NORTHEAST GLENDALE — With the Western State Conference South Division expected to once again be ultra-competitive, Glendale Community College men's basketball Coach Brian Beauchemin said there will be two areas he'll be closely monitoring regarding his team in its quest to qualify for the Southern California Regionals.
Those areas of concern will be how well the Vaqueros rebound and defend.
Beauchemin will have a better idea of where the Vaqueros stand when they begin their season at 5 p.m. Friday against Santa Barbara City College in an opening-round contest of the Vaquero Tip-Off Classic.
"Those are going to be our two biggest question marks and we've spent a lot of time in our practices working on both areas," said Beauchemin, who guided Glendale to a postseason appearance last season for the first time since 2008. "In our conference, especially in our conference, which is one of the best in the state, those two things are going to determine how well we do."
Glendale finished 18-11 and 7-5 in the division last season before falling to visiting Long Beach City College, 82-73, in the first round of the playoffs. Long Beach outrebounded Glendale, 46-29, something Beauchemin hasn't forgotten.
"We are going to have to get at it on both ends of the court with our rebounding," said Beauchemin, who took over the program in 1979 and ranks sixth in the state in victories with 546. "We gave up a lot of second-chance points and those played a role in us playing so many close games.
"It's a new season and you are always optimistic, but there are some reservations. We have the capabilities to be in the hunt [for the division title]. A lot of things will come into play, from being healthy to being able to rebound."
Glendale will field a 15-member team that will have seven sophomores.
The forwards will be sophomores Soreen Derboghosian Pakajaki and Marquis Brooks and freshmen Mike Johnson, Dorian Hampton and Yervaughnt Yetenekian. All are 6-foot-5 or taller and will look to grab their share of rebounds on both ends of the court.
The wings will be sophomore Nate Bryant and freshmen Sammy Darling and Stephen Knox.
Glendale will have seven guards on board, including sophomore point guard Nick Rhodes. Rhodes stepped into the program last season and earned all-conference first-team accolades despite having not played at the high school level.
Rhodes, who averaged 10.6 points per game last season and led the team in assists with 134 and steals with 51, said the Vaqueros will look to build off what they accomplished last season.
"I think we can challenge for conference and it will come down to rebounding and defense," said Rhodes, who earned all-conference player of the week honors twice last season. "I like the makeup of the team and it will be different.
"It will be about trying to get the freshmen to gel with the sophomores."
In addition to Rhodes, the other guards will consist of sophomores Danny Lawton, William Daubin and Shara Babakhanians and freshmen Chris Kapooshian, Robert Henry and Mike Balian. Babakhanians, a Hoover High graduate and a former All-Area first-team selection, last played for the Vaqueros during the 2008-09 season.
The Vaquero Tip-Off Classic will also feature Compton and Victor Valley colleges. The championship contest will be played at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Glendale will additionally participate in four tournaments through Dec. 30. It will host the 25th annual Vaquero Classic from Dec. 14-17.
Beauchemin said he'll have a better idea about where the Vaqueros stand once they complete a month's worth of tournaments that will lead to division play.
"I'm not really going to change any ideas or philosophies," Beauchemin said. "I want to make sure we are engaged in every game.
"Citrus, College of the Canyons, Bakersfield and Santa Monica are real good. Top to bottom, I think our division will be outstanding."
The Vaqueros will start conference action at 7 p.m. Jan. 4 at home against Citrus, which finished second in the division last season behind Santa Monica and fell to City College of San Francisco, 83-81, in the state championship game. Glendale's first division road game will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 7 at Bakersfield. Its regular season will conclude at 7 p.m. Feb. 18 against visiting L.A. Valley.