Motlow Bucks begin quest for third straight NJCAA Tournament appearance
The Motlow State Community College men’s basketball team made history last year when it became the first program in Motlow’s 50 years of intercollegiate athletic competition to win back-to-back conference championships and advance to the national tournament two consecutive years.
So what have you done lately?
With the beginning of a new season comes new expectations. The championship trophies and All-American awards are stored safely in their cases. All starting players from the past two seasons, who won 53 games and multiple individual awards, are gone, most now playing at four-year schools. Yet Head Coach Arthur Latham has a couple of tricks up his sleeve.
Red-shirt sophomores Leo Castillo, Jr. and Kin Webster return, both bringing two years of championship experience to the Bucks’ revamped roster. Castillo and Webster were red-shirts two years ago, practicing hard and bringing positive energy to the bench during games. Last year both played critical minutes on their way to winning title number two. This year they will be counted on to lead the way if the Bucks are going to contend for a third consecutive TCCAA title and NJCAA tournament trip.
“We are thrilled that both Leo and Kin chose to come back to Motlow and complete their community college experience both on the court and in the classroom,” said Latham. “They are both high-character young men and they are winners, and we are counting on them to be leaders in everything they do this year.”
Castillo is from the Virgin Islands and can play either guard or forward at 6’4. He started three games last year but played in all 31 contests, averaging 6.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals per game. He shot 50 percent from the field, including 35 percent from behind the three-point line, and connected on 71 percent of his free throws.
Webster is an undersized 6’5 power forward from Nashville who played in 26 games last year and is a tenacious rebounder and has a knack for quick put-backs under the basket. He averaged 3.3 points and three rebounds per game and shot 61.3 percent from the floor, by far the best shooting percentage on last year’s team.
Two more returnees bring championship experience back to Latham’s roster. Derrick Rayford, a 5’11 guard from Canton, Ohio, played in 21 games last year and averaged 4.7 points, 1.4 rebounds, 1.8 assists and one steal per game. Justin Hill, a 6’6 forward from Bartlett, saw action in 25 games and averaged 1.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per contest.
“Derrick and Justin are experienced sophomores who will need to step up this year and play more significant roles in our rotation,” added Latham. “They know what kind of effort it takes every day to win a championship, and like Leo and Kin, they are going to have to lead in exhibiting that effort to the rest of the squad. They must lead by example.”
The Bucks have added some impressive student-athletes to the roster. Among the incoming sophomore transfers are Ronald Blount from Ellsworth Community College, Josh Greer from Itawamba Community College, and Kashawn Bradley from Tennessee Wesleyan. Three incoming red-shirt freshman also add roster strength. Josh Endicott spent a year at the University of Cincinnati, Marcus Lacey was a red-shirt last season in Auburn’s football program, and Jaellan White played his prep ball at Blackman High School in Murfreesboro.
Also added into the mix are incoming first-year freshmen Nic Barstad of Tullahoma, Bryce McBride from South Side High School in Jackson, Jayven Humphrey from Tupelo, Miss.; Jarius Key from Bowling Green, Ky.; Moses Fofana from St. Benedict High School in Memphis, Darius Harding from Elizabethtown, Ky.; Kiyon Sowell from East Hickman in Lyles, Tenn.; Gabriel Martin from Murfreesboro Blackman, and Anterrious Ryhan from Rossville, Tenn., who played at Rossville Christian Academy.
The men’s basketball program has developed into a national power over the last dozen years, beginning in 2006 when Bobby Steinburg arrived as head coach. Even though his first team only went 12-15, he recruited a dynamite class that won 28 games the following year. From 2007-18, the program has won 245 games while losing only 85, winning 74 percent of its games while winning three TCCAA/Region VII titles and making three NJCAA tournament appearances. Motlow has had nine All-Americans and two conference players of the year.