By Michelle gardner
Cal Poly Pomona men’s basketball coach Greg Kamansky is just now catching his breath.
A whirlwind two weeks included playoff games in three different time zones and ended with a 56-53 overtime loss to Findlay (Ohio) in the Division II national championship game in Springfield, Mass., last Saturday.
The Broncos (25-8) returned on Sunday and celebrated with the student body on Thursday. Now, Kamansky is focused on recruiting. But you won’t find him complaining.
“It has been an unbelievable experience,” he said. “You think of the number of teams that play college basketball and very few get a chance to play for a national championship. And to think how far we went and the obstacles we overcame to get there. It is even more rewarding.”
The Broncos are graduating four seniors, the key ones being All-American Larry Gordon and third-leading scorer Walter Thompson.
Before the team left for the Elite Eight, Kamansky stopped short of calling Gordon the best player to come out of the program. He didn’t hesitate when asked again.
Gordon finished as the school’s all-time leading rebounder and second-leading scorer behind only Jeff Bonds. He also finishes ranked second in field goals (527), second in free throws (385), third in games played (116), fifth in steals (133), seventh in blocks (52) and 10th in 3-point field goals (94).
What sets him apart from the other four All-Americans the school has produced is his showing in the postseason. He averaged 22 points and 11.3 rebounds and shot 67.6 percent from the field in the run.
“His legacy is complete,” Kamansky said. “Big-time players step up in big-time games. He did it on the national stage.”
Kamansky admits it will be hard to replace his most recent All-American. But the one thing the Broncos will have is a solid nucleus of veterans returning.
Last year Gordon was the only starter back. The Broncos will be set in the front court, returning Dwayne Fells, who started 18 games this season as a true freshman, as well as sophomore forward Tobias Jahn (9.4 ppg, 5.5 rpg), who came into his own over the second half of the season.
They will also have Kevin Ryan, the team’s top recruit last year who had to redshirt because of a knee injury. They also landed an early signee in Justin Herold, a 6-foot-7 power forward out of Carrillo High School in Santa Rosa.
The core of other returning players will include second-leading scorer Austin Swift (10.2 ppg, 5.1 rpg), heady point guard Dahir Nasser (5.7 ppg, 2.7 apg) and much-improved reserve Robert Summers (7.1 ppg).
Cajon graduate Donnelle Booker will also be back in the fold. He sustained a season-ending knee injury in October and will be the most seasoned player in the program. The coach is hoping he can provide the same veteran leadership Gordon did.
Kamansky said the biggest need right now is in the backcourt. The Broncos typically carry fewer players than most teams but are looking for three or four more players.
“I like what we’ll have coming back,” he said. “Yes, we’re losing Larry, but we have guys that have actually played together, which is unlike last year. A couple more guards and we’ll be set.
“This is a great experience to build on.”