NMMI Sports Press
After a tough 2015-2016 season on the court, the Bronco basketball team is refocused and ready for success this year.
Second-year head coach Ralph Davis called last year “a learning experience,” and wants to build on the successes NMMI did have in his first season.
Two obvious changes are the addition of assistant coaches Ronnie Williford, Jr. and Richard Grant, who come from outside the corps of cadets, giving them a different perspective.
“Which is pretty refreshing and definitely helpful,” Davis said.
Williford comes to Roswell from Arkansas, where he played high school and got his undergraduate degree, and Ranger, Texas, where he was a member of the Ranger JC basketball team.
Grant is an east coast native, who played and coached in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
Besides Davis, the only returners to the squad are sophomores DeMarco Enoch and Ahmed Coulibaly, along with redshirt freshmen Jerrell Doorbal and Greg Talbot.
Enoch “had a pretty strong freshman year,” averaging 11 points per game, and Coulibay “actually played last year, so that’s very important,” Davis said. Doorbal and Talbot didn’t play “but still add some continuity to the program, which is just as important at NMMI.
“All four, in their own way, have been very instrumental in bringing along the young guys and helping with their progress,” the coach added. “That being said, the mentality of this group of guys is night and day from last year. Their intensity. Their discipline. They’re attacking tasks that we assign for them. It’s all been great. With still room for improvement.”
New sophomores on the team include Maurice Coleman, a DI transfer from the University Maryland Eastern Shore, and Marlon Laveau-Alcindor from St. Francis Brooklyn.
Both those colleges currently have former Broncos on their squads — Jagos Lasic at St. Francis and Marc Seylan at Maryland — so the NMMI newcomers come to New Mexico knowing a little bit about what’s ahead of them.
“Both those guys came in kind of knowing what to expect just because they’ve been exposed to some of our past guys,” Davis said. “They brought the right attitude and the right amount of talent over here that we needed.”
The other sophomores are Chukuka “Chu” Emili, who was second in shot blocking at Rockland Community College, and Logan Santiago, who was an all regional player at DII Raritan Valley CC.
“Both are pretty highly decorated from last year,” Davis said.
The coach is equally excited about the freshmen.
“Will Sessoms has been a bundle of energy and every day is ready to work,” he said. “Rashaan Proctor and Davis Steelman are two guys that we knew would contribute immediately when we were recruiting them. The same can be said for Lenny Kadisha and Jake Valero.”
Valero comes to NMMI as one of the best players in San Antonio, Texas, while Kadisha is “a tough New York ballplayer who is gritty and grimy and gets it done. So we’re pretty excited about this roster.”
The Broncos didn’t win every game in their busy pre-season, but Davis said they improved as they played.
“Obviously, we’ve left a lot of room for improvement as well, but once again, our preseason last year was very similar to our season. We didn’t get off to a hot start and that shouldn’t have an effect but unfortunately it does. So this year, even though we want to play better, we’ve left with our head high after every single game we played. That’s the most exciting part about it.”
They learned what they needed to work on — after missing four free throws in the last 13 seconds and falling to Howard by one they spent a lot of time at the line last week — and have been working on defense — last year’s Achille’s heel — from Day 1.
“We spent a ton of time on defense and just following some principles that we feel if we execute them, we’re going to be very successful,” Davis said.
The coach said the team can shoot — something they had no problem with last year — and this year they’ll be able to get the ball in from the inside as well as long range.
“We don’t have a Chancellor (Ellis), but we have two guys, in Marlon Alcindor and Davis Steelman who have the capability to go on runs like him,” Davis said. “Maybe not over the course of the season shoot the same way, but we feel like either one of them can have a five 3-point game on a given night. And we have some other firepower as well. I feel comfortable in our position with the basketball.
NMMI opens the season Thursday at the NMJC Thunderbird Classic in Hobbs Saturday, with games against No. 23 Arizona Western, Trinidad and the conference foe T-birds.
“We’ll be tested this weekend, that’s for sure, and we’ll have a general idea of how good we can be and where we can go,” he said.
The rest of the pre-conference season includes other tough tournaments and games.
“We really wanted to upgrade our schedule and play as many high-caliber opponents as possible just to get a better gauge,” Davis said. “We can’t hide in conference so there’s no reason to hide in non-conference.”
That conference — the Western Junior College Athletic Conference — has always been tough and that won’t change this year, Davis said.
“From what I’ve seen, the conference will be better than ever. But included in that is us, too. So it’s not just at the top: all the programs have seen an increase in talent. We feel good because we’re part of that.”
For those wondering when they’ll be able to see the squad, the Broncos have a long road string to start the season. Their first home game is Nov. 25 at the Bronco Classic, and Davis said he’ll be glad to come home.
“I’m excited to see the packed house once again,” he said. “I’m excited to see some folks come out and really watch us and I’m hoping we do our part and put on a great show.”