As long as Derek Jensen is the coach of the Gavilan College men’s basketball program, the Rams should be in good shape.
Like his predecessor and brother, Dallas, who went on to become the coach at College of the Sequoias, Derek has shown to be a strong recruiter. Derek was hoping to guide Gavilan to an upset win over San Jose City on Feb. 7, but the Jaguars’ superior athleticism proved to be the difference between the Coast Conference South Division foes.
Gavilan had some nice stretches but was unable to hold off San Jose City in a 97-91 loss. The defeat dropped the Rams to 11-13 overall and 2-6 in conference play. Jensen was encouraged with his team’s play at times, but knew it had to be stronger from start to finish to beat a team of the Jaguars’ caliber.
“There tends to be little mental lapses and that improves with experience and maturity,” he said. “We started five freshmen who played the majority of the game, and they did some really good things. It’s just learning the ins and outs of the game and now we have to make sure to keep building because there’s a lot of talent here.”
Indeed, the starting lineup of Suheil Ibrahim, Jadan Adams, Caleb Onuonga, Jaylin Williams and Jailen Daniel-Dalton had flashes of brilliance, including a 17-9 run midway through the second half that allowed the Rams to retake the lead, 73-69.
However, San Jose City (20-4, 6-2) answered with a 3-pointer and 4-point play—a made 3-pointer plus free throw—and consecutive layups to complete a 11-0 run to take control. Gavilan received baskets from Onuonga and Ibrahim to close the gap to 80-77 with 6:40 remaining, but that’s as close as it would get.
Gavilan committed twice as many turnovers (20-10), leading to several SJC field goals.
“The boys are competing, learning and sharing the ball, and we just have to continue to learn and clean things up,” Jensen said.
Ibrahim had a team-high 22 points, Tahjae Ordonio finished with 17 and Onuonga 15 for Gavilan, which saw 10 different players get in the scoring column. Ordonio has probably been the team’s most consistent player and Ibrahim was the standout in this game, going an ultra-efficient 9 of 13 from the floor.
The smooth-shooting lefty got to his spots as he scored from beyond the 3-point line, displayed a nice mid-range game and got in the lane by cutting to the basket or off dribble penetration.
“Suheil is very versatile and might be our best overall scorer in the sense he can beat you all over the place,” Jensen said.
Ibrahim had a bad ankle sprain earlier in the season, which set him back for a month, Jensen said. However, once Ibrahim got his conditioning and legs back, he shined like usual.
“He’s healthy again, he’s moving well again, and you can see the skill and the competitiveness out of him,” Jensen said. “He has a good nose for the ball, is an exciting player and is someone we’re looking forward to seeing with a full season next year.”
Onuonga is another one of the team’s rising talents and had a strong game, finishing 6 of 10 from the field.
“Caleb is our Energizer Bunny and the boys feed off him,” Jensen said. “He’s the loudest every day in practice and is such an emotional leader for this team. The kid is so mature, so coachable, so humble and has such great energy, passion and leadership qualities. He’s someone the boys look up to everyday for his energy and leadership. He does great in the classroom and whatever he decides to do in life, he’s going to be really successful.”
For a variety of reasons, Jensen said he hasn’t been able to roll out the same starting lineup for a sustained period of time. However, if Jensen brings in another strong recruiting class and the team’s top freshmen return next season—which is never a given for any program at the college level—the Rams are poised to contend for a top-tier finish in conference next year.
Williams is a Gilroy High graduate and only getting better, Daniel-Dalton is one of the most athletic players on the team and freshmen Jadan Adams and Collin Williams also have potential to be difference-makers with a productive off-season.
The Rams close this season with games against West Valley, Cabrillo, De Anza and Hartnell.
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.