Owls head coach Brian Johnson keeping a close eye on things during preseason workout
It was a magical run during the 16-17 Maryland Juco Tournament where Prince Georges Community College, under first year coach Brian Johnson, captured the Maryland Juco Tournament Championship for the first time since 1981. It solidified the high level of coaching, culture change within the program and the talent within the team. It also put a bullseye on PGCC back entering the 17-18 season. After the transferring of forwards Johnson Ogunyoye, Jeremy Steadman, who moved on to Salisbury University and the University of the Cumberland’s respectfully, and the graduation of sophomore guards Kenneth Pettaway and Jaylin Johnson who will continue his career at Stevenson University, the Owls roster will nearly have a completely new look.
MD Juco Tourney MVP and NJCAA Division III Honorable Mention All American Alex Morales will sit out this season. Morales will be focused on getting himself ready for the next level after a number of offers from Division I and Division II programs currently still in pursuit for his services. Along with Morales, forward Moetaz Ashkar as well as guards Dexter Turner and Dariel Medina will sit out this season to focus on academics. With the number of losses from last year’s tournament championship team, only three players remain in guards Mykal Johnson, Kennith Ford and forward James Hagins. Although it will be a challenge to build the chemistry with this new group of a players, it’s a challenge head coach Brian Johnson and his returning assistants William West and Bruce Jenkins gladly accept.
I had the chance to attend a recent preseason workout to get an early look at the 17-18 Owls and this is what I came away with.
Sophomore guard Augustus Stone looks to build on his promising freshman season
Return of Augustus Stone. Versatile guard Augustus Stone returns to the Owls after sitting out the 16-17 season. During the 15-16 season, his freshman campaign, Stone averaged 15.4 points a game on 46 percent shooting from the field, 41 percent from 3-point territory and 70 percent from the stripe. An efficient scorer, who is a capable playmaker, look for a more mature Stone to fill the “go-to playmaker” void left by Morales.
Promising Frontcourt. Last season, the Owls had decent depth in the front court, this upcoming season the depth won’t be as strong. This puts more emphasis on 6’7 sophomore forward James Hagins to be more consistent. Hagins, who appears to be more mature physically and mentally, will be relied upon to produce game in and game out making an impact on the boards, defense and scoring when his number is called. Sleeper to watch is 6’5 freshman forward Charles Meiklejohn out of Annapolis. Although, Meiklejohn lacks Hagins athleticism and experience, he makes up for it with skill, toughness and I.Q. If he can catch on to the grind of JUCO quickly, you can put him down for double doubles throughout the season. Another forward that will be in the mix is high motor Brian Ferguson. While he’s a bit raw offensively, he is relentless on the boards and defensively which will guarantee him giving opposing bigs fits.
Owls sophomore forward James Hagins will be counted on to lead the front court charge
Charles Meiklejohn (Black shirt) is someone to pay close attention to this season
High motor forward Brian Ferguson development throughout the season will be key for the Owls long term success
Owls go as their guard play takes them. Most programs on the college level rely heavily on guard play and PGCC is no different, especially this year. While the loss of Morales is a blow as with any team that loses an MVP, Stone will lessen that blow dramatically. However, he can’t do it alone. Enter, sophomore guards Mykal Johnson and Kennith Ford. Johnson had a standout freshman season and is the Owls leading returner scorer at 17.1 a game. The 6’3 guard earned NJCAA Division III All-Region XX second team, All-Maryland JUCO second team and Maryland JUCO All-Tournament team honors after upping his scoring average to 19.3 points during the Maryland Juco Tournament. A shooter you have to keep an eye on and a solid defender, Johnson will once again be at the top of the list for opponents to stop when the Owls take the floor. 6'3 Ford, who averaged 9.9 points a game through the majority of the season, came into his own during the 2017 NJCAA Division III Region XX Tournament. Ford nearly doubled his scoring, putting up 17 points a game to lead PGCC to the championship game where they ultimately fell to Montgomery College. Ford, has carried that momentum into this season. He’s more confident, and has improved his all-around game including his shooting and has a chance to be the best all-around player on the team this year if he’s consistent. If Stone, Johnson and Ford can play up to their full potential, the Owls once again will be making major noise this season.
Mykal Johnson shooting will be vital for the Owls
Kennith Ford exploded late last season and looks to carry that momentum into and throughout this season
Talented Newcomers. Couple of new additions to definitely pay attention to are guards Tavon Ngangum and Deonte Cooke. Ngangum a sophomore transfer from Western Texas College (TX) is a steady floor leader who is solid in every aspect of the game, he will provide stability and leadership on the floor for this inexperienced bunch while Cooke, a freshman, is a former standout for Central High School (MD) where he averaged 15.2 points to help lead Central to the 2017 Maryland State Quarterfinals before falling to Century High School. Cooke is a tough minded, fearless guard who can both score and create for others. The coaching staff have been raving about both of them.
Freshman guard Deonte Cooke is a gamer and will be counted on to make an impact immediately
Leadership of Tavon Ngangum is invaluable for this young inexperienced roster
The 16-17 Owls team was a special team which culminated with a special championship run. This seasons Owls team is not that team and that’s ok, that doesn’t mean they won’t have a lot to say about who wins the Maryland Juco. Last year’s team weren’t projected to win the championship, yet they did. How? Through selfless play, accepting and excelling at their roles, and being coachable. If the young Owls buy in to the coaching and gel with one another, PGCC will once again be a force in the Maryland Juco Conference and beyond.
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