In fall 2012, Kevin Ryan became the Raritan Valley Community College men’s basketball coach, and within a short span he turned the team’s fortunes around. Under his direction and that of his two assistant coaches, Lou Mercer and Phil Herro, a new culture emerged, and last year’s team ended the regular season as the 2013-14 Garden State Athletic Conference Champions, advancing to the Region 19 championship game.
This year, the Golden Lions welcome back sophomores Jaron Smith, a point guard averaging 20 points per game; Kassim Kaba, who provided strong minutes in his plays; and Jaleel Christmon, referred to as the “big man of the team.” They are joined by three young talents: James Richardson and Anthony Wright-Downin, known as the team’s slashers, and Bridson Rivera, who brings a shooting prowess to the court.
These top six key players and are joined by Omar Adams, Austin Bardaji, James Brunn, Robert Edwards, Lance Rhoden and Travon Washington.
Aware of the accomplishment of last season, this year’s players identify themselves as a new set of athletes, not a duplicate of last year’s team. But they are fighting for the same success.
“You are going to go to war every night you’re on the floor,” Richardson said. “Regardless of who had a bad performance or who shows out, you have to remember at the end of the day you are going to see this person at every game or practice. You just have to believe in each other and always play within each other, rather than playing selfish or thinking about yourself.”
Although the Golden Lions Men’s Basketball’s concentration on drives and lack of shooters might be detrimental, they make up for it with their athleticism, speed, and strength in transitions.
Since the first day of practice, these young men committed themselves to show up, play hard and win.
“Win is just a big statement,” Coach Mercer said. “Win basketball games and win championships, obviously. More or less make sure your kids have a winning mentality: winning in society, winning in community, winning in family, winning in classes. Always prepare yourself to be a winner. That’s just kind of like the pot of gold.”
With fresh talent and four veterans, the Golden Lions are setting their sights for a spot in the conference play offs. They say they are optimistic, as are their coaches.
“I do have faith in this team,” Coach Ryan said.
Featured image caption:
The men's basketball team.