CLINTON — Removing five players from your roster before the season has even begun is a problem in the best of circumstances. For a squad that didn't have much experience to begin with, such as the Clinton Community College men's basketball team, such a move has the potential to do a lot of short-term damage.
Joe Shovlain understands that. It also isn't the primary concern of the Cougars' coach. Instead, his eye is on the long-term goals of the Clinton program, which include fielding a roster that succeeds both in the classroom and on the court. If he has to temporarily sacrifice the latter by benching a third of his team to prove how serious he is about the former, that's fine by him.
“I've taken them all out, and I take them out early,” Shovlain said. “Their grades have got to be at our standard, or I'm not going to dress them for games. That's a choice that we're making at Clinton, because we're trying to elevate our program to where they are going to be true student-athletes here.
“Now, is that a hard lesson to learn? I hope some guys learn it and want to do better academically so they can get their jersey on and help us on the floor.”
Until those players make the adjustments in the classroom, Shovlain is prepared to battle with a roster that he believes has talent, but lacks both experience and numbers. Of the 10 players who are eligible to dress for the Cougars, only guards Kimani Stevens and Dione Blyden and center BeeJay Caleb were members of last year's squad, and only Stevens was a starter last season.
Onterier Brown, a transfer from Kirkwood, is the only other player on the active roster who had played a second of college basketball before the Cougars began their season on Tuesday with a 74-58 loss to Black Hawk in Moline. But despite the lack of bodies available, the Cougars believe they can improve on last year's 8-20 mark — and understand that with no set timetable for the missing five players to return, they'll have to overcome the handicap to make that goal a reality.