Gavilan College men’s basketball coach Derek Jensen likes a lot of things about this year’s team, but foremost among them is its unselfishness.
“Our guys don’t care about numbers and they’ve all bought in to do whatever it takes to win,” said Jensen, whose team entered the week 14-6 overall and 3-1 in the Coast Conference South Division. “It’s a special group and we’re healthy now so I think it’s only going to get better.”
Jailen Daniel-Dalton, a 6-foot-7, 200-pound sophomore forward, leads the team in scoring and plays a complete game.
“I would say DD has been our best player all season long because of what he brings on both ends of the floor,” Jensen said. “He’s a real leader, brings toughness, intensity, can shoot it, handle it, defends everywhere and is very competitive. It’s rare to get a kid like him on this level. He’s going to make whatever school he goes to next very, very happy because he’s extremely talented and I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
Gavilan has a trio of 6-9 players in Fabian Reichstadt, Collin Williams and Ryan Harris. They’ve all had their moments, particularly Reichstadt, who had 16 points, 19 rebounds, three blocks and four assists in a 73-56 win over Ohlone College of Fremont on Dec. 15, arguably the team’s best result of the season.
“We’re fortunate to have Fabian with us. He’s been a real catalyst for the backside of the defense,” Jensen said.
Isaiah Hinds, a 6-4, 175-pound freshman, has been terrific at point guard and ranks among the state leaders in assists.
“Isaiah is so important for our tempo, pace and transition offense,” Jensen said. “On top of that, he’s the best on the ball defender I’ve ever had. He’s just a very special defender, a very team first guy. He guards every team’s best player every single game and is so invaluable to us.”
Alex Harris, who had been used mostly as a super sub, has started the last couple of games and has the ability to score a flurry of points whenever he’s on the court. A De Anza College-transfer, Harris had multiple 30-point games last year and has done nothing to disappoint in his time at Gavilan.
“Alex is a very gifted scorer from every level, and there’s not many better midrange shooters than he is,” Jensen said. “He may be a little streaky, but when he gets going you’re in trouble.”
Harris is good friends with returning starter Caleb Onuonga, who has dealt with an assortment of injuries but has come on strong. Armed with a versatile game, Onuonga also brings certain intangibles every winning team needs including consistency and making hustle plays.
“Caleb creates a lot of extra possessions for us,” Jensen said. “He’s a high energy guy and makes sure everyone is practicing hard. Just rock solid, the same guy every game, and gritty.”
Cameran Thomas, an Ohlone-transfer, plays the off guard spot and has excelled.
“Cameran is a very gifted scorer and brings a lot of toughness to our team,” Jensen said. “He brings a lot of poise, a lot of maturity, and has just shot the lights out this year. He’s easily been our best shooter.”
Competing in the Coast Conference South Division, the Rams look to challenge for the conference championship along with West Valley, the state’s No. 4-ranked team, and No. 8 San Jose City (Gavilan checks in at No. 25).
Among NorCal teams, the Rams have the 12th best Winning Percentage Index, a number used to seed teams in the playoffs.
“It’s been a good year so far, but we want more than that,” Jensen said. “But not bad [at all].”
Gavilan’s most memorable moment this season was when it hosted the inaugural Andrel Gaines Memorial Classic Dec. 30-31. Gaines was a teammate of Jensen’s at Gavilan in 2011 when Gaines and two teammates were hit by a drunk driver just days before the start of the season, according to Jensen.
Gaines was in a coma for nearly two weeks before dying. The event featured four teams, including College of the Sequoias, which is coached by Derek’s brother, Dallas.
“I was really honored we got to do that for Andrel,” Derek said. “I felt like he was such a big piece to Gavilan and what we planned to be that year. He was such a big member of the community and I’m really glad we got to do something to honor him, respect him. His whole family came out to the tournament. It was really special.”
NOTES: Gavilan College honors two Athletes of the Month throughout the school year. Anna Demario, a former Gilroy High standout, and Tyler Davis, a former Christopher High standout, earned the honor for September.
Makenna Deeth (Hollister High) and Jason Scirigione (CHS) were named Athletes of the Month for October. Sarah Polanco (CHS), Jay Trejo (Hollister), Jason Briones and Jailen Daniel-Dalton earned the honors for November.