Late-season surge has BRCC men aiming for more

The Baton Rouge Community College men’s basketball team holds a middling 14-13 record, but a closer look at this season’s slate reveals a more potent Bears squad since the start of the new year.

BRCC started slowly, posting a 4-12 record through the 2012 portion of the schedule. But since Jan. 1, the Bears are 10-1, allowing them to capture the Miss-Lou Junior College Conference crown before the end of the season — something that had never been accomplished in school history.

BRCC is riding a four-game winning streak as it enters its regular-season finale at 4 p.m. Saturday against Meridian Community College, and coach Ricky Wilson has chalked the turnaround up to his players.

“I think the guys are understanding what we want as a staff,” he said. “I think the guys have really grown into what we’re doing, which is to defend and rebound and take good shots on offense.”

BRCC has beaten Meridian twice this season, topping the Eagles by two on a last-second shot ion Jan. 26 and again in a 10-point win Feb. 13.

It hasn’t been an easy road for the Bears, who started with 21 players but have since trimmed the roster to nine. In a way, the limited roster has turned out to be a good thing. Wilson said the players who are left are dedicated to the team.

“With the limited amount of players we have, (they know) that they’re going to play and (don’t want) to let their teammate down,” Wilson said. “They’re listening; they’re attentive. We hold them accountable for what they do offensively and defensively. I think that has helped them mold their games into a type of game where they can play as a unit of five and give themselves the best chance to win.”

One of the biggest contributors this season has been freshman guard/forward Jeffrey Walker. The Cotton Valley native has played in 23 games and is nearly averaging a double-double, putting up 15.5 points and 9.9 rebounds.

Walker was named a National Junior College Athletic Association Player of the Week in February after his showing against Delgado on Feb. 6, when he had 20 points and 23 rebounds.

“The way he plays really fits into how I coach,” Wilson said of Walker, a qualifying freshman who can leave for a Division I school after this season. “He has a long way to go but, as far as rebounding and defending, he’s one of our best guys to do that. There are Division I schools that have had a lot of interest in Jeffrey.”

The Bears begin postseason play March 6 with the Region 23 Tournament in Clinton, Miss. After that comes the NJCAA national tournament, held in Hutchinson, Kan.

“Getting a win before this regional tournament would be big because you’re going with some type of momentum,” Wilson said. “That’d be huge going into that tournament on a good note.”