Men’s Basketball season recap: Standout Raiders on the court

Sophomore+guard+Tim+Andreolli+takes+it+to+the+hoop+during+Moorpark%27s+home+game+against+Pierce+College+on+Wednesday%2C+Feb.+5.+Photo+credit%3A+Evan+Reinhardt

Sophomore guard Tim Andreolli takes it to the hoop during Moorpark's home game against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

By Chad O'Connor

After the Moorpark Men’s Basketball team wrapped up their 2019-20 campaign with a win against Santa Barbara on Feb. 21, the time to reflect has come. The Raiders endured a long season filled with coaching changes, nail-biting losses and comeback victories with plenty to analyze.

The season was encapsulated by their relentless effort and desire to compete until the final whistle. It was the defining characteristic of a team which despite obstacles, finished the season with a third-place finish in the Western State Conference.

Interim Head Coach Chris Morgan took over the team in November after former coach Gerred Link departed for a separate job. The moment quickly could have held disastrous consequences for a team still in the early stages of the season, but according to freshman Noah Slife, it was galvanizing for the young squad to face such adversity.

“All the hard work and adversity with our Head Coach leaving after four games,” Slife stated. “The adversity we’ve been through and the bond we built … I’m going to miss playing with them.”

Moorpark College Head Coach Chris Morgan runs a play during a timeout in their home game on Wednesday, Feb. 5 versus Pierce College.
Moorpark College Head Coach Chris Morgan runs a play during a timeout in their home game on Wednesday, Feb. 5 versus Pierce College. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Sophomore forwards Tim Andreolli and Mason Johnson received All-Western State Conference First Team honors for the season. Andreolli’s second appearance on the list after receiving the honor his freshman year. Sophomore guards Ben Grant and Najeem Nawabi received honorable mentions as the conference only awards one team.

The Moorpark Reporter, in a collaborative effort has chosen four distinct honors for this season, reviewing the team with an emphasis on the year at hand but also looking at what is to come. These are not official awards but rather a praise for stellar athletic accomplishments on the hardwood for this Raider squad.

MVP — Tim Andreolli

Sophomore forward Tim Andreolli blows past his defender against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at Moorpark College.
Sophomore forward Tim Andreolli blows past his defender against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5 at Moorpark College. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Andreolli led the way for the Raiders this season on the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Andreolli looked to build on an already impressive freshman season in which he started 26 out of 28 possible games for the Raiders last year as the team’s second-leading scorer (14.0) and leading rebounder (6.9). As his role continued to expand, so did his statistical rises in points per game with 19.6, setting the tone for the Raiders as the go-to man.

Andreolli also improved his offensive averages as well as his field goal percentage, rising from 38.3 to 46.9 in a year. From beyond the arc, the versatile forward saw his three-point percentage rise from 33.7 to 39.9 as well as leading the team with 30 three-pointers.

Andreolli also led the team in overall free throws with 39 and collected 80.1 from the line that topped the team. He was the definition of a complete scorer and achieved a rare feat as his attempts rose, so did his efficiency. On the defensive end of the court, Andreolli also saw slight rises in steals and blocks per game to round out a complete 2019-20 season on both ends of the court.

Teammate of the year — Ben Grant

Sophomore point guard Ben Grant extends past a Pierce College defender during Moorpark's home game on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Sophomore point guard Ben Grant extends past a Pierce College defender during Moorpark's home game on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

As the point guard for the Raiders, Grant was the engine of the team and made the little plays to keep the squad ticking. Averaging 4.3 assists per game in his lone season with the Raiders, Grant was the supplier behind a fearsome attack which improved from 75.5 points per game as a team to 82.5 with Grant at the helm. Grant was no slouch on the offensive end as his dynamic speed left defensives in a lurch as to what would come next. Grant averaged nearly 12 points per game while shooting 42.6 from the field and 39.7 from three-point land.

Undeniably, Grant’s best performance came in the team’s 120-101 pivotal conference victory over Oxnard College. Grant contributed 28 points, six three-pointers, chipped in seven assists and two steals for good measure.

Grant spoke about how his defense was able to open up opportunities for his teammates.

“I feel like it makes it easier on the team if I look to score first. If they then stop me, then I can make plays for my teammates, it really opens up for everyone else,” stated Grant.

Newcomer of the year — Mason Johnson

Mason Johnson, a Sophomore forward for the Moorpark Raiders, looks for an open teammate during a home game against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Mason Johnson, a Sophomore forward for the Moorpark Raiders, looks for an open teammate during a home game against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

Sophomore forward Mason Johnson joined the Raiders after previously spending the 2017-18 season as a member of the Cal State Northridge Men’s Basketball program. Johnson made an instant impact on the squad as a vocal leader and persistent presence.

The season began with a monstrous six-game stretch for Johnson in which he contributed 29, 30, 28, 31, 27 and 26 points to the Raiders 5-3 start. Johnson averaged 19.2 points per game, just behind Andreolli for second on the team and shot an astounding 52.6 from the field throughout the season.

Johnson led the team in the statistical category of rebounds per game with 8.7, his season-high came in the season finale against Santa Barbara when he grabbed 16 points on Sophomore Night.

If Grant was the engine of the team, Johnson was the backbone who stepped up to the competition, never backing down. Johnson took on the challenge of simultaneously being a standout player individually and a catalyst for the team.

Earlier in the season, Johnson gave insight on what his mentality was like on the court.

“The five on the floor need to lock in mentally, it’s not about what we can do offensively, make the right play and the rest will come,” emphasized Johnson.

Freshman of the year — Derrick Young Jr.

Freshman center, Derrick Young Jr., attempts a free throw during Moorpark's home game against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5.
Freshman center, Derrick Young Jr., attempts a free throw during Moorpark's home game against Pierce College on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Photo credit: Evan Reinhardt

A wide-body in the interior, a vocal presence on the sideline and an infectious energy on the court are what Derrick Young brought to the Raider squad this year. Standing at 6’7” and 310 lbs., Young is an undeniable force and held a solid freshman season with the Raiders. Young appeared in 27 games for the Raiders and started nine, both a high total for the freshman class.

Averaging slightly under nine minutes a game, Young chipped in six points per game and two rebounds on a veteran Raider squad. A revealing stat for Young is his field goal percentage, shooting a team-high of 59.6 from the field, it does not take many guesses as to where his bread and butter lies. In many games Young filled the spark plug role for the squad off the bench, Young was determined to provide any advantage he could to the team.

“My mentality was just to do whatever it took to help my team win. I looked to provide energy for my team,” Young said.

A near double-double in November against College of the Desert provided the closest look as to what a Sophomore campaign could look like for Young as he contributed 11 points and eight rebounds. With a bright future ahead, Young looks to build on a solid base for the 2020-21 season.

This season recap was written by Chad O’Conner and does not reflect the views of the Moorpark Reporter.