With Clark College’s official Basketball season starting Nov.15, players are excited about getting their feet wet in pre-season games at the upcoming jamborees.
The Clark Basketball program strives for excellence on the court and in the classroom. This is a young team that will look to the only two returning players to help bring them along. A lot of the players expect to play at four-year schools after they finish up at Clark.
Sophomore guard Blake Stemkowski comes from just a half hour up the road in Kalama, Washington.
“I’m excited. We’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks now and it’s always exciting to get to play against somebody else besides our own team,” Stemkowski said.
Stemkowski hopes to use the two jamborees and the scrimmage to see where the team is at, what they’re capable of, and where to improve from there.
“Just working on stuff,” he said. “We have to play really intense defense and just work on our stuff.”
Last year left some holes in the team, but this season they hope to see improvement, Stemkowski said. “Scoring the ball. We had a hard time scoring last year and that’s definitely something we need to improve on,” he said.
Many of the players aim to play at a four year college after they’re done with junior college basketball. They hope to not only improve in the basketball ranks, but also to get academic support.
“That’s everybody’s goal at a junior college; getting to the next level, earning some scholarship money, and getting some education paid for,” Stemkowski said.
He is majoring in the healthcare field. “I’m going to school for nursing, so I plan to be a nurse,” he said.
Freshman guard Kevin Robello, from Federal Way, Washington is not just excited for the season. He’s also excited about playing basketball at the college level for the first time.
“I’m definitely excited to have this experience playing college basketball,” Robello said. “In college, the guys are a lot bigger and the pace is a lot faster; very up-tempo compared to high school.”
There are 11 freshmen on the Clark Men’s Basketball Roster and this team hopes to grow fast.
“We have a lot of freshmen and only have two upperclassmen,” Robello said. “Hopefully we can get our guys some experience going into the regular season so we’re more comfortable.”
Robello said he thinks the team is ready for the start of the season and the upcoming Umpqua tournament. “We’ve been practicing for a couple weeks so it’s nice to finally play against other people,” he said.
Robello said he wants to stay involved in sports after he decides to hang up his basketball shoes. “I want to be a sports writer,” he said, “I want to stay in sports and I like writing, so I figured sports writing will be a good fit.”
Sophomore center Matt Garrison from Vancouver is one of the two sophomores on the team. He is expected to step up and be a leader to the 11 freshmen on the team.
“Well I think it’s just establishing a culture, a good mindset, and hard work,” Garrison said on how he can help the guys along. “I’m the only starter back, so being in that role I need to set a good example, pay attention when coach is talking, and not slack around.”
“I’m pretty excited,” Garrison said. “We have a new group of guys, and we’re all trying to find out each others character and play I guess you could say. I’m really excited honestly,” he said.
Garrison said that the jamborees are about more than getting some practice. “What I hope to get out of it is finding an identity,” Garrison said about the jamborees and scrimmage before the tournament. “I think last year we were a really good defensive team, but we weren’t a good scoring team. Identity is a big part in what we find.”
Scoring was a weakness of the team last year as Stemkowski said, but Garrison talked about what they’ve been doing to improve that.
“It all started with recruiting,” Garrison said. “Coaches went out and recruited some guys that are really good shooters. Ethan Smith is one of them; he’s a knock-down shooter. Kevin is a good shooter as well. Our bigs can shoot too and that’s good.”
Garrison mentioned that they also have guys that can create their own shot. “We pretty much do have those kind of guys, exactly,” he said. “We have more height on the team too, which really helps as well.”
Garrison said a lot of four year universities have shown interest in him. “Coaches from division II schools have been hitting me up,” he said. “One of them is Cal State Eastbay. There’s Biola University in California who have called my coaches, as has Metro State.”
Garrison said that he is already planning his career after basketball. “I want to be a coach and a P.E. teacher,” he said. “That’s the dream job right there. That’s about it, and I just want to invest in kids’ lives and what not. That’s the dream.”