By Nick Giannandrea
College of the Sequoias men's basketball team heads into its second season under head coach Dallas Jensen with a talented 12-player roster featuring returning all-state and all-conference honorees.
A pair of major contributors from last season's Elite Eight team are back as well, and two gray-shirts are joining the fray for the Giants, who tip-off a months-delayed, abbreviated nine-game season at 6 p.m. March 6 against Palo Verde at Porter Field House.
Sequoias also welcomes four experienced community college transfers and two promising freshmen.
"I feel like it's a really, really good team," Jensen said "Talented, deep and athletic. And we're pretty interchangeable. If we compete, and play tough and share the ball, I think we have a chance to be pretty good."
But what the Giants nearly didn't have was a season to showcase their collective skills.
That's because athletics have been in a state of flux since the California Community College Athletic Association canceled the men's and women's basketball championship tournaments and all spring sports in March 2020 because of safety concerns related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Then, as the state began to ramp up for a return to play under a contingency plan that pushed all sports back to the spring, 82 of the 100 men's basketball-playing programs opted out of competing in 2021, including all of the Central Valley Conference except for Sequoias.
So in addition to navigating Covid-19 precautions that saw the Giants practice outdoors throughout the fall and undergo daily testing for the virus, Sequoias Athletics Director Brent Davis had to scramble to find teams to play.
"With this pandemic, we've seen a lot of concern for students on the mental health side. Not just at COS but around the country," Jensen said. "It's amazing what (COS President/Superintendent) Brent Calvin and Brent Davis and the whole administration team have done to make this possible. And our training staff. All the hours they have put in to get kids cleared to play. We're beyond appreciative for what everyone is doing, and how they made this come together for us."
All-State selection Ryan Johnson (Hanford High) and All-CVC pick Tiveon Stroud (Selma) are the returning marquee performers from a Sequoias team that went 24-6 overall,11-3 in the CVC and reached the state's Elite Eight for the second straight season in 2019-2020.
Johnson, a 6-5 guard/forward combo, averaged 13.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.7 steals and 0.9 blocks a game in his first season of basketball since he was a junior in high school in 2015-2016.
Johnson missed his senior season in basketball with an injury, then focused on playing quarterback in football as a red-shirt freshman at San Jose State in 2017-2018 and at Sequoias in 2018-2019.
"He's been fantastic for us," Jensen said. "I think he's really improved as a basketball player. He's got his basketball legs under him after not playing for three years. He's really stepping into a leadership role for us. We're excited for his future."
Stroud, a 6-8 forward/center, blossomed in the second half of last season en route to averaging 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.8 blocks a game.
"He's a high impact guy," Jensen said. "He's got a motor that really separates him from most in the state."
Amil Fields, a 6-6 forward from Hayward, and Ayo Aderobove, a 6-7 guard/forward from Nigeria, also return. Fields averaged 10.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, while Aderobove contributed 3.9 points, 3.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists.
"Amil and Ayo are both high character, high IQ guys," Jensen said. "Both love basketball. Both can shoot it. And they are great teammates, guys the other players like to be around."
Harris, a 6-10 center out of Scotts Valley, is a sophomore transfer from Gavilan, where he averaged 2.6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game in 2018-2019. He followed former Gavilan coach Jensen to Sequoias in 2019-2020.
"He has the ability to stretch the floor as a true big man," Jensen said. "He's got a bright future ahead of him. Whoever picks him up at the NCAA level is not only getting a great basketball player, but a great kid."
Troutman is a 6-3 freshman guard from Kerman, where he averaged 11.1 points, 10.6 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 4.5 steals and 2.1 blocks a game as a senior in 2018-2019.
"His upside is immense," Jensen said. "Ryan jumps out of the gym. He's going to be an impactful player for us the next two years."
Dawson, a 6-5 point guard from Antioch, averaged 8.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals a game last season while helping the Rams go 27-3 and reach the state's Elite Eight. Adam, a 6-1 guard from Marina, averaged 8.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 steals a game.
"Seth is one of the best point guards I've coached at this level. He really sees the floor, plays with great pace, can get a shot off when he needs to and defends at a high level," Jensen said. "And Mohammed does everything you can ask for as a head coach. He's one of the best shooters I've had at the community college level."
Ator, a 6-8 forward, averaged 2.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 22 games for McLennan College in Waco, Texas.
Jackkson, a 6-2 point guard, averaged 1.6 points and 0.8 rebounds in 20 games for Butler College in El Dorado, Kan.
"Scott has a great understanding and feel for the game. And he can really shoot at a prolific rate," Jensen said. "Conner makes plays scoring, distributing or rebounding the basketball. He's always around the ball."
Two freshmen round out the Giants' roster, including local recruit Nick Trevino from Redwood.
Trevino, a 6-3 forward, was a three-year varsity performer for the Rangers, where he helped Redwood go 17-12 and reach the Central Section Division II championship game in 2019-2020.
"I love the way he competes and the energy he gives," Jensen said. "He's one of the hardest workers on the team."
Sequoias' other freshman newcomer is Nicolas Allen, a 6-4 guard who prepped last season at Mundy's Mill High in Jonesboro, Ga., where he averaged 6.7 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists a game.
"He has the ability to slash and score it," Jensen said. "And he's got a smooth jumper and the ability to guard multiple positions on defense. I think he will be very impactful not just this season, but moving forward."
The Giants, who have only been practicing full-contact for three weeks, will play in a bubble of teams based regionally around central California, including Antelope Valley in Lancaster, Allen Hancock in Santa Maria, Cuesta in San Luis Obispo and Cerro Coso in Ridgecrest.
While records and statistics will be kept, there will be no conference titles or state playoffs, and the season will not count against a player's athletic eligibility.
"We all want to win, but I want them to all have a chance to compete and improve every time we're on the floor," Jensen said, "It will be interesting to say the least. We've tried to simplify things as a coaching staff. Every week in the gym, we're getting a little better. I don't expect anything to be perfect by any means. But I'm really happy with how we've progressed. I've told the guys to compete at a high level and be good teammates, and if we do those things, everything else will take care of itself."
At this time, fans will not be allowed at the Giants' six home games. But their games will be live streamed.
Fans can view Sequoias' game at 6 p.m. March 6 against Palo Verde at: https://youtu.be/2CerS6yqdxo.
The Giants game at noon March 7 against Palo Verde can be viewed at: https://youtu.be/XFEUnyhf2kE.
COLLEGE OF THE SEQUOIAS 2020-2021 MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE
March 6: vs. Palo Verde, 6 p.m.
March 7: vs. Palo Verde, noon
March 12: vs. Antelope Valley, 6 p.m.
March 13: at Antelope Valley, 3 p.m.
March 19: at Allan Hancock, 5:30 p.m.
March 20: vs. Allan Hancock, 5:30 p.m.
March 26: vs. Cuesta, 7 p.m.
March 31: vs. Cerro Coso, 5:30 p.m.
April 1: at Cerro Coso, 5 p.m.