The Clark College men’s basketball program is literally starting over.
The season tips off for the Penguins tonight in the O’Connell Center against Portland Community College with a new coach and a completely new roster.
Gone is the team that went 25-4 last year. There are no returning players.
Alex Kirk is at the helm for Clark after being hired in May as head coach, replacing Mike Arnold, who was not retained by the college.
“We’re not trying to compare ourselves to last year’s team,” Kirk said. “We’re going to be up-and-down early. We are trying to teach the kids how to play the game the right way on both ends (of the floor).”
Kirk was hired after one year as head coach for King’s Way Christian High School. His previous college experience was as director of basketball operations at the University of Portland.
Kirk said the Clark coaching job is “a step back to the familiar,” doing things like preparing scouting reports. But as he said, the cupboard was bare so he needed to get players.
Among some familiar names to Clark County basketball fans, Battle Ground High grad Willie Bratcher should be back for division games in January after having hip surgery in the summer.
Also, 24-year-old Sean Price, a 2005 Columbia River grad who was The Columbian’s player of the year as a senior, has overcome many obstacles to continue is collegiate playing career.
Kirk said 6-foot-10 freshman Maika Ostling from Dayton, Ore., has proved to be a talented asset. Sam Jurgenson, a 6-8 freshman from Tigard, Ore., will also be a factor once he recovers from a broken toe.
Kirk said this first game will be a good measuring stick to see how the Penguins have progressed from the first workouts through recent scrimmages.
“There’s going to be some growing pains along the road, but come January/February I think we can be competitive,” Kirk said. “But it will take some time to click with so many freshmen.”