The Pierce College Raiders men’s basketball season is in full swing, and the Raiders are back to their winning ways. Last season, ninth-year head coach Bill Mendelson – the winningest coach in the 41-year history of Raiders basketball with a 135-99 record – successfully led the 2011 Raiders to a second-place finish in the Western Division, with a 13-3 record – the most ever league wins in a single season, and capped the year with a second-place finish at the NWAACC Championships.
This year, the Raiders have started out nicely in the pre-season, going 4-1 and progressively becoming more cohesive as the season wears on. The Raiders roster boasts nine freshmen and just two sophomores.
“I am really excited about this year’s team. We have basically one guy who was part of the championship run we had last year. That was probably the best team we have had here at Pierce College in about 40 years,” Mendelson said. "This year we have some real talented guys, but the system is new to them, so we will have some rough spots. It just depends on how the team gels together. These guys are fun to be around. They work hard, and they are really good students.”
Marquis Doss, a 5-foot-10 sophomore (averaging 9.5 points, 8-of-28 two-point field goals, 13-of-13 free throws, 6-of-13 three-point field goals) returns to the team with court experience and the ability to control the high tempo run-and-gun Raiders offense.
“I am really excited about this year’s team. We have some transfers from other schools. We get along really well right now. I am really expecting a better turnout than last year. We really are looking forward to getting the rings this year,” Doss said. “The one thing I am worried about already since we are 4-1 is our guys getting big-headed, because anything can turn around. We just have to keep practicing and playing hard. We’ve got a long season ahead of us, so we need to keep focused.”
When it comes to clutch three-pointers and game-changing plays, the Raiders can depend on John Palmer, a six-foot freshman (averaging 14.6 points a game, 21-of-37 two-point field goals, 14-of-27 three-point field goals, 18-of-18 free throws).
“So far I am loving my experience here at Pierce College. The reason I transferred from the four-year school in Texas is because I wanted to be close to home (Alaska). This team has a lot of talent and experience. There are really only two real returners from last year,” Palmer said. “There is just a lot upside to this team
In practice, we are working hard. I am really listening to my coaches and I am getting better. As a team we are coming together."
The Raiders’ talent comes from many local high schools, including Curtis, Clover Park and Fife, leading scorer Jack Murrey's alma mater. Murrey, a 6-foot-3 freshman (averaging 4.2 points a game, 8-of-23 two-point field goals, 3-of-7 free throws) has clearly been finding his purpose over the last five games, but he is finding the pace and intensity is something he needs to get used to now that he is donning a Raiders jersey.
“Transferring from high school to college is a big change. The biggest thing I have noticed so far is the physicality of it. People are stronger, and the speed is faster. I am not as big a standout as I was in high school, so I have to adjust to it during the season. As for coming off the bench, I am adjusting to it and learning my role. I definitely need to knock down my shots. We have a great team and a lot of talent,” Murrey said.
Overall, the Raiders have shown promise of repeating the trip to the championship, but the season is long and teams are challenging. The Raiders step to the court for their first regular season game on Jan. 7 at home against crosstown rival, Tacoma Community College, with tip-off at 7 p.m. Listen to the online broadcast of all Raiders home games at www.daveandmikeshow.com/pierce-college-mens-basketball.com ;Pregame show starts at 6:30 p.m.