By MARTY JAMES
The Napa Valley College men's basketball team scrimmaged eight opponents in September, giving head coach Steve Ball an opportunity to see and assess the play all 14 players, many of whom are freshmen and brand new to the college game.
Napa Valley was host for its Storm Scrimmages on Sept. 21. The Storm played in the American River College Showcase on Sept. 22 in Sacramento and the following week played in the City College of San Francisco Showcase, held over two days, Sept. 28-29.
"We played 14 guys in almost every game," said Ball. "We just wanted to make sure that everybody got an opportunity to step out there and see what it was like. I thought we fared fairly well when we played a couple pretty good teams there.
"We'll shorten that rotation."
Napa Valley lost to Diablo Valley-Pleasant Hill, 64-44; Santa Rosa Junior College, 59-49; Columbia- Sonora, 45-40; Folsom Lake, 50-49; Skyline-San Bruno, 61-60; Butte-Oroville, 50-47; and College of San Mateo.
The Storm beat Cañada-Redwood City.
"Offensively, our efficiency got better and better every day," said Ball.
The scrimmages are part of the non-traditional season. The Storm opens its 2019-2020 season by playing at the Cabrillo Tip-Off in Aptos with nonconference games on Nov. 1 and 2. Napa Valley plays its home opener on Nov. 14 against College of the Redwoods of Eureka at 6 p.m. The Bay Valley Conference season begins in December.
"What we look for in these non-traditional seasons is progress," said Ball, the past president of the California Community College Men's Basketball Coaches Association. "I'm certain that my winning percentage is much lower in the fall. Everybody wants to win, but it is not my top priority. My top priority is development and for these young players to get an understanding that this is a different level of basketball."
Ball and his staff have already installed more offense into the system at this time of year than in any previous year.
"They started to really read it well and have become very efficient offensively," he said. "We've learned quite a few things on the offensive side of the ball. We've changed what we're doing defensively also. We're going to clean up the mistakes."
Braxton Adderly, who averaged 10.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1 steal per game last year as a freshman, suffered an injury to his leg early in the Storm's first scrimmage of the season. He was limited to playing in four of the scrimmages.
"The one concern we had was, basically the one player we couldn't afford to lose was Braxton, who's our leader, our starting point guard, our returner, and our leading scorer off last year's team," said Ball. "And we lose him eight minutes into our first scrimmage. So we sat him for that entire weekend. And it really forced Chance (Martin-Farrell) and Jaivon (Williams) as point guards to come in and play extended minutes. It really expedited their learning curve for this level of play. And both of them responded really well. They both became more efficient throughout every game."
Adderly played in four of the scrimmages and scored 27 points on 12-of-24 shooting with five rebounds, four steals and four assists.
In seven scrimmages, Martin-Farrell scored 12 points on 5-of-16 shooting with nine rebounds, 13 assists and seven steals.
In seven scrimmages, Williams scored 56 points on 18-of-42 shooting with 13 rebounds, eight assists and 13 steals. Williams was 4-of-10 from three-point distance and 16-of-18 from the free-throw line.
Also seeing playing time for the Storm:
* Zach Swim: 32 points on 9-of-27 from the floor, 14-of-21 from the free-throw line, 20 rebounds, four assists and six steals in seven scrimmages.
* Wil Lane: 21 points on 7-of-14 from the floor, 4-of-8 from three-point distance, six rebounds and four assists in six scrimmages
* Shakir Howard: 69 points on 25-of-69 shooting, 4-of-21 from three-point range, 15-of-18 at the free-throw line, 25 rebounds and four steals in seven scrimmages.
* Brian Green: 12 points on 6-of-18 from the floor, 32 rebounds and two steals in seven scrimmages.
* Dakota Macias: 15 points on 5-of-12 from the floor, 5-of-5 at the free-throw line, 15 rebounds and two assists in seven scrimmages.
* Saleem Ali-Musa: 60 points on 25-of-48 from the floor, 8-of-12 at the free-throw line, 28 rebounds and two assists in seven scrimmages.
* Joseph Aldridge: Six points on 3-of-9 from the floor and 11 rebounds in seven scrimmages.
* Brandon Radu: 45 points on 17-of-55 from the floor, 5-of-21 from three-point range, 10 rebounds, eight assists and eight steals in seven scrimmages.
The Storm had a "very successful summer," with players working in a strength training program, said Ball.
"We got better," said Ball, who is assisted by Carson Caratinni and Rae Hubbard. "We didn't teach a whole lot of offensive concepts. They say players are built in the summer and teams are built in the fall. The onus is on them to get their skill sets developed during the summertime before we come in and start working on our concepts.
"Carson Caratinni is doing a great job with our strength and conditioning program. Our guys are always fit and healthy and strong. We want to make sure that they maintain their health throughout the season.
"We're also in a new phase in our strength training program for this month – more of a strength and power phase. So it's going to hopefully get them strong enough for the long haul."
It's a very tight-knit team that is learning about the game and getting better all the time, said Ball.
"We have so many freshmen and they're going to make some impacts here," the coach said. "I've told them this might be the greatest group of teammates that I've had as one collection. They all get along with each other. They all treat each other with respect. It's a testament to them and their character."
NVC will also play in the Renegade Classic, Nov. 22-23 in Bakersfield; the James Clark Memorial Tournament, Dec. 5-7 at Cosumnes River-Sacramento; and the Kris Kringle Tournament, Dec. 12-14 at Santa Rosa JC.
Last year, Gomez-Espana averaged 11.3 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. Ali-Musa averaged 9.1 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Macias averaged 1.2 points and 2.9 rebounds per game.
Napa Valley was 5-23 overall and 3-13 in the Bay Valley Conference last year. The Storm placed eighth in the conference.
Two of the top freshmen on the team are Swim and Radu.
Swim was named as the Player of the Year on the Napa Valley Register's 2018-19 All-Napa County team. Swim averaged 16.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.3 steals per game as Napa won the Vine Valley Athletic League title, went 23-6 overall and reached the CIF North Coast Section Division I playoffs. Swim was also named as the VVAL Most Valuable Player.
Radu averaged 12.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.8 steals and 1.4 assists per game for Redwood-Larkspur, which went 24-9 overall and 13-3 in the Marin County Athletic League last year.
Redwood was second in the MCAL and went 1-1 in the league playoffs, 2-1 in the CIF North Coast Section Division 2 playoffs, and 1-1 in the CIF State Division III playoffs.
* Marty James is a freelance writer who makes his home in Napa. He retired on June 4, after spending 40 years as a sports writer, sports editor and executive sports editor for the Napa Valley Register, a daily newspaper in Napa County. He is a 1979 graduate of Sacramento State and a member of the California Golf Writers & Broadcasters Association, Associated Press Sports Editors, and California Prep Sports Media Association. He was inducted into the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section Hall of Fame in 2016 and the Vintage High School Athletic Hall of Fame in September of 2019.