Seasons for both WC teams now underway

Posted Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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During his first coaching stint at Weatherford College, Mark Osina built the Coyotes into a perennial power. And now that he's back after being gone a few years, he hopes to do the same again.

"I expect us to go in there and compete and try to win the conference," said Osina, matter-of-factly. "Once you have a championship banner, that's always what you want.

"And I believe we've got a team that can compete for the conference championship."

Those might sound like bold words, especially for a coach taking over a team that went 4-21 last season, including 0-12 in the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference.

But Osina has coached a long time, and with that experience comes connections. Osina used those connections to come across what he believes is some of the finest young hoops talent around.

"I called all my buddies to help me out," he said with a grin.

Osina had a lot of roster spots to fill. The Coyotes lost all but two players from last season - a season that saw Osina coach the team in conference play after a midseason coaching change was made.

Osina, however, was not able to put his stamp on that team. He was only filling in and helping out his long-time friend and athletic director Bob McKinley (also the womens coach and athletic director).

During that time, however, Osina saw a couple of players who grabbed his attention, both of whom are returning for their sophomore seasons. Point guard Kevin Franceschi, from France, and shooting guard Nolan Cass, from the Woodlands, are returning as the nucleus to Osina's rebuilding efforts.

"Nolan and Kevin worked hard over the summer to get better," Osina said.

Cass averaged 8.1 points and hit 52 shots from 3-point range. Franceschi averaged 7.3 points and nailed 29 treys. Those numbers fit in well with what Osina has planned for 2013-14.

"Almost all of these guys can shoot threes," Osina said.

Smith is a 6-foot-9 transfer from perennially tough Seward County Community College in Kansas. He's originally from Washington, D.C.

"He brings maturity, leadership and experience," Osina said. "He comes from a good program."

Like WC, Seward made a coaching change, Osina said, and that prompted Smith's transfer.

Osina said he plans to run a 3-out, 2-in offense, which translates into high-scoring, exciting offense.

"I may even platoon," he said. "I did it before and won the conference. I really feel like top to bottom we have a bunch that can play great basketball. We have good depth, also.

"We'll try to push up-tempo, especially with our depth. We'll play at a fast, controlled pace."

The roster features a slew of freshmen, including 6-foot point guard Quentin Henderson, Houston; 6-foot-1-inch guard Chris Howard, Arlington; 6-foot-4-inch guard Fadil Yacoubou, Bronx, NY; 6-foot-2-inch guard Juozas Balciunas, Chicago; 6-foot-8-inch post/center Tonko Vuko, Croatia; 6-foot-7-inch post/center Timotis Kuckailis, Lithuania; 6-foot-4-inch guard Anthony Roberson, San Antonio; 6-foot-7-inch post/center Sam Osina, The Woodlands; and 6-foot-3-inch guard Alton Favors, Fort Worth.

Roberson comes from one of the most athletic families to be found. His father played basketball at New Mexico State, his mother played volleyball at the same school, his sister played volleyball at Texas, another sister played basketball at Texas Tech and another sister is currently playing basketball at Colorado and was the PAC 12 Freshman of the Year.

And his brother, Andre, played basketball at Colorado and was taken in the last NBA draft and plays for Oklahoma City.

"That is one athletic family, to say the least," Osina said, smiling. "I think we're going to like having him here."

As for the conference race, Osina believes it is wide open, and that includes two-time defending champion Ranger College.

"Everybody's reloading, it looks like. We've got good size, strength, speed and the ability's there. If we can coach halfway decent, we can be pretty good."

WC Women

Weatherford College womens basketball coach and athletic director Bob McKinley smiles and slowly answers after hearing this question.

"What’s it like having not one, not two, but THREE All-Americans on your team heading into the season?"

Grinning, he says, "That’s pretty good stock. But here’s what they always ask me, ‘What have you done for me lately?’ That’s what drives us."

In other words, accolades from even the recent past, while very nice, don’t win games in the future.

But there’s every reason to believe the Lady Coyotes will once again win many more than they lose this season. The cornerstones of last season’s 25-6 squad that advanced to the second round of the NJCAA Tournament are back, along with some key new additions.

Sophomore guard Bre Brooks was named both the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Most Valuable Player and Newcomer of the Year after leading the league in scoring (17 points per game) and assists (7.6), along with being second in steals (2.6). Also, 6-foot-3 sophomore Itiana Taylor earned first-team All-Conference honors after averaging 14.4 points (fourth in league) and leading the conference in rebounds (10.7).

Both were named All-Americans.

And if that wasn’t enough to build this season around, McKinley had an All-American transfer in, Jacqueline Chandler from Hill. The Cleburne High School product began her college career at TCU before transferring to Hill. She took last season off, but in 2011-12 earned All-American status by finishing second in the conference in scoring (15.0), first in steals (4.2), and first in assists (7.1).

"I don’t want to play a team if they’ve got a better player than Bre," McKinley said. "And no one on the team runs the floor better than I.T. (Taylor’s nickname).

"Jacqueline can give us the extra at the point guard we didn’t have last year. She’s also a good shooter. The two times we played them (Hill) she hit five and six threes. All three of those girls are (NCAA) Division I players."

Behind the leadership of Brooks and Taylor, last season’s team played national champion Trinity Valley closer than anyone else in the national tournament, falling 75-70. It was the sixth NJCAA Tournament appearance in Weatherford College history and the first since 2004.

It’s understandable that McKinley and the Lady Coyotes faithful believe a seventh trip could be on the horizon this season.

"I think we’re going to have a lot of ways we can go at people," McKinley said.

Along with Brooks and Taylor, part-time starters Toma Zaleckaite (6-3 post, Lithuania) and Kaylee Brooks (guard, Weatherford) return. Another sophomore, guard Traice McCoy from Fort Worth, transferred in from the University of North Texas.

"One of the really bright spots is Toma. She’d hardly shoot last year," McKinley said. "But she shoots the ball really well, and she can be a big help to us. She can score, rebound, she runs well.

"Kaylee’s a good 3-point shooter, and you’ve got to have those. And even though Traice has been out of basketball for a year and a half, she’s got all the tools."

The list of freshmen include guard Ciara Johnson, Tyler; 6-6 post/forward Zippy Khasoa, Kenya; guard Lou Hawkins, Weatherford; and 6-3 post/forward Ruth Adwar, Kenya.

"The better Zippy gets the more we can do. She is every bit of that 6-6," McKinley said. "Ruth can run, and she has arms that reach across my office.

"Ciarra is really good around the free throw line. And Lou is definitely going to help us. She passes well and has a good basketball mind."

As they did last season, the Lady Coyotes will once again run a fast-paced offense and a high-pressure defense.

"There’s no other way to play in this conference," McKinley said.

As for the conference race, McKinley admits his Lady Coyotes are the team to beat, but he believes the biggest challenge will come from the usual suspects, Collin, McLennan and Temple.

"I’m thinking if you lose a game, it had better be to one of those or you’re in trouble," he said. "Everything’s in place for another great season. Now we just have to go out there and play it."

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