In their first game of the season against College of Marin, the City College of San Francisco men's basketball team unexpectedly was run out of the gym — on their home floor — 92-70.
The rout certainly wasn't the way 12th-year coach Justin Labagh envisioned the season starting, but with an inexperienced bunch — which many junior college coaches deal with yearly — he's not surprised by the outcome of their season opener.
“Marin is legit, and they came out very intense, which we didn't,” Labagh said. “We had a deer-in-the-headlights look, and that game was over seven minutes in. It's weird to say that, but these guys had some first-game jitters, and then the roof caved in.”
A season ago, the Rams were 30-2, with their season ending in the elite eight to Coast Conference rival Chabot. They lost six players who received Division I scholarships.
Despite the losses, CCSF is ranked the No. 4 team in the state and Labagh feels this bunch can live up to that lofty ranking. The Rams improved to 3-2 Sunday with a 79-73 win over Sierra.
He'll lean on returning 6-foot-6 sophomore Gabe Bealer, and 6-5 Julian Harrell — a transfer from Penn — to lead CCSF on a deep playoff run that ultimately leads to a state championship.
Bealer, who committed to Utah last month, averaged 12.9 points and 6.1 rebounds last season, while shooting 54.7 percent from the field.
“Bealer is a Pac-12 player, and he didn't play his best last weekend, so his season really hasn't started,” Labagh said. “Julian Harrell is a glue guy for us. He's our vocal leader and he leads by example.”
Labagh anticipates plenty of bumps for this team, something he hasn't felt in quite some time. He feels this unit hasn't grasped what it takes to compete at a high level.
“They don't know how much work it's going to take to win,” Labagh said. “That's the biggest challenge with these guys. How much time, effort and enthusiasm it's going to take to win.”
But don't be fooled, in the last three years, CCSF has lost six games — total — and when it's all said and done, Labagh feels the Rams can be as formidable as any team in the state.
“We lost a lot, but we have some really smart guys, some tough kids, and a couple kickbacks from Division I,” Labagh said. “Once we figure it out, we can beat anybody in a 40-minute game in the state,” Labagh said. “We just have to define the roles. But we're going to take some lumps early in this season, which we already have.”