Men’s basketball tips off season with road victories

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Despite injuries and lots of question marks coming into the season for the Delta men’s basketball team, the Mustangs opened the season with two wins at the Cabrillo tip-off as they defeated Shasta 74-50 and Cabrillo 77-41. They then moved to 4-0 this past weekend with a 89-68 win over Ohlone and a 77-57 win against Merritt.

“I think we have a very high ceiling this year and I’m very excited for the prospects,” said head coach Rich Ressa at practice the day before they took the floor for the first game of the season.“We have a lot of new and young kids that are new to the program and we are going to have to gel as a team.”

Onkar Sidhu had 17 points and eight rebounds in the season opener while Dillon Autrey added 16 points with seven rebounds. Travis August is the lone returning starter back to this year’s team and he led the way with 27 points in the win over Cabrillo.

With their starting lineup not finalized until game day, the Mustangs have already had to deal with multiple injuries as they suited just 11 players for their first games of the season when normally they dress 15 or 16.

“I love this level,” said Ressa, who has been the head coach at Delta since 2008 and enjoys the challenges that come with coaching at a junior college. “It gives you a great opportunity to teach and develop kids. Kids that are willing to buy in and sometimes feel like they have been overlooked and have a chip on their shoulder with something to prove.’

Two of the new faces this season for the Mustangs also have family connections with nearby University of the Pacific, as Damon Stoudamire is the son of Pacific men’s basketball head coach Damon Stoudamire while Jake Whitehead is married to Pacific women’s basketball player Savannah Whitehead and is joining Delta after taking two years off for his Mormon mission.

“Coach Stoudamire gave me a call and said he had his son and wanted to know if there was a chance and an opportunity for him to play. He has been doing great. He is going to be a good Mustang before all is said and done,” said Ressa.

“Jake let us know two years ago that he would be interested in coming to Delta College and his situation. We said great we would love to have you and fast forward two years later and he is here with us,” said Ressa about the freshman from Utah.

Both were among the injured to start the season but both had high expectations for this season as Stoudamire, who played last season in Alabama, will look to make the most in his one season with hopes of playing at the next level.

Whitehead has been surprised with how tough it has been to get back into basketball shape after such a long break from the sport but doesn’t regret taking the break from the sport for his religious beliefs as his wife also took a year off from playing at Pacific to go on a mission. “It’s the biggest part of our life. It’s the reason we left each other for two years and the reason we gave up basketball for the time we did. It’s who we are.”

They will play one more game on the road before their home opener on Wednesday, Nov. 20 against Canada at 5:30 p.m.