The cycle of community college basketball's 2-year system is such that one season you can be blessed with a veteran lineup and the next year a whole new rotation. That's the case for the 2019-2020 Pasadena City College men's basketball team.
The Lancers lost six key sophomores to graduation, including All-South Coast Conference forwards Chris Blount and Jordan Simpson, from the 2018-19 team that won 17 games and reached the SoCal Playoffs for the first time in five years (and hosted first postseason game in 15 seasons).
Head Coach Michael Swanegan, now in his 13th season at PCC and 21st directing players at the CCC level, has three role players returning from the '18-19 Lancers, two sophomore transfers and nine freshmen as PCC will look to mold the squad as the weeks progress.
On Thursday, PCC opened the '19-20 campaign in a 79-59 defeat against host and pre-season state #19-ranked Ventura at the We Play Hard Tournament. Only letterman shooting guard Patric Panoosi scored in double figures for the Lancers with 11 points, including all three of the team's 3-pointers. Panoosi averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 rebounds as a reserve last season and was second on the team in 3-point field goals with 37. The other returners are 6-foot-6 forward Deandro Worrell (1.6 points, 2.6 rebounds average, a high of 11 boards in a game v. Glendale) and defensive-minded, point guard London Benford (changed his last name from Farmer last season, who had limited playing time).
The sophomore transfers are guard Michael Harris, who averaged 8.5 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists as a part-time starter at Merced College in 2017-18, and point guard Dominick Erby, a top talent at McCluer High in St. Louis, Missouri, who played for NCAA Division III Westminster College prior to his arrival here. Erby appeared in an Illinois-Missouri All-Star Game and helped McCluer to a Class 5 District 7 runner-up finish as a prep player.
The freshmen group features guards in potential high scorer Anthony Gamboa, who had plenty of high point games including a 37-point effort while at Rancho Dominguez High, Rasheet Wilson, a Palm Beach Post All-Area honorable mention at Florida's Atlantic High, Austin Marx (Burbank Burroughs High), and Armen Safeyan (Mesrobian High). A 6-4, guard-forward expected to contribute is Gabriel Ajemian, a Glendale News Press All-Area Second Team selection who averaged 11.6 points and 4.4 rebounds his senior season at Crescenta Valley High.
At forward are a couple of local frosh products in 6-6 Pasadena High post players Lafayette Sanders (7.2 points, 5.3 rebounds) and Jesse Watkins, a participant in the annual Pasadena Star-News All-Star Game. Finally, at center is 6-8 Kevin Brazil (from Nashville High in Arkansas) and 6-7 Justin Diaz (Bonita High).
Against Ventura, Gamboa impressed off the bench in his collegiate debut with seven points and five rebounds. The starting lineup was made up of Erby, Benford, Panoosi, Watkins and Worrell, who had eight points (4-for-5 shooting) and four boards.
"We have a good group of kids but it will take some time to get everyone to learn our system and compete at the collegiate level for the freshmen," Swanegan said. "We had a great run last season with a very athletic group, but now we have a young team this season that we hope will jel as the season moves along."
Swanegan brings back to his assistant staff Jesse Ellis, Keith Hollimon, and Hosie Ward while also adding immediate family to the group--Mike Swanegan, the head coach's son who played as an All-SCC shooting guard for the Lancers in 2011-2013.
PCC faces #29-rated Riverside City College on Friday, Nov. 1 (3 p.m.) and then close the tourney with a 10 a.m. game on Saturday, Nov. 2 v. Moorpark. The Lancers will play on the refurbished PCC Hutto-Patterson Gymnasium floor when they host the 3rd Skip Robinson Classic on Nov. 14-16.