Cape Fear Community College basketball garners preseason national ranking

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On the eve of the college basketball season, the Cape Fear Community College men’s team is looking to build off back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Tournament appearances.

Ranked No. 8 by Sporting News for Division I junior college programs and No. 18 by NJCAA, ninth year coach Ryan Mantlo understands the task ahead, but believes he has the pieces in place to make another run at a Region X Championship.

Cape Fear looks to make its third straight appearance at  the national tournament. Photo courtesy- CFCC Athletics
Cape Fear looks to make its third straight appearance at the national tournament. Photo courtesy- CFCC Athletics

“We feel like everything is there to make a very special run this season,” said Mantlo, who’s guided the Sea Devils to four conference tournament titles and a pair of regular season championships during his tenure. “It’s great to get these preseason accolades, but the real hardware comes in March. We must continue to focus every day on our main goal and consistently improve.”

While Cape Fear will be missing their leading scorer from one year ago, several returners will be asked to play a bigger role in the success of the team, including sophomore TJ Evans. As a freshman, Evans was third on the team in scoring, averaging 10.6 points per game.

“TJ is one of the best shooters in the country,” Mantlo added. “Matt Lindsey and Josh Lindsey are both back from last year’s team to add depth at the guard positions. We’ll also rely on James Tillman to have a big year as he looks to return healthy from a knee injury last season.”

Joining Evans in the backcourt is six-foot, one-inch guard Calvin Davis, in addition to Mike Chambers, a six-foot, three-inch transfer from Lees McRae. He averaged 18 points per game as a freshman.

CFCC is coming off its second straight Region X title. Photo courtesy- CFCC Athletics
CFCC is coming off its second straight Region X title. Photo courtesy- CFCC Athletics

The Sea Devils will also have a ton of size in the post with newcomers Alonzo Tyson and Tyrek Coger expected to make an immediate impact. Tyson is a six-foot, nine-inch forward, who signed with High-Point University out of high school, while Coger is listed at six-foot, eight-inches, and a former commit to Ole Miss.

Cape Fear will face its toughest schedule in school history and the two-time coach of the year thinks the 2015-16 slate should bring out the best in his team as the season progresses.

“It’s our first NJCAA ranking since 2010 when we finished eighth at the national tournament so we have a lot of expectations for our guys moving into the season,” said Mantlo. “It’s always exciting to go through the grind of an offseason, but now it’s time to continue that work on and off the floor and live up to some of the preseason praises given to us.”

The Sea Devils will face four teams in the top 20 preseason poll this season, with a game against the defending national champions Northwest Florida State College on Friday, November 6. Northwest is currently ranked No. 3 in the country, behind Hutchinson Community College and preseason No. 1 Southern Idaho.

Cape Fear plays in their home-opener against Stillwater Christian Prep on Friday, Oct. 30. Tip-off is slated for 7 p.m. at the Schwartz Center in downtown Wilmington.