SHERIDAN — The Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome had a relatively tame summer. A few student-athletes frequented the court and the weight room looking to improve, while coaches spent time in their offices, checking off various items on their summer to-do lists.
With fall classes at Sheridan College now underway, the dome is rarely empty. Whether it’s the volleyball team practicing or the soccer teams getting a lift in, the arena sees consistent foot traffic each day of the week.
The basketball players have their designated time to practice on the the court but can utilize any hours of the day to get shots up and work on their craft. Unlike in years past, where SC men’s basketball head coach Matt Hammer could usually guess, with high certainty, who was practicing without even seeing them, this time around is different.
“This year’s group, when you walk in, you’re never really sure who you’re going to see,” Hammer said. “It’s a good thing. That’s what good programs have.”
The Generals finished last season as Region IX North Division champions with a 28-5 overall record. Sheridan just missed out on an at-large bid to the National Junior College Athletic Association National Tournament, finishing the season ranked No. 16.
Last year marked Hammer’s best season at SC, and there are many reasons to believe 2018-19 could prove even more fruitful.
The Generals return three starters in AJ Bramah, Cam Reece and Josh Bagley. Bramah and Reece earned third-team All-Region IX honors after averaging 14.5 and 14 points per game, respectively.
Sheridan also welcomes back sixth-man Sean Sutherlin and front-court help in Cody Baumstarck and Trace Murphey.
The rest of the 2018-19 roster is comprised of new players, many of whom have already made a positive impression.
“I like everybody. Everybody is really good,” Bagley said. “We all can play, and there’s no letdowns. We all can shoot, really, in my opinion. It will be a fun year.”
The newcomers bring all sorts of basketball backgrounds to the floor. Elijah Blake and Lasse Gummerus both come from NCAA Division I programs.
Blake transferred from Denver University, and Gummerus comes to Sheridan via Marist College.
Javary Christmas, Adham Eleeda and Sasa Vuksanovic transferred in from other NJCAA Division I programs. Christmas played for Cloud County Community College in Concordia, Kansas; Eleeda suited up Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas; and Vuksanovic spent his freshman campaign at McLennan Community College in Waco, Texas.
“We’ve got a veteran group,” Hammer said. “We’ve got 11 guys that are going into their second year of college, so they’ve been around. … It’s an older group, and they know how to work, and they know how to play hard. They know what it’s all about. It has been a great group to work with so far.”
A few true freshman round out the roster. Dominique Jackson and Jay Lewis both played high school ball in Cedar Hill and Conroe, Texas, respectively. Donte Gonzales came all the way from Gilbert, Arizona, where he went to charter school, and Hayden Peterson made the short trip north from Buffalo.
It’s an eclectic mix of talent and personalties that will don the Columbia blue and gold this winter and Hammer likes how all have bonded thus far.
“I think a lot of it starts with some of the guys we got returning. They’re all unselfish, and they’re all good kids, and they’re easy to be around,” Hammer said. “The second part of it is you kind of recruit your own problems. So the guys we recruited, we made sure they’re high-character guys that are going to come in and not cause any issues or anything like that.
“With today’s technology, social media and all that stuff, they all knew who each other were coming into it,” Hammer continued.
“I know they had some group text going and a group Snapchat going, already. Everyone is following everyone on Instagram and all that stuff. They’ve adjust to one another pretty well.”
The team will continue to work out and get more acquainted with each other in the coming weeks. The Generals are slated to played in a jamboree in Colorado in October with a couple exhibition games sprinkled in thereafter. Sheridan College opens the season at home Nov. 2 against Otero Junior College.
Until that time, Hammer will continue to guess, with much less certainty, as to who he can hear practicing from his office.