Gavilan College men’s basketball coach Derek Jensen likes where his team is headed as the Rams (9-7) begin Coast Conference play on Wednesday against San Jose City College.
Gavilan has had some strong results so far in non-conference action and Jensen feels the team can reach another level once Jaylin Williams rounds into peak form. The former Gilroy High standout had a terrific summer, but suffered an injury before the season started. His first game back was against Alameda College on Dec. 10.
The 6-foot-7, 235-pound Williams is versatile enough to play with his back to the basket while also having the ability to face defenders up. He can take guys in the post like centers from yesteryear or take them off the dribble like a wing player.
“Once he gets back up to speed, that will take our team to another level,” Jensen said. “One part of what makes him unique is that yes, he can absolutely do that (post defenders up) and everyone expects him to because he’s so big, but he’s also very athletic, very quick, a good ballhandler and a good shooter. But with his ability to be an old school center which not a lot of guys have the ability to do, it’s definitely exciting to get him in shape and healthy and take our team to another level.”
The Rams don’t necessarily have a superstar, but they’re loaded with a deep and talented roster which is usually reflected in their box score. Their last win against Skyline College on Dec. 18 was a perfect illustration of their balance as DeShawn Butler had 16 points, Tahjae Ordonio 13, Caleb Onuonga 11 and Jailen Daniel-Dalton nine.
Daniel-Dalton also had 12 rebounds, Ordonio finished with five assists and four reserves combined for 25 points to boost the Rams to victory. Daniel-Dalton, known as D.D. by the team, is a Mountain View High graduate and a versatile 6-6, 215-pound small forward. Jensen describes Daniel-Dalton as a jack of all trades player, able to do pretty much everything on the court.
“He’s smart, competitive, handles the ball well, is big and strong, and extremely athletic,” Jensen said. “For a team full of freshmen and to have a freshmen step up in the way he has is really huge. He can impact the game from anywhere on the court at all times, whether it’s a big steal, dunk, sound decision making, finding the open man, or hitting a big 3-pointer. We feel the sky’s the limit for him and he can be such a special basketball player.”
Butler, a 6-4, 185-pounder out of Wilcox High, proved clutch in a riveting 84-83 overtime win over West Hills of Coalinga on Nov. 27. Butler nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, and Ordonio—who is ultra reliable and consistent—calmly sank the winning two free throws with one second left in OT.
Jensen also praised the efforts of Alan Gonzalez in that game, noting the team was down for most of the contest and Gonzalez was a huge spark plug on defense. Gavilan followed that victory with another nail-biting one-point win, 79-78, over Santa Rosa, part of a season-high five-game win streak.
Jensen praises his players for being team-first guys, and Butler is no exception.
“DeShawn does all the little things right,” Jensen said. “He’s the best help-side defender on the team, stays in front of his man and can pretty much play the one through five (positions). He handles the ball and shoots well enough from the outside and is a great glue guy on this team.”
Onuonga, a 6-5, 195-pounder who prepped at tiny Mountain View Academy, is shooting a robust 50.3 percent from the field and averaging 11.6 points per game. He erupted for a career-high 31 points in a 91-89 loss to Los Medanos on Nov. 24, and had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in a 101-91 win over Ohlone on Dec. 16.
“Getting Caleb is a little diamond in the rough right there,” Jensen said. “He is the ultimate team-first guy and vocal, energetic and plays great on the ball defense. He brings intensity and effort everyday to practice and makes everyone better. I feel like everyone is working hard, learning and trusting each other so we’re doing a lot of good things.”
Sports editor Emanuel Lee can be reached at [email protected] and (831) 886-0471, ext. 3958.