The Brooklyn Center boys basketball team entered the 2016-17 season with high hopes and goals after posting a strong 2015-16 campaign under head coach Matthew McCollister in his first year with the program.
The Centaurs posted a 19-8 overall record in 2016-17, but fell short of their ultimate goal, a trip to state, with a 64-58 loss to Holy Family in the Section 5AA quarterfinals.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of how far we have come in two years,” McCollister said. “Devonta Prince and Deshawn Pickford are two amazing young men and they’re going to be winners in life.
“They set us up really nicely and they built a solid foundation for this program to build on. We’ll look back on this season as a success.”
Prince and Pickford, the program’s two seniors and only upperclassmen, were able to provide quality leadership, as well as skill on the court this season. While the Centaurs’ boys basketball program has a wealth of talent, Brooklyn Center will be looking for some of its athletes to step up as leaders next year.
“Tonight we didn’t play one junior, so we’ll certainly miss senior leadership next year,” McCollister said. “We have a lot of talent coming back, but those are the pieces that we will miss, the intangible pieces.
“That showed tonight with Devonta getting banged up. We just didn’t have that spark, that energy, that leadership to pull us through the tough times.
“Hopefully the young kids can step up and learn a lot from them,” McCollister added. “Hopefully they see what they’re missing and they can emulate what Deshawn and Devonta did for us.”
Prince, who missed most of the Holy Family game after suffering a knee injury, said he will look back fondly on his Brooklyn Center career.
“Being a part of this all has been really good,” Prince said. ‘I love Brooklyn Center, I love this team, and the coaching staff.
“We always worked hard.”
McCollister said not having Prince altered the Centaurs’ game plan.
“He sparks a lot of what we can do,” McCollister said. “When he is in there we know we can get the rebound, so we can get out in transition a bit more.
“Without him we have to keep more people out to make sure we can rebound and that took some of our mojo away. He’s usually good for one to two momentum, dunks a game that gets our energy level up, so we certainly missed him in that second half.”
The Centaurs were also thrown off by the Holy Family defense, as the Centaurs could only score 20 points in the first half.
“They did a great job of controlling tempo, especially in the first half,” McCollister said. “We’re averaging about 75 points per game and they held us to 20 in the first half.
“That’s a heck of a job on their part and they made winning plays at the end. There were a couple points where I thought we could make a run after we pulled ahead like we had done multiple times this year, but they matched us, so hats off to them.”
While the 2016-17 season came to an end for the Centaurs, the future remains bright for Brooklyn Center. With sophomores Roland Russ, Adreone Sprinkles and Qentrell Douglas, as well as freshmen Lu’Cye Patterson, Brooklyn Center’s leading scorer in the Holy Family game with 26 points, and Rudy Tahir, the Centaurs will return plenty of talent next season and beyond.
“If there was stock in Brooklyn Center basketball, I would buy it,” McCollister said. “I think we’re trending in the right direction and I’m excited to see what we can do to continue to build for the future.”
Contact Chris Chesky at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @MNSunSports or @SunSportsChris.