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Men’s Basketball: ECC looks to tighten things up

ElgCommunity College sophomore Brock Ralphs has led Spartans scoring through early part season. |  Sun-Times MediFile

Elgin Community College sophomore Brock Ralphs has led the Spartans in scoring through the early part of the season. | Sun-Times Media File

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Updated: December 13, 2013 6:19AM

Elgin Community College basketball coach Reed Nosbisch recalled a conversation he had with former ECC and Jacobs coach Jim Hinkle after the Spartans’ season opened.

“After he saw us play he said to me, ‘you’re going to have a problem: You’ve got a lot of guys you can play,’ ” Nosbisch said.

The Spartans’ big, talented recruiting class made it obvious against a difficult schedule very early that potential exists. For the first few weeks, though, Nosbisch is relying on sophomores to get rookies indoctrinated and their 2-2 start probably reflects the difficult early schedule more than it does possibilities for this season.

Sophomore forward Brock Ralphs (14 points per game), sophomore forward Jonathan Leigeber (12.3 ppg) and 6-foot-5 sophomore center Zach Cooper (9.7 ppg) led the offense through the first four games, including a loss to defending national Division II junior college champion Rend Lake. But what pleased Nosbisch most was the backcourt play from a guard line that had assists up and turnover totals down.

“That’s always been one of our biggest weaknesses is we averaged 18 turnovers a game, but we wanted to play an up-tempo style,” Nosbisch said. “In our recruiting, we made an emphasis on saying ‘we’ve got to find a point guard.’ Right now we feel like we have three or more quality point guards.”

Freshmen Demitri Strickland (Rich South), John Moss (Bartlett) and Raynard Judkins (Richards) each averaged three assists or more the first three games and Crawfordsville, Ind. sophomore transfer Jake Thomas 2.7. Returning Elgin High graduate Alan Walker averaged 1.7.

The chief three-point shooters have been returning guard Ryan Ritchie, Leigeber, Ralphs and Thomas.

Former Bartlett three-point ace Matt Chaltin will be eligible at semester’s end as a transfer from Lake Forest College. Another point guard who could play a role after semester’s end is freshman Russell Wright from Rich East.

Cooper’s experience and 6-5 height could help in the frontcourt, where rebounding is the emphasis.

“The first two games we played we got beat on the boards pretty good, but Rend Lake had a couple 6-7, 260-pounders,” Nosbisch said. “What I came away from it with is if we’re going to play at the tempo we want we have to get on the boards.”

Streamwood’s 6-9 Zack Harris is the team’s tallest player.

“He’s been used to going against 6-4 centers in high school, so he’s finally getting guys his own size to bang around on and it’s a learning process,” Nosbisch said.

Glenbard North’s Brandon Metoyer (6-3), Burlington Central’s Moter Deng (6-5), Larkin’s Jason Barnhart (6-3) and Jacobs’ Eugene Barretto (6-3) are the other front-court players, and South Elgin’s Ryne Lundy will see playing time in the frontcourt after recovering from illness.

“We aren’t very heavy as far as our weight goes and that’s another reason why we need to get it off the boards and go,” Nosbisch said. “If we get into a bang-it-grind-it-out style game we’ve got too many 150-pound guys to win.”

After witnessing a preseason jamboree, Nosbisch expects Waubonsee, Moraine Valley, Oakton and Prairie State to be among the most severe local tests facing the Spartans.

“Defensively, we’ve got to get a lot better than what we’ve shown because teams are going to get a lot better offensively as we go along,” he said.

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