Don’t look now, but the school year is flying by. SLCC volleyball is already nearing the regular season’s end, which means that Bruin basketball is on its way back to the Lifetime Activities Center on the Taylorsville Redwood Campus.
It’s no secret that SLCC is well-known for success when it comes to athletics, and the Bruin men’s basketball squad is no exception. But with great achievement comes great expectation—something that this year’s men’s hoops team isn’t shy about.
“We want to get to Hutch,” SLCC head coach Norm Parrish, who is in his 20th season as general on the Bruin bench, said. “We just want to get better every day—we hate losing, but the reality is that we want to be playing our best basketball in March.”
The “Hutch” that Parrish speaks of is the city of Hutchinson, Kansas. Hutchinson is the site of the National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) national tournament, held in March of every year. Parrish is no stranger to this hallowed place, as he led the 2009 Bruins to the national title.
“It’s an unbelievably tough accomplishment,” Parrish said. “It’s what every team in the country plays for. Those kids played their tails off—in junior college, there are no at-large berths. Once you get there, you’re in the Sweet 16, and to get there is really tough.”
Coach Parrish stresses to his players the mental and physical toughness required to compete and win at a national level. The Bruins have their sights set on a return trip to the national championship, a goal that SLCC’s returning players feel confident in reaching.
“Our goal is the national championship—nothin’ else.” SLCC point guard LeShaun Wilcox said. “We’re fast, we’re big and we’re aggressive. We’ll be a lot better on defense this season, too.”
Wilcox came off the bench last year, but will be in the starting lineup this season.
It’s well known that basketball is a sport that rewards height and size, and the Bruins have plenty of both. SLCC power forward Tommy Barrett stands at 6-feet-4-inches tall, and weighs in at over 210 lbs. He’s big—and he’s only the fifth largest player listed on the Bruin roster. He will start at power forward for the Bruins but will likely spend time at small forward as well.
“My strengths are my size and my speed—I’m a big guy, but I can move around, too,” Barrett said. “I like to take advantage of that. If I have a bigger guy on me, I’ll run the court—if he’s smaller, I’ll post him up and just bury him.”
Barrett, a Centerville, Utah native and Viewmont High School graduate, will fit well in Parrish’s offensive scheme. The Bruins aren’t afraid to run the floor, but they won’t do so at the expense of a better shot in the half court game. Coach Parrish wants his guys to get the ball down low in the post and work from the inside out.
“I’ve never told ’em not to run the floor, but we don’t want to run and take poor shots,” he said. “We value every possession, and we’ve been pretty successful with that philosophy.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Bruins should have some success this season. With three players on the roster being at least 6-feet-9-inches tall, SLCC should be able to clog the lane and get some blocked shots and defensive rebounds.
“Defensively, the last few years we’ve gone with a lot of man-to-man,” Parrish said. “Sometimes we have to try to fool some people, but this year’s team is pretty athletic and I think we can do some trapping and some things to force our will on opponents.”
Getting ready for a championship caliber run is no easy task. In addition to studies and/or work and trying to have some semblance of a social life, the players of SLCC men’s basketball put in a lot of hours on the court and in the weight room.
“I put in at least three or four hours every day,” Barrett said. “It’s tiring on the body, but in the end it’s more than worth it.”
It is often said that success happens when hard work meets opportunity, and sports are not an exception to the rule. Coach Parrish is aware that while he has a talented roster, there are improvements that can be made.
“We need to work on consistency. We’ve had some good scrimmages and some poor scrimmages,” Parrish said. “They do work hard, but they do need to really be dedicated every single day.”
With all this commitment and dedication, sometimes the people who pay the biggest price for success aren’t on the team at all. Players and coaches alike benefit greatly from having family and friends to lean on during the hectic season.
Parrish is considered a ‘player’s coach’ by his team. He jokes that he sees his coaching staff more than his family during the hectic season.
“I’ve got a great wife—to be a coach’s wife and family is hard because sometimes they don’t see me a lot,” Parrish said, “My family is really supportive. I’ve got great assistant coaches that give input, too.”
Fans will have their first real opportunity to see the Bruin men in action soon, with their first home game only about a week away. Players on the team already have an idea of what’s in store for spectators at Bruin Arena.
“We like to run and gun—we’re good,” Barrett said. “We’re physical, and I think it’ll be exciting to watch us play this year.”
The Bruins will have plenty of tough competition to contend with in conference play, because the Scenic West Athletic Conference is loaded with good basketball programs. Fans can catch Bruin men’s hoops on November 4th at Bruin Arena as SLCC takes on a junior college from Montana.
“Hopefully fans will come out and see some good, tough basketball,” Parrish said of the entertainment value of SLCC basketball. “Our athletic level is very high—every player out here is a Division I caliber kid.”
Admission to all Bruins home games is free with a valid student ID, and tickets for anyone else are inexpensive. All home games will be broadcast live on SLCC TV (Comcast channel 17), and on a live web stream at slcc.edu/slcctv.