Armed with size, speed, and a wealth of experience, the Buccaneers are eyeing a rise to the top of Region XIV and beyond.
(Pictured: Blinn College head men’s basketball coach Scott Schumacher talks to his team during a timeout last season)
“We have a lot of guys back from last year who played significant roles for us — that’s huge,” 11th-year Blinn head coach Scott Schumacher said. “A lot of our guys were learning a lot over the course of the season last year and are now ready to take that next step in their development. That experience coupled with our transfers and our freshmen is going to be a major strength of this team.”
Blinn finished 17-15 overall with a 9-10 mark in the Region XIV South Zone last season, adding a win over Tyler Junior College in the Region XIV Tournament before bowing out in the quarterfinals. When Blinn opens its campaign on the road at McLennan Community College on Wednesday, Nov. 2, the Bucs’ 16-man roster will include eight returning sophomores from last season’s squad, along with three second-year transfers.
The Bucs welcome back 48 points and a plethora of seasoned skill from 2021-22, including guards Maurice Pinnock, Damian Watson, Jaja Sanni, Azari Woods, and Jakari Marshall, and forwards Alex Tsynkevich, Tyler Jackson, and Jan Njock.
Added to the sophomore mix are transfer guards Bakari LaStrap (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis), Elijah Elliott (Mount St. Mary’s University), and Marco Foster (University of New Hampshire).
(Pictured: Blinn College sophomore forward Alex Tsynkevich, center, fires a shot toward the rim against Tyler Junior College last season)
“We have a great group and a great mixture of returning sophomores, transfers, and some really nice freshmen who can really play,” said Tsynkevich. “We’re on the same page. Everybody is locked in, everybody is hungry, and everybody wants to win. If we can put it all together, we’re going to have a successful season.”
Tsynkevich added that he expects the Bucs to bring a unique mix of size, speed, and athleticism onto the hardwood.
“The goal is going to be to run our opponents out of the gym,” he said.
Njock said a bright spot during Blinn’s preseason practices and scrimmages has been the Bucs’ fast-developing chemistry. He said Blinn’s second-year players have bonded quickly with the fresh faces and the results are already showing.
“The older guys and Division I transfers are taking a role of leadership for the freshmen coming in. It’s a mentorship role that involves leadership and guidance, and it’s allowing us all to mesh well,” Njock explained. “The freshmen are hungry, and they want to adapt quickly, and you already get a sense that we could go really far this season.”
Schumacher described his team as being faster from the guard position than in previous seasons, and said he plans to utilize that by increasing the tempo of games.
“Our guard play, with their speed and athleticism, is just something that we’re not used to having,” Schumacher said. “That will allow us to speed the game up, and then we can still pass the ball inside to our big men and make plays there. It’s going to be exciting.”
Blinn was picked to finish second in the seven-team Region XIV South preseason poll behind Lee College and received three first-place votes. The Bucs also received votes in the NJCAA Division I preseason top-25 poll. Lee is ranked 12th in the nation, while Region XIV East Zone preseason favorite Kilgore College is ranked fourth.
Blinn opens its region slate against Trinity Valley Community College on the road on Wednesday, Nov. 30.
“I expect to win every game. When we walk out on the floor, my goal is to win every single game,” Schumacher said. “My thing is, get up, go to class, behave yourself, do what you’re supposed to do, and when it comes to basketball you go 125% every day. With that said, my expectation is that we’re supposed to win the Region XIV South, we’re supposed to get to the Region XIV Tournament title game, and then we’ll see what happens.”
Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 42 NJCAA national championships since 1987.