When Jamar Hammonds looks around the Western State Conference’s South Division, he doesn’t see any team that can match up with Bakersfield College in the 2017-18 season.
The 2016-17 player of the year for the division considered his team’s returning players, the freshmen coming in and the rosters of the four other teams — College of the Canyons, Los Angeles Pierce, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles — before declaring the fate of the Renegades this upcoming season.
“Definitely three-peat,” Hammonds said. “... It’s going to be an interesting year. Not just as far as playoffs, as far as making a run to the state tournament, too. People gotta watch out for us.”
Bakersfield College is setting out to capture its third straight WSC South Division title this season and sixth overall. BC head coach Rich Hughes — who earned the WSC South’s coach of the year award the last two years — thinks it would be the first such accomplishment among any sport at the school.
BC was ranked No. 14 in Southern California by the California Community College’s Men’s Basketball Coaches Association. No other teams in the Western State Conference South Division made the cut.
The Renegades opened the season at the Santiago Canyon College/Santa Ana College Tip Off Tournament on Thursday.
“The challenge to this year’s group is do the three-peat,” Hughes said. “We return five starters from last year’s team. On paper — knock on wood — that looks good. We’ve also added some pretty big pieces as far as freshmen are concerned.”
The Renegades’ five returners each started at least five games. Key among those are BC’s top three scorers from a year ago: Hammonds, Jaylunn English and Tucker Eenigenburg.
Hammonds, BC’s second consecutive WSC South player of the year, led the team with 16.5 points per game. He averaged 22.9 points and 8.9 rebounds per game in conference play.
The sophomore wing from Ohio spent the summer working on his post play, practicing his fadeaway jumper and learning how to draw contact for fouls.
English shot 47.6 percent from the floor and led the team with 39 blocks. Eenigenburg shot 39.1 percent from 3 and made the most 3s on the team (51).
“People know we’ve got a few guys back, but still with the preseason rankings we didn't really get much love with that, which is fine with me,” Hughes said. “Keeps us motivated. But I don't think we’ll sneak up on people.”
What Hughes has realized about this installment of the BC team is that it can score at will.
But Hammonds and Eenigenburg are still thinking back to last year and the last game the Renegades played. In the state playoffs, BC fell to Chaffey on a buzzer beater in overtime. Because of that, Eenigenburg is looking past just another conference title.
“Conference is awesome and we got that conference ring last year, but we’re hoping to expand on that and actually make some noise in the state playoffs this year,” Eenigenburg said.