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Chipola anticipates big season

 

By DUSTIN KENT  / Floridan Sports Editor

November 1, 2006

 

 

With a No. 2 national ranking and six returning players from a 29-4 team that came within a heartbeat of winning a third straight state title, modest goals for the 2006-07 season aren't the order of the day for the Chipola Indians.

With a great collection of talent and as much experience as most junior college teams are able to have, every possible goal is in reach for the Indians.

 

"Our first goal is to win every game we play," Chipola coach Greg Heiar said Wednesday.

"After that, we want to win the Panhandle Conference, then win a state championship and then a national championship. All of those things stem from that first goal, which is to win every time we take the court."

It's not so grand an aspiration considering the talent level of this Indians squad.

 

Chipola has three all-conference players returning, including preseason first-team All-American Jamarcus Ellis.

"I think we have a very experienced team," Heiar said. "The key to the success of this team will be our sophomore leadership. And when our sophomores aren't playing well, who will step up and get tough?"

 

The Indians will begin the process of finding that out when they start the regular season against Pearl River Friday at 7 p.m. in the Milton H. Johnson Classic at the Milton H. Johnson Health Center.

 

Chipola will face Brevard Saturday at 7 p.m. in the final night of the classic.

When the Indians take the floor Friday night, they'll have a starting lineup of sophomore point guard Ed Barrios, 6-foot-7-inch swingman Victor Dubovitsky, the 6-foot-6-inch Ellis, 6-foot-8-inch, 250-pound sophomore Johnnie Harris and the 6-foot-8-inch, 300-pound Thomas at center.

 

That gives Heiar tremendous size, strength and experience in his frontcourt, changing somewhat the dynamic of this team from that of last year's perimeter-oriented squad.

 

"I don't have four returning guards this year like I did last year," Heiar said. "Now, I have an experienced frontcourt and a completely new backcourt."

 

Berrios played significant minutes for the Indians last season, though freshman Eric Price will also be a factor at the point.

"Ed has been here a year and learned behind a great player (Stefhon Hannah). We're expecting great things from him this year in terms of running the team, being a leader and executing when we need him to," Heiar said. "I think Eric Price is the fastest guy in the Panhandle Conference from end to end."

 

Chipola also figures to get significant contributions from freshmen like Mario Little, Konstantin Fomin and Mario Edwards.

As is always the case with JUCO teams, finding continuity and chemistry will be a large and important task.

"It's hard for JUCO kids," Heiar said. "Every year, you've got a new group and they've only known each other for about two months. And now they have to trust and believe in their teammates."

 

"If we can come closer together when this get tough, we're going to be very hard to beat."

 
 
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