City College men’s basketball eyeing next level as season opener looms

Roster full of Division 1 prospects have a chip on their shoulder after missing Elite 8 by one basket last season
City College’s Logan Huston shows off with a dunk at the men’s basketball media day, Oct 24, 2023 Photo by Sean Monney/City Times Media
City College’s Logan Huston shows off with a dunk at the men’s basketball media day, Oct 24, 2023 Photo by Sean Monney/City Times Media
Sean Monney

San Diego City College’s season-ending loss in the state tournament Sweet 16 last winter still resonates with returning men’s basketball player Denis Kamburov, both as a missed opportunity and new goal.

“We missed out on (advancing) last year by one basket,” the sophomore forward said on the eve of the 2023-24 season.  “We lost in the Sweet 16, so that’s a big goal of us to go to that actual final tournament, the final weekend of the season, making it to the end and hopefully win at all. That’s our main goal.”

The Knights begin their quest for that goal with the start of non-conference play Nov. 2 at Santa Monica College, with their first home game on Nov. 9 hosting the Knights Invitational in Harry West Gym. 

Pacific Coast Athletic Conference play begins Dec. 13.

Two returning sophomores and two incoming freshmen have already received offers to play at the NCAA Division I level. Several others are drawing interest from DI and DII schools, according to the Knights Athletics website.

That has the team facing high expectations and a target on their backs as the season begins. 

“We’re getting all this recognition, all these looks from the coaches and Twitter, everybody’s saying we’re gonna be super good,” said returning sophomore guard and business major Al Green at the recent media day on Oct. 24. “We’re getting the exposure we want. But we haven’t played a game yet. We’re gonna go in as the hunted instead of the hunters, so people are gonna want to go at our necks.” 

City College men’s basketball players cheer and tease associate head coach Rusty Smith, right, as he poses for his media day headshot, Oct. 24, 2023 Photo by Sean Monney/City Times Media

The Knights finished last season in second place in the PCAC with a conference record of 14-2 and an overall record of 24-6, qualifying as the No. 8 seed in the California Community College Athletic Association post-season tournament. 

Their season ended with a 77-74 loss to Fullerton College, the eventual state champions, in the Sweet 16 round on March 4, 2023. 

A chance to avenge that season-ending loss comes early in the Knights’ schedule, with a match-up against the defending champs on Dec. 8 in the Fullerton Crossover event. 

On media day, that game was front of mind for sophomore guard and business administration major Logan Huston. 

“That loss left a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth,” Huston said. “We lost by one bucket and they ended up winning the state championship. So if we beat them, you know, we could have gone all the way.”

Although new additions to Coach Mitch Charlens’ team, including Coronado High graduate Alex Crawford and Dillon Cubit, should make an impact, Charlens still expects the returners from last year’s campaign to be his leaders. 

“We have five or six guys returning,” Charlens said. “It makes a world of difference with the culture. They know what to expect in practice and the new guys can lean on them, even just watching them. I have high expectations for this group.”

Fans attending home games in the Harry West Gym are also special to Green.

“We have great fans,” he said. “They set up chairs right in front of the court … it’s a great atmosphere. I love it here.”

And Green has high hopes for what those fans will see on the court.

“It’s probably one of the best teams I’ve played on so far,” Green said, “how connected we are and how much we’re just friends already. I just love this team. We’re gonna have a great year for sure.”

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