After the hardest season of his life in 2013-14, the tone in which Aaron Landon speaks about his basketball team has completely changed.
The second year South Puget Sound Community College men’s basketball coach suffered through a 2-22 campaign last year, playing with an all-freshmen team filled with new recruits from out of the area.
After filling his team with his brand of players to fit his style and guidelines, Landon now praises his team’s character — which has led to a solid start to the season. SPSCC (5-7 overall, 0-1 NWAC West) hosts Green River at 8 p.m. Wednesday, after falling 78-75 to Lower Columbia on Saturday in the West Region opener.
The Clippers have won four of five games, including grabbing the Dale Bates tournament title led by tournament MVP Elijah Sanders, a Timberline High graduate.
“That was a big confident moment for us,” Landon said. “Our confidence has changed more than anything. We’re comfortable going out and playing against anybody.”
Now, Landon doesn’t just expect improvement, but victories, too. The ultimate goal is to quality for the 16-team NWAC tournament in March. He couldn’t say that this time a year ago.
“We have a chance to win every single night simply because of the players,” Landon said.
Sanders, a 6-foot-6 forward, is averaging 16.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, but during the Clippers’ best stretch of the season, has averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game. He’s one of two Clippers averaging in double figures in points (De’Ron Kyle, 12.8 ppg).
Landon said Sanders has drawn recruiting interest and is ready to make the jump to a four-year program when he graduates with his associate’s degree after winter quarter.
“He’s ready for the next level,” he said. “When he’s dialed in, he’s as good as we’ve seen.”
2-FER AT SMU
Saint Martin’s will host a Great Northwest Athletic Conference doubleheader at Marcus Pavilion on Thursday. Coming off a road victory last Saturday, the SMU women (4-7 overall, 1-2 GNAC) host Alaska-Fairbanks (10-4, 2-2) at 5:15 p.m., followed by the SMU men (5-9, 2-2) hosting Central Washington (7-3, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, the women host co-GNAC-leading Alaska Anchorage (13-1, 3-1) at 5:15 p.m., followed by the men hosting Northwest Nazarene (4-9, 2-1) at 7:30 p.m.