Pierce College’s women’s basketball team was functionally dysfunctional last year, finishing fourth in the Western State Conference north division and barely making the playoffs for a team that lacked both the communication and depth to compete at a high level.
Assistant coach Bell Jordan hopes that will all change with the season starting in just a month.
“For the first time in the three years since I’ve been coaching here,” Jordan said. “The players are really showing each other love on the court, cheering each other on and playing for one another. The energy that the players are bringing is incredible.”
The Brahmas this year have six returning players, including sophomore guard Monica Jackson and sophomore forward Amari Hampton, although neither played last season.
Hampton tore her ACL and was recovering from her surgically repaired knee. She has been waiting a long time to get back on the court since injuring her knee and hopes to return to form during the 2013-14 campaign.
“Quitting was never an option for me,” said Hampton, who is known for her tenacious defense and accurate three-point shooting. “It was just about going to rehab and coming back.”
Jackson, on the other hand, ran into problems outside the court. The former elite high school basketball player from Chatsworth High School who averaged 28.9 points per game in her senior year and was the Western State Conference MVP.
Still, Hampton and Jackson bring tremendous experience as they led the Brahmas to its best record in the program’s history, finishing second in conference in 2011. Then, Jackson was the team’s leading scorer and Hampton was second in scoring.
“I’m proud of those two,” Jordan said. “I’m so happy. These two never quit, and I’m glad that they brought basketball back into their lives.”
To add to an already experienced basketball team, the Brahmas also bring back former assistant coach Jackie Johnson who last coached Pierce in 2010.
Johnson played under current head coach Jim Couch during her high school career at Bell-Jeff High School in Burbank where she helped him win the CIF Division IV Southern Section Championship in 1997.
From there she went on to have a successful collegiate career at the University of Kansas. During her time with the Jayhawks she started all four years and helped them get to the Sweet 16 in 1998.
After playing for Kansas, she played professional basketball for 10 years playing for the former WNBA franchise Orlando Miracle.
“I have a lot of respect for Jackie,” Jordan said. “In fact, I saw Jackie the first time I came to Pierce at open gym and that was what kind of lured me to coming to coach at Pierce. I respected her as an athlete, as a pro. I love her coaching style and I love her work.”
Johnson has an active role in coaching the team. During practice she can be seen playing with the team whether it is sitting a hard screen or hitting a player with a no-look pass.
“The main thing I always want to do is to always be a positive influence,” Johnson said. “I want to give 100 percent to the kids. The thing is everyone learns differently, but by coaching them and giving them different options they get a respect for me as a coach.”
This season is going to be difficult, as the Brahmas will be playing in one of the most competitive conferences in the south. With the addition of College of the Canyons moving into the Western State North Division, Pierce will be playing in the company of four teams that finished last season ranked in the top 20 in the southern rankings. This includes Ventura College who finished ranked second in the state.
If that weren’t enough, the Brahmas are also scheduled to play top ranked and two-time defending state champions Mt. San Antonio College at home on Dec. 13.
“Every night is going to be a battle,” Couch said.