By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
Northern Oklahoma College Enid’s men’s basketball team returns to practice today rested and trying to take up where they left off after the first semester (11-3).
The Jets entered the holidays having won six of their last seven games, including avenging a previous loss to Cowley County (Kan.) 90-79 on Dec. 8.
“We have been playing well, so we want to get that feeling back,’’ said Jets coach Greg Shamburg. “It’s not vital going into Christmas with a win, because you have enough time to regroup, but it sure makes you feel good when you do.’’
Shamburg and assistant Ryan Mahoney will go over with the team everything they had done in the first half offensively and defensively as well as working on conditioning.
“I know they worked out over the break on their own, but getting back into game shape is a little different,’’ Shamburg said.
Shamburg was content with the first half, except for a disappointing loss at Redlands (73-65) in which he didn’t feel like the Jets competed to the best of their ability.
However, NOC Enid bounced back from that by winning six of their past seven games.
“Let’s hope they learned from it,’’ Shamburg said. “They have to understand we’re one of the favorites (in the Oklahoma Collegiate Athletic Confer-ence) and everybody is out to beat us. We have to play well every night.
“I think we have a chance to be good. We have started to play well, and if we can keep that going, we have a chance to make a run and go to the national tournament.’’
The recent improvement of freshmen Marquavius Williams and Giovanni Poitier has allowed Shamburg to use a nine-to-10-man rotation for the Jets’ uptempo attack.
The Jets are averaging 80.8 points per game and shooting 45.6 percent from the field, 36.1 percent from 3-point range and 72 percent from the line.
“Marquavius is starting to get comfortable in his role,’’ Shamburg said. “He wasn’t a point guard in high school, but he’s starting to play well, and I think he will continue to get better. The way we play, we need nine or 10 guys to stay out of foul trouble and keep our pace of play.’’
Williams had 22 minutes of playing time against Cowley. If he can give the Jets 15 to 20 quality minutes, Shamburg said, “it will help everybody to play better.’’
The Jets have good balance with four players averaging in double figures — Connor Brooks (14.6), Jeremy Espinoza (13.9), Dalen Qualls (13.9) and Kyndall Dudley (11.2).
Brooks has been especially impressive, shooting 51.5 percent from the field, 49.1 percent from 3-point and 89.8 percent from the line. He also is averaging 5.5 rebounds per game.
Shamburg was not surprised by the sophomore’s play, noting he’s bigger, stronger and playing at a higher comfort and maturity level.
“We knew he could shoot the ball,’’ Shamburg said. “He’s really playing well.’’
Espinoza has more than doubled his scoring average from last year. He’s shooting 55.3 percent from the field, 43.8 from three-point and 81 percent from the line. He is averaging a team-high 7.1 rebounds per contest.
“He averaged 30 points a game in high school,’’ Shamburg said. “We knew he could score a bit. He’s turned into a good player.’’
Qualls, called one of the nation’s best shooters by Shamburg in the preseason, is hitting 39.1 percent of his 3-point shots. Shamburg expects that to go up to 45 percent or better in the next few weeks.
“He’s got room for improvement,’’ Shamburg said. “He’s missed a lot of shots he normally won’t miss. Once he gets comfortable, he’ll be fine. Those aren’t bad numbers, but it’s not as good for him.’’
Dudley’s strength has been “scoring a lot of points in a short amount of time.’’ He is shooting 41.3 percent from the field, 26.8 from 3-point and 71.4 percent from the line. He has dished out an average of 4.2 assists per game.
Freshman guard David Lewis is averaging 3.6 points per game, but has dished out 3.6 assists. He is averaging only 1.8 turnovers a game.
“He’s doing what we have asked him to do,’’ Shamburg said. “He plays hard, plays good defense and has done a good job of getting the ball to the guys who are open.’’
Sophomore Philip Brown, a role player last year, “has gotten a lot better.’’ He is averaging 6.2 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, and his hitting 50.9 percent of his shots.
“He does so many things for us,’’ Shamburg said. “He plays good defense, rebounds and shoots a high percentage.’’
Comingo off the bench, sophomore Rex Farmer is averaging 6.5 points and 5.3 rebounds.
“He’s one of those guys who makes the big play when it counts,’’ Shamburg said. “It doesn’t always show on the stat line, but he’s one of those unique guys.’’
Poitier is averaging 3.1 points per game with1.7 rebounds per game.
NOC Enid will visit Rhema Bible College Saturday.