An indication of the success that Tony Romero has enjoyed in his five years as Central Christian College men's basketball coach is that last year’s 17-win season represented the lowest victory total of his tenure.
When you consider the Tigers compete in perhaps the NAIA's toughest conference, the Midlands Collegiate Athletic Conference, that makes his accomplishments pretty heady stuff.
Romero has won 98 games in his five years to average just under 20, and goes for No. 99 when the Tigers open their season here Tuesday against Barclay College.
The women, 0-2 on the season, tip things off at 5:30 p.m., while the men are set to begin at 7:30.
Romero, whose inexperienced team still was 17-15 last year, must replace do-everything guard Aaron Miller, who probably meant more to his team than any player in the MCAC. But returning is a solid nucleus and Romero, as usual, has reloaded with some quality newcomers.
“This is my longest, fastest and most athletic team I have coached so far,” said Romero, who was a big-time star at Central during his playing days. “Our seniors are doing a good job leading. I feel all of our returners have improved and made big strides in the offseason. Our new guys are doing pretty well picking things up. Our depth should be a strength, I think we are two-deep at every spot. Our league is tough, but we are optimistic we should be an improved team from last year.”
The Tigers that take to the court to start Tuesday’s game are pretty familiar, with steady hand Daniel Nwosuh at the wheel running the point, joined by sharpshooting 2-guard Dustin Rojas. Michael Gholston, last year’s KCAC Freshman of the Year, is expected to be the Tigers’ top scorer, while Chris Quincy and redshirt Alonzo Stafford round out the front court. Stafford, a 6-7 jumping jack, has outrageous athleticism. Gholston is silky smooth and at 6-5 is a tough matchup because he can play either guard or forward. Quincy is a 6-4 banger who does all the little things like rebound and set screens.
The Tigers’ depth is unquestioned. Romero is excited about the improvement in returnees Sam Clayborn, Shawn Robbins and Tere Adams. Clayborn is a high-energy player who makes things happen once he hits the court, while the burly Robbins and Adams provide muscle..
Newcomers who have opened eyes include transfers Jerome Jackson and Jalin LeBlanc. Jackson is a pure shooter and the 6-8 LeBlanc runs the court tremendously for a big man. Romero believes the Tigers will be able to play an exciting, entertaining uptempo if everything comes together.
“I feel this group is very eager to prove how much they have grown in the offseason,” Romero said. “We return a solid group of returners and great crop of new players that are eager to make their mark on CCC basketball. Our staff has had a blast leading this group of men thus far.”
A game already circled on the calendar is a Nov. 12 Alexander Arena matchup with McPherson College for the mythical "Mayor's Cup." The teams have played wildly entertaining games since Romero has come aboard at Central and this year's promises to be no different.