw playing in one of our open gyms. He’s probably one of the most athletic guys we have on our roster. He can jump through the roof and has a high ceiling for improvement,” Victor said.
Freshman Trustin Napier (6-3) of Belleville will also see action at the guard spot.
“Trustin is a great scorer and a high character young man who wants to get better. He is very coachable too,” Victor said.
Freshmen Jordan Medich (6-1, 170) of Mendon has seen quite a bit of action early this season for the Vikings at guard.
“Jordan is coming back from major knee surgery. He’ll play in spurts for us and has had a huge impact for us so far,” Victor said.
Glen Oaks’ interim coach is excited about the development of sophomore transfer and guard Melvin DeVeaux (5-9) from LaGrange, N.C.
“Melvin is a good student, a hardworking player, brings energy to the floor. He’s adjusting to our style of play and is starting to flourish,” Victor said.
Tyler Shank (6-1, 190) is one of three freshmen on the Vikings’ squad from Constantine.
Shank played the last two years under Frisbie at Constantine and led the Falcons to a pair of Class C district titles.
“Tyler is a good leader, a shooter, a blue-collar type of guy who will do the right things for you on the basketball floor,” Victor said. “He’s a lot quicker than he looks and isn’t afraid to take the ball inside against bigger players.”
Shank will play only one year as he has enlisted to join U.S. Marine Corps in 2017.
Sophomore Christian Oakley of Cleveland is a 6-0 guard who transferred from a junior college in Minnesota.
“Christian is one of our captains. He won’t wow you with big stats, but does all the little things right. He can mix it up inside and out and can play all five positions on the floor,” Victor said.
Freshman Luhk Mullendore (6-0, 188) of Constantine will see time at a forward spot.
“Luhk was someone we saw in an open tryout in October. He’s a good role player and will be used in games because he works his tail off,” Victor said. “He has taken advantage of the opportunity to play.”
Constantine freshman Noah Beegle (6-3, 195) will also help the Vikings out down in the post.
“Noah has been fun to coach. He works hard, does what he’s asked and it’s really coachable. He also does all the little things right,” Victor said.
“These guys have bonded together real well and it’s going to be interesting to see what they can do this season.”
Offensively, Victor hopes to be able to spread the ball around and not rely on one person to score a majority of the points.
“I expect us to be harder to defend with several guys counted on to score for us. I fully expect to have people who can shoot the three-pointer for us with efficiency,” Victor said.
Because Glen Oaks is smaller than every team on its schedule by a substantial margin, Victor says the Vikings will hang their hat on defense.
“We have to be able to stop other teams with man-to-man defense, matchup zone, half-court trap and a couple different presses,” Victor said.
“We have to contest shots and limit other team’s offensive opportunities by controlling the defensive glass.”
Victor expects to be also able to run the length of the floor when the right situations present themselves.
“The key though is to make the opposition get out of their comfort zone of offense and shoot low-percentage shots so that we can have chance to get the rebound,” Victor said.
Glen Oaks’ interim coach isn’t putting an emphasis on wins and losses, but the Vikings have a mantra for success.
“We tell our players to be one percent better than they were the day before. If we can continuously get better every day in the classroom, weight room and on the floor is how we will judge ourselves,” Victor said.
Glen Oaks’ interim coach says his team faces six teams that are ranked in the Top 20 in the country.
‘The conference is loaded top to bottom. Lansing is probably the team to beat. It’s going to be a great challenge. I expect Muskegon and Jackson and Ancilla to take a step up this season,” Victor said.
Mid-Michigan joins the Western Conference this season.
Glen Oaks is 0-2 to start this season but were competitive in both contests. The Vikings lost to Wayne County Community College District 78-65 and Olivet College JV 75-70.