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COC men's hoops: Fresh faces galore

College of the Canyons looks to integrate all of its new pieces

Posted: December 15, 2013 9:03 p.m.
Updated: December 15, 2013 9:03 p.m.
Ilya Ilyayev (left), Zach Davis (middle) and David Horst of the College of the Canyons men's basketball team. Ilya Ilyayev (left), Zach Davis (middle) and David Horst of the College of the Canyons men's basketball team.
Ilya Ilyayev (left), Zach Davis (middle) and David Horst of the College of the Canyons men's basketball team.

When College of the Canyons men’s basketball head coach Howard Fisher talked about his team in early November, the 13th-year coach said this is perhaps the most diverse team he’s had in his time with the program.

There are three international players, a host of local players who have taken various paths to get to COC and zero returning starters.

For the most part, it’s a far different group of COC Cougars than last year’s Western State Conference, South Division champions which made the third round of the state playoffs.

“It’s a junior college,” Fisher said. “Every year could be a rebuilding year so you just go with what you have and we’re fortunate we have guys that really work hard and have a good attitude and want to learn and want to get better.”

So far, this group has gone 4-4 and struggled at times with its consistency.

But that doesn’t mean there isn’t potential for improvement.

“We’re coming along good,” said COC sophomore guard David Horst. “If we clean up some of the simple things then I think we have a good chance.”

Horst is the only player who is returning after playing significant minutes a season ago. The 26-year-old Valencia High graduate was COC’s first man off the bench last year, and he averaged 6.5 points per game.

Now he’s a starter and a captain who is averaging 15.4 points and 5.4 rebounds a game.

Other than Horst, the team is a veritable smorgasbord of athletes.

Ilya Ilyayev, a sophomore transfer from Cal State Northridge is leading the team with 18.8 points per contest so far.

COC’s big men are 6-foot-6 Dailbor Nonkovic, from Australia, and 6-foot-5 Valencia graduate Zach Davis.

Davis leads the team with eight rebounds per game and Nonkovic is scoring 6.5 points and pulling down 4.6 boards a game.

The offense runs through Hart graduate and starting point guard Roman Delgado, who returns to the team this year after playing for the Cougars two years ago and taking last year off. Fisher said he brings a calming presence to the team.

“In a picture or on paper, we don’t look very good,” Ilyayev said. “But I think we’re really, really fundamentally skilled. We’re not the most athletic team, but if we play hard and grind it out for 40 minutes, we can be really good.”

Other players in COC’s rotation this year include local products Clay Kasdorf (Canyon) and Bo Vaughan (West Ranch) as well as sophomore guard Antonio Rios from Santa Paula High.  

Kasdorf was a Signal All-SCV first-team selection in 2011-12 and Vaughan was a second teamer for the same season.

The team isn’t hurting for scorers. The Cougars are putting up more than 76 points per game but the team is also averaging nearly 18 turnovers per contest.

The talent and potential is there, but at this point in the season, it’s a bit of a process getting everyone on the same page.

“We’re using November and December to find our way and to figure out what it’s like for everybody to play at this level whether its freshmen from the area playing at the junior college level or whether its international guys,” Fisher said.

COC won its first WSC South title since 2007 last season. This year, the Cougars were moved to the WSC North Division to balance out the two divisions after Oxnard dropped its basketball program and Antelope Valley College shifted from the Foothill Conference to the WSC South.

This will be COC’s first time playing in the North since the conference was split into two divisions.

Conference play begins on Jan. 8 in a home game against Pierce College.

“If a couple loose balls go our way, a couple free throws go our way down the stretch, we have a chance go get into the conversation for a conference title,” Fisher said.

For COC, it will be all about turning its potential into results.


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