Joshua Chery and Corey David, from the CMCC basketball team, pose for a photo in front of the athletic department’s new video screen. (Andree Kehn/Sun Journal)

AUBURN — FOX’s introduction to the 2018 World Series, narrated by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, left an impression on Central Maine Community College men’s basketball coach Dave Gonyea.

“Was that powerful or what? I might show it to my kids at practice tonight,” he said. “It talks about the culture of winning, and the culture you promote. Obviously, I’ve worked really hard to create that culture here. So has (women’s coach) Andrew (Morong).”

Gonyea could show his team the inspiring video on the school’s new 24×13-foot video board inside of the Kirk Hall gym. The board is the first of a number improvements planned for the gym, which also include a new scorer’s table with LED video display and new bleachers.

Their surroundings may be changing, but the Mustangs themselves are quite familiar, which has them believing they can do even more winning than last year. Thirteen players return from the 2017-18 team, which finished 19-6 (12-4 in the Yankee Small College Conference) and fell in the conference semifinals.

“The part that I’m very excited about is a lot of these guys have worked extremely hard over the summer because this is their second year and they all want a scholarship to get out of here,” Gonyea said.

Leading the top returning contributors is sophomore forward Josh Chery, a USCAA second-team All-American last year, sophomore point guard Corey David, and sophomore forward Cody Tozier.

“There are three or four key kids back, which is really going to help,” Gonyea said. “And (among) the new kids coming in, I think there are two or three that are really going to step in and help.”

“I think we’ve got a complete team,” he added. “We’ve got different roles that kids can do, and I’m really optimistic about it.”

Chery, the Mustangs leading scorer (13.2 ppg) and rebounder (8 rpg) last season, is a force in CMCC’s up-tempo attack. The 6-foot-4 Weymouth, Massachusetts, native has a knack for finishing strong at the rim, as his 56 percent shooting from the floor last year would indicate.

“He has turned any body fat he had into muscle,” Gonyea said. “He’s an absolute beast. He’ll get you a double-double every night. I expect him to be a dominating player, and I expect him to get a scholarship.”

Gonyea admits it can be tough to convince players that they can earn scholarships and All-American honors in his system, which seeks to sap opponents of their energy and will by constantly rotating fresh legs onto the floor.

“The leader of the team may play 24 minutes, not 40,” Gonyea said. “It’s a tough pill to swallow when you want to be an All-American. But with our style of play …l and I try to explain to the kids, we’re never going to have the most talent, but nobody is going to outwork us and nobody is going to outplay us. We’re just going to keep coming, coming and coming with waves of kids. I’m able to convince the kids it works that way, versus everyone else who’s got three or four studs and they ride those horses to the end.”

Playing time isn’t an issue for Chery when he and his teammates can get more accomplished in just a few seconds than most teams.

“I love getting up and down the floor, the fast pace, the dunks, just the plays that make everyone’s jaws drop and say, ‘How did they just do that in 2.2 seconds?'” Chery said with a smile. 

Everyone on the floor is expected to have the pedal to the metal at all times, but as the point guard, David is often the one closest to the accelerator.

The 6-foot Ocala, Florida, native contributed eight points and a team-leading 3.3 assists per game. Often, those assists come without David crossing midcourt.

“It’s fun getting the ball, and I don’t really have to take more than two dribbles and we’re already getting a basket, or I’m throwing it over the top to Josh or Cody or whoever it may be,” David said. “It’s really fun to just continuously score. It’s good to get my teammates involved, and it’s better for me getting them excited for scoring.”

“He’s another one who’s really turned a corner,” Gonyea said of David. “He’s become a leader both on and off the court and has dramatically improved his game.”

Junior guard Elijah Barbour provides more firepower for the Mustangs. The long list of returners includes forward/center and Leavitt alum Jack Sylvester, Rangeley guard Ricky Thompson, and the Australian trio of Kenny Huynh, Cam Duncan and Freddy Webb. Freshman Matt Allard makes it an Aussie quartet.

Gonyea spent three weeks of his summer in Australia, much of it in Darwin, the capital of the sparsely populated Northern Territory.

“I’m just amazed how popular we are over there,” Gonyea said. “Darwin is like the Maine of Australia. When I got there, I’m not exaggerating, when the doors opened to the airport there was a camera crew waiting for me at 10 o’clock at night.”

Joining Allard among the newcomers is 6-foot-6 forward Jair Johnson of Springfield, Massachusetts, who Gonyea expects to make an immediate impact. There is also a strong local contingent consisting of Oxford Hills’ Chris St. Pierre and Atreyu Keniston.

Gonyea has 21 players on the roster, not an unusually high number for him, and takes advantage of the numbers to create a competitive atmosphere.

“Practice is loud. It’s boisterous. It’s energetic. The kids are really into it, because for a lot this is their last hurrah,” said Gonyea, who is 20 wins shy of 500 for his 24-year career.

The Mustangs think they can put an exclamation point on that last hurrah with a YSCAA title and by giving Gonyea his 13th USCAA national tournament appearance.

“Last year we did a lot of good things, and now we just want to get to that next step and go to nationals,” David said. 

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