November 7, 2013
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- Breakthroughs can be tricky things in the athletic world. They can happen quickly with the hiring of new personnel or the addition of one or more dynamic players. Sometimes, they take much longer to transform a program in the middle of the pack to one that is perennially contending for championships and experiencing playoff success.
Entering the 2013-14 campaign, The Master’s College is expecting to make such a breakthrough. One that is characterized by a high level of consistent play from beginning to end, getting out of the blocks fast, battling through the fatigue of a grueling four-month schedule, and making a strong run to the postseason.
That expectation is not unfounded if you listen to eighth-year head coach Chuck Martin and his coaching staff, who believe they have the ingredients for the most complete squad since they took over the reins in 2006.
And, make no mistake about it, those makings start at the point where they are convinced they have found someone to run the show in JUCO transfer Dominique Lanier. The 6-4 junior’s pass-first mentality is ideal for a squad that has plenty of firepower elsewhere and his ability to break down opposing defenses will lead to high-percentage shots for teammates. When Lanier needs a breather there shouldn’t be a drop-off in production with fellow JUCO transfer Derek Walters, who excels in distributing the ball and keeping defenses honest with a solid outside shot. Redshirt freshman Reid Shackelford could be part of the mix here, too, but he may play more on the wing where he could provide instant offense off the bench.
Whether its Lanier or Walters running the point, they’ll have plenty of offensive targets to choose from, starting on the wing where newcomer Bernard Ireland and junior incumbent Derrick Fain are pegged to start, offering different, yet explosive games. Ireland is a supreme defender and rebounder plus he can shoot it from the outside and get to the rim with ease. Fain, who can just plain shoot the basketball, will be one of the club’s primary offensive options, using a deadly textbook jumper from behind the arc and mid-range pull-ups to collect points in bunches. In reserve, Martin can turn to sophomore Travis Divita who sparkled in limited action down the stretch last year.
At first glance, Jason Logan may seem undersized to play the four but the 6-3 senior jumping-jack has the mental make-up and skills to play with anyone around the rim. His marvelous leaping ability gets him to the basket quickly, wowing fans and opponents alike, but it’s his hard work on becoming a complete player that has won the admiration of his coaches. One of the GSAC’s most talented and exciting players will need to get a lot of looks at the basket for the Mustangs to succeed.
Logan will get plenty of support from junior forward Chris Patureau and the two may play together at times depending on matchups. The left-handed, two-year vet can handle the position by himself quite well, too, making 35 starts there in his first two seasons and producing at both ends of the court with a solid inside-outside game, playing tough defense, and rebounding.
Similar to the coaching staff’s search for a point guard was the one conducted for a true low-post talent which they think they’ve found in another JUCO transfer, Zach Stalin. The powerfully-built post is expected to ring up double-doubles on a consistent basis with a punishing game around the rim and glass. Returnee Korey Anderson has a year in the system and will compete for playing time while providing quality depth at a spot where it’s been lacking for a number of years.
All of this looks promising on paper but Martin and his staff are more concerned with what happens on the court. They’ll have a couple of exhibitions and a scrimmage to figure out all the working parts before embarking on a 29-game regular-season schedule that features contests against six squads that are ranked nationally in various preseason polls. Two of those teams, sixth-ranked and defending GSAC Tournament champion Concordia and No. 16 Arizona Christian, will play the Mustangs twice during conference play.
The Mustangs will also travel to No. 12 Cal State San Marcos, play NAIA Division II No. 22 Cal Maritime in a classic at Menlo and host NAIA Division II No. 4 Southern Oregon and NCAA Division II powerhouse, sixth-ranked Cal Poly Pomona.
The slate is a challenging one but this squad has the talent to deal with the stresses of a long season and seems ready to make that much-anticipated breakthrough.