The Laramie County Community College men’s basketball team is looking to improve on last year’s 17-14 record, with a young new group to lead the way.
The Golden Eagles finished last season with a loss in the closing seconds against the Lamar Community College Lopes in the Region IX tournament. Elijah Oliver led the Golden Eagles that night with a game-high 28 points, but it wasn’t enough as LCCC lost a nail biter 74-76.
It is a new year for the men’s basketball team and that shows promise, said coach Jason Ficca, who is beginning his 10th year. The team will consist of 12 newcomers to the team with 11 of them being freshman. Ficca will only have two returning players from last year’s team in sophmores Hayden Collier, (Rangiora, New Zealand) who averaged 8.4 minutes per game, and Stephane Manzi (Nyamirambo, Rwanda), who averaged 7.8 minutes during the 2017-2018 campaign .
“We are a young team, but with a lot of young talent. We are as deep and as talented as we’ve maybe ever been… where all 14 guys can play during the game,” Ficca said.
One of the incoming freshman for the team is Cheyenne Central graduate Willie Jones. Jones was a part of the Indians varsity basketball team since he was a freshman, cracking the starting lineup as a sophomore. . Jones, who is 6-foot-4, played a total of 83 games, averaging 6.4 points per game for the Indians and winning a 4A state championship in 2016. Jones said he knew that LCCC was the place for him.
“The LCCC coaches really made me feel wanted,” Jones said.
According to Ficca, Jones is ready for the transition from high school to college basketball due to his special skill set and body to compete at the college level.
The Golden Eagles have consistently finished in the top half of Region IX, with that being one of the team goals this year, Ficca said. He added that there will be challenges, with the young team, and LCCC moved to the North Division of Region IX. With these challenges, Ficca is still confident that they can win a Region IX championship.
“Challenge is how do we get all these new guys to come together and win a championship now? And if we keep the core of this group together as sophomores next year, we will be really, really good,” Ficca said.
Last year the Golden Eagles relied heavy on the three-point shot. In the season-ending loss to Lamar, the team was 6-of-15 from behind the arc. Last season the Golden Eagles averaged 85.6 points per game they shot 42.1 percent from three-point range. Former LCCC guard Landon Taliaferro led Region IX in three-point shooting last season. Ficca said he would like to see this change and see more diverse play from his young team.
“Offensively last year we were really reliant on three-point shooting. I definitely want to see us score in different ways, like to see us play faster, move up and down the floor faster. If we are going to reach our max potential with these new guys, we have to play with crazy, hard energy,” Ficca said.
Ficca said he’d like to take advantage of the team’s depth and move down the floor quickly, which would wear out the Golden Eagles’ opponents.
Off the court, the Golden Eagles will be partnering with BEAST foundation, which is an after school program. Ficca said he hopes with this partnership that children with the program can become close with the basketball program.
“We just will spend time with kids, and carry that throughout the year and make deeper relationships,” Ficca said.