FLINT, MI – For anyone who closely follows the men’s basketball program at Mott Community College, they certainly noticed that things haven’t been the same these past few seasons.
Posting back-to-back 12-loss seasons and missing the NJCAA National Tournament for the third straight year is certainly uncharacteristic.
But with a meticulous approach to recruiting this offseason, longtime coach Steve Schmidt and the Bears got off to a solid start Tuesday night.
MCC beat Grand Rapids CC, 97-78, to kick off the 2016-17 season with a perfect 1-0 record.
“We’re way ahead with this group than we’ve been the last few years,” Schmidt said. “The one thing that I realized is that we’ve got to do what Mott has been known for and become better defenders and that’s on-the-ball defense and help defense.”
An 11-man roster of guard-oriented talent represented the Bears on opening night. In typical Mott fashion, they pressured the ball and scored at a rapid pace offensively led by sophomore returner Diandre Wilson. He ended with a career-high 36 points and seven rebounds in 35 minutes.
Wilson shot 17-for-22 from the free-throw line and went 9-for-15 from the field against a tough zone defense.
“I was penetrating and getting to the line,” Wilson said. “When they went into a zone, I went into attack mode so I could open up the zone for my shooters.”
Wilson averaged 19.5 points, 4.8 assists and 4.6 rebounds as a freshman – ending as the No. 22 scorer in the nation. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla. native attended nationally ranked Blanche Ely High School and seems to be next in line to add to the long list of Mott players to earn scholarships elsewhere.
In Schmidt’s 26 seasons, he has sent 80 players to play college hoops on a higher level but would like to see other guys step up to help.
“We relied too much on Diandre,” Schmidt said. “Diandre is an All-American and I’m happy that he scored 36, he led the country last year in free-throw attempts so getting to the line 22 times does not surprise me at all but we need to get our other pieces to complement Diandre and what he does.”
Former Millington star Shawn Pardee finished with 18 points and five assists in his college debut. He averaged 28.4 points, 5.1 assists and 5.1 rebounds in his record-setting senior campaign and continued that hot shooting for the Bears, hitting six of his nine shots as the second-leading scorer.
Marcus Cole also posted 14 points with seven boards.
Jeffery Drake-Todd led Grand Rapids with 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Despite suffering dozen losses last season, Mott entered the year ranked No. 16 on the preseason NJCAA Division II preseason poll. Mott will head to Chicago for back-to-back games on Friday and Saturday versus McHenry and Triton then return to Ballenger Field House for a 7:30 p.m. Nov. 11 matchup against Muskegon.
“I think we will get back on the right track because Coach went out and got the players that he needs to win games,” Pardee said. “He’s got guys that are totally focused on school and basketball so we’re going to get it done.
“It gives us a lot of confidence but we’ve got to keep it up and get ready for the next game.”