I am trying not to think about it. The Chico State men and women’s basketball teams will say good-bye to nine players this weekend who are graduating from the school and will move on to the next phase of their lives. This does not make me happy. Selfishly I want to keep watching these players for as long as I can because they have been a joy to watch and cover.
For the last four years the four seniors on the women’s basketball team have helped lead Chico State to sustained greatness. The Wildcats have captured a conference title and are on the verge of their third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
PHOTO COURTESY of Chico State Athletics ChicoWildcats.com
I will miss Courtney Hamilton’s leadership and toughness, will miss Jazmine Miller’s sharp-shooting prowess, Anelise Riezebos’ will and McKenzie Dalthorp’s consistency. They are great Wildcats that have left their mark on the program.
For the Chico State men it has been the greatest run the program has had since the early 1990’s. Head coach Greg Clink has built a program that constantly feeds game-ready players into the defensive minded system. The Wildcats won their first CCAA title in 2012 and are on the verge of a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
The five players that are leaving the program simply can’t be replaced. They have been vital to the Wildcats resurgence in the Division II hoops arena. At 19-5 the Cats are poised for not only a deep run in the CCAA Tourney, but have given themselves a chance at a West Region title as well.
New-comer Giordano Estrada has been the perfect complement to this 2014 edition of Cats. His 54 made three-pointers leads the squad and he has shown a penchant for making clutch shots. Over the last month his defense has really stepped up and Clink has put Estrada on some of the best scorers in the CCAA, and Gio has risen to the challenge.
Nate Appel will leave the program after playing three years in the program. Nate has been a consistent performer off the bench, and I believe sets the best screens in the program. Being able to execute the pick and roll or the pick and pop is a key to the Clink system and Appel has shined. His hoops IQ is high and the Wildcats could lean on Appel in the post-season when smart play is at a premium.
The remaining three seniors have been the back-bone of the program during their stay here. Amir Carraway, Sean Park and Rashad Parker combine to average 42 points a game for Chico State. They have been consistent performers in this recent run of success.
Carraway just joined the 1000 point club. He is one of the most versatile players the Cats have ever had in the program. He can play small-forward and shine, and he can play the center position and hold his own. His inside-outside game makes him a tough cover and his ability to shoot the three means defenses must play him honestly, which opens things up for his mates.
Park is one of the toughest players to ever wear the Cardinal and White. Whether its hoisting a tough corner three with a hand in the face or a Sarunas Marciulionis-like drive with reckless abandon to the bucket, Park is as steady and dependable as you get. He has been known to throw his 6’4 frame at bigger players and win the battle. Park’s consistency over the years hasn’t been over-looked by the Wildcat faithful. He plays with passion and energy and the consummate team guy.
Parker has emerged as sharp-shooting scorer. Whether he is spotting up from deep or his driving to the bucket with that quick first step, Parker has been key to the Cats success. Rashad can carry a team, which he has done numerous times this season when his mates’ have struggled to score. He gets in that zone and he is very tough to stop. Defensively Clink knows he can put Parker on other quick guards and he can get a shut-down effort from Rashad. Parker has made big shots in his career and some of his biggest makes may be yet to come.
I am so lucky to have seen these 9 seniors play. All of these players will be replaced, but they will never be forgotten. Their effort, performance and dedication on the court and in the classroom will set a standard by which future Wildcats are judged