College of the Canyons men’s basketball experienced a growth spurt this past offseason.
The Cougars ended last year with a mere seven players. This year, they have a full roster of 14 players plus five redshirts.
“I think we have some depth. Last year we were hurt by a small roster and injuries,” said coach Howard Fisher. “I think we have a stocked cupboard of players.”
This year’s athletic squad is led by returning sophomores Michael Kalu and Jacob Lilley.
Kalu averaged 17.6 points per game last season and five rebounds per game. Lilley scored nine points per game to go with 4.7 rebounds.
The two were teammates at Granada Hills Charter School and have only enhanced their chemistry on the court since then.
“We already have that connection and have already established that connection,” Kalu said. “So we’re out there, I feel like it’s just me and him against the world and he brings his level of leadership and ball handling. It’s unreal.”
Fisher said he trusts the duo to lead the incoming players and get them adjusted to COC’s style.
Lilley said that he’s particularly looking forward to working with Anthony Simone, a 6-foot-7 freshman from Kennedy High of Granada Hills.
“He’s a freshman, but he’s starting to pick things up pretty quickly now,” Lilley, a guard, said. “Really starting to be aggressive in the post, get rebounds, really be like our defensive anchor in the paint.”
It’s a relief for the Cougars, who only had one dedicated post player last season, according to Lilley.
Kalu added that freshman Jude Agbasi will offer some scoring power to the team, while sophomore and Santa Clarita Christian alum Philip Webb has taken on roles on both offense and defense.
Canyons adds a handful of Foothill League alums to its roster in Joshua Jehnings (Golden Valley), Denzel Nwanguma and Josue Valencia (Canyon).
Eight games into the season, COC has worked its way to a 4-4 overall record, with the San Jacinto Valley Kiwanis Hoops and Crops Tourney on deck for Nov. 30.
“We do have a lot of freshmen, so just getting everyone on board, on like what our mission is, what the goal is, and really get everyone to trust the process (is a priority),” said Lilley. “That’s the biggest thing, but it’s starting to come along pretty well.”
The Cougars begin the regular season on Thursday, Jan. 4 at Ventura College.