Men’s basketball closes season with positive momentum under coach Douthit
Marcus Douthit’s first year as head coach of the Community College of Rhode Island men’s basketball came to an end this past weekend following a loss to No. 3-ranked Northern Essex in the NJCAA Region XXI Tournament.
The Knights finished the season 14-15 overall and earned the No. 8 seed in the regional tournament, but will carry significant momentum into the 2023-24 season following a strong second half and the potential for several key returning players from this year’s team.
Although leading scorers RJ Pina (Rumford, RI) and Jason Palmer (Westerly, RI) are graduating, the Knights figure to be among the regional favorites next season with current freshmen Isaiah Youngblood (Riverside, RI), Alessandro Silva (Pawtucket, RI), and David Campbell (Northville, MI), among others, potentially returning in 2023-24, plus Douthit will have an entire offseason to begin the recruiting process for a new group of incoming talent.
Douthit, a former Providence College standout, shot-blocking specialist, and professional player in Europe and Asia, previously served under ex-Knights head coach Rick Harris but was thrust into the head-coaching position when Harris and the college parted ways in July.
Having lost all-NJCAA Region XXI standouts Mitchel Noresca and Theonoah Jadotte – the former also being an NJCAA All-American selection – the Knights entered 2022-23 in rebuild mode, but surged in January and February to qualify for the regional tournament.
CCRI opened the season alternating wins and losses in November, but struggled before the break, finishing December with a 1-5 record and ending the first half of the season with a 5-8 record. The addition of sophomore center Bereket Janat (Westerly, RI) and freshman forward Elvin Mbengi (Providence, RI) paid immediate dividends; Mbengi scored 20 points in his season debut January 21 in a win over regional rival UConn Avery Point and Janat averaged 7.6 points and 5.2 rebounds in the second half.
The Knights won six games in January – more than they did in November and December combined – and followed with a four-game win streak in February against Bristol, MassBay, Springfield Tech, and Gateway to punch their ticket back to the regional tournament. Their bid to repeat as regional champions came up short Saturday against red-hot Northern Essex, which is currently in the middle of a 24-game win streak.
CCRI leaned heavily on Pina and Palmer, who averaged 19.6 and 17.4 points per game, respectively. Pina finished 20th in the nation in points per game, 18th in steals, and 20th in three-point field goal percentage. Sophomore guard Neiko Ward (East Providence, RI) and shot 35.9 percent from three-point range.