Guards are Ram tough

For the past three seasons Justin Labagh has been the men’s basketball coach at City College of San Francisco, he has always been able to count on having a good team, with nice frontcourt size on the court and on the bench. However, Labagh has a very different CCSF team this year.

“In the past, we would usually have two post guys and run two posts in and three guards out on the perimeter,” Labagh said. “Then we would have two post guys on the bench to replace the other posts. This year, we do not have any of that.”

Coming off a 27-6 season and a spot in the state Sweet 16, the Rams are 7-1 and averaging 93 points per game entering this weekend’s tournament at San Jose City College. That success is because of a strong backcourt.

“This year’s team is guard-orientated as we have some really good guards,” Labagh said.

Leading the way for the guards are 6-foot-3 sophomore Robert Owens and 6-5 sophomore Brandon Wiley, the only two returners from last season’s team. CCSF also has super-talented guards in 6-5 freshman Roburt Sallie and 6-6 Justin Brownlee.

“These four are key guys on this team,” said Labagh, noting all four are Division I prospects.

Owens is a point guard who is a knock-down shooter from the perimeter. A graduate of Skyline High School in Oakland, Owens was heavily recruited, drawing interest from St. Mary’s, USF, Southern Cal and Fresno State, among others. Owens came off the bench and averaged 14 points a game last season and has bumped that up to a team-best 20.9 this season.

Wiley was not a heralded player coming out of Pinole Valley High School in Pinole. But through hard work and countless hours in the gym, Wiley has turned himself into a Division I prospect. He is a solid outside shooter who is long and athletic. He is putting up 13 points a game.

Sallie and Brownlee are probably two of the more heralded junior college freshmen in California. Sallie, from Valley High School in Sacramento, is a versatile guard who is a prolific scorer and player in the mold of Detroit Pistons guard Rip Hamilton. Sallie can shoot well (he is averaging 15.5 points per game), handle the ball and make plays defensively.

He committed to Washington coming out of Valley, but he didn’t get admitted and ended up going to Laurinburg (N.C.) prep school for a year. He later verbally committed to Nebraska, but had paperwork problems. He enrolled at CCSF last year, taking a part-time schedule.

Brownlee is from Tifton, Ga., and is a scorer who has an NBA body and athleticism from the wing spot. He was being recruited by various Southeastern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference programs and should be an immediate impact player.

“I hope to bring rebounding and scoring to this City College team,” said Brownlee, who is averaging 18.1 points per game. “I want to play solid defense and help the team win.”

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