BY ESTEBAN RAMIREZ Special to The Californian
The Bakersfield College men's basketball team is ready to redeem itself this year.
Its motivation can be summed up in two words: Last season .
The Renegades had a rough time in the 2011-12 season, going 9-17 overall and finishing last (3-9) in the Western State Conference South, due, according to coach Rich Hughes, to some key injuries and a lack of rebounding strength.
BC wants no part of a losing record again, and Hughes is confident the Renegades can turn it around.
"We're looking good," Hughes said. "We have a lot of returning players, so we haven't had to teach as much. ... The returners have helped the coaches teach the newcomers."
The seven returners are: 6-foot-5 forward Conroy Lester from Foothill High, 6-3 guard Duncan Schramm from Phoenix, 6-0 guard Gerald Bates from New York, 6-0 guard Mike Young from Oklahoma, 6-2 forward Damian Robinson from Illinois, 6-1 guard Robert Williams from Foothill and 6-8 center Taevanwe Morrison from South, who got hurt for the year before the team's first game last season.
"Our strength is that we work hard defensively," said Hughes. " ... We're also more athletic than last year, and as a team I think we shoot the ball better from the perimeter. I think we still need to improve on our toughness, which falls under rebounding.
"Being that we're usually a short team, rebounding becomes a toughness issue. If we're tough and we make contact on our box-outs, we'll be able to rebound better. That's going to be something that we'll need to improve on from now until our first game."
BC starts its season Friday at the three-day Cuesta Tournament in San Luis Obispo.
"We also need to improve on taking care of the ball, which is limiting turnovers. We play fast so ... that's something we're always going to emphasize. When you play fast you tend to be unfundamental, so we've got to keep preaching discipline. I think those are the two things that will affect the wins and losses early."
Citrus is favored to defend its WSC South title, according to Hughes. The Renegades can be competitive, he said, if the team can stay healthy.
"We're very competitive and we have a lot of players that can contribute on any night," he said. "We have some returners that can play at a high level.
"From my vantage point this team's chemistry is better than last year's, and they all look like they get along and they all want to win as a team, but the true measure will be when we get a loss or something happens with the team."
The Renegades open at home in their tournament Nov. 23-24 at the Gil Bishop Sports Center.
Nov. 9-11 -- Cuesta Tournament
Nov. 23-24 -- BC Tournament
Nov. 28 -- at West Hills, 5 p.m.
Dec. 1 -- vs. Santa Barbara, 3 p.m.
Dec. 6-8 -- Santa Barbara Tourn.
Dec. 14-16 -- COS Tourn., Visalia
Dec. 28-30 -- Hancock Tournament
x-Jan. 9 -- vs. Santa Monica, 5 p.m.
x-Jan. 12 -- at Glendale, 5 p.m.
x-Jan. 16 -- at Canyons, 5 p.m.
x-Jan. 23 -- vs. Citrus, 5 p.m.
x-Jan. 26 -- at L.A. Valley, 3 p.m.
x-Feb. 2 -- at Santa Monica, 1 p.m.
x-Feb. 6 -- vs. Glendale, 5 p.m.
x-Feb. 9 -- vs. College of the Canyons, 5 p.m.
x-Feb. 13 -- vs. L.A. Valley, 5 p.m.
x-Feb. 16 at Citrus, 5 p.m.
Feb 21-22 -- WSC Tournament