With March Madness approaching in the next few weeks, those rooting for the local schools won’t have much to cheer about this season.
Cal, Stanford, USF and Santa Clara have all struggled at times, hovering around the .500 mark.
St. Mary’s has the best shot among the local colleges of reaching the NCAA Tournament, but the Bay Area’s most successful hoops team actually resides in San Francisco at 50 Phelan Ave.
The City College of San Francisco men’s basketball team isn’t just making waves locally, but statewide.
In the midst of a 23-game winning streak and boasting a 27-1 overall record, the Rams swept through the Coast Conference without a blemish and go into the California Community College Athletic Association playoffs as the No. 1 overall seed. CCSF, which last won a state championship in 1962, will host No. 17 Butte in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m.
Rams coach Justin Labagh, who is in his eighth season, has won six conference championships, appeared in two Final Fours and won California Coach of the Year twice. But his team this year could be his best yet.
“This is the deepest team we’ve had here at City College since I’ve been here,” Labagh said. “We’ve had some talented teams that would rival this one, but this is by far the deepest team we’ve had here.”
More impressively, Labagh has graduated 19 players to Division I and 11 to Division II schools.
Among the crop of players moving on to the next level at the end of the season is Texas Southern signee Fred Sturdivant. He’s one of at least six players expected to transfer to a Division I program.
The biggest signee, however, is De’End Parker, who told the San Francisco Examiner he plans on committing to Cal.
Two years ago, Parker dominated the Academic Athletic Association at Lincoln by winning the league’s Most Valuable Player award.
“Coming out of high school I was getting recruited by four-year schools, but my grades weren’t that good,” Parker said. “It’s a blessing to have a complete turnaround these last two years and have good enough grades to even be recruited by Cal, let alone them offering me [a scholarship]. I’m blessed.”
Along with Parker, the Rams have been helped by another local, Sacred Heart Cathedral graduate Daryl Cooper, as well as co-MVP Jonathon Williams, who attended Kennedy in Richmond.
Throw in Sturdivant and former Mitty of San Jose standout Collin Chiverton, and the Rams are feeling pressure within themselves to win it all after coming up short in last season’s championship against Saddleback College.
“We’ve added a little pressure on ourselves, I don’t think it’s from outside of [City College],” Labagh said. “There are lot of people on the team, the coaches, [who] feel like we’re missing something. So yeah, there is pressure amongst us, but no more than that.”
In a program that’s been successful since the days legendary coach Brad Duggan was in control, City College has been the best show in town no one knows about.
As St. Mary’s holds the best chance of giving Bay Area fans a chance to see a local school part of March Madness, a little drive to 50 Phelan Ave. might the best chance to see a champion.
WHO: No. 1 CCSF (27-1) vs. No. 17 Butte (19-8)
WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.
WHERE: Wellness Center, City College of San Francisco