Interim coach guiding young Eagles

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald
Kyle Heath is the interim College of the Siskiyous men's basketball coach.

As a former junior college basketball player in northern California, College of the Siskiyous interim head coach Kyle Heath has a good idea what it takes to make it at “the JUCO” level.

Heath has assumed the reins on an Eagle team that has struggled in the early going, but is scoring a lot of points and making things difficult for many of its opponents.

“This is not the way I?envisioned it,” Heath said of his role with the Eagles after head coach George Tuttle was put on administrative in late November.

College of the Siskiyous athletic director Dennis Roberts said on Monday that he didn’t want to say anything else about the Eagles’ coaching situation until a meeting with the college president is held.

Heath said on Tuesday that the Eagle players – 13 of them freshmen – are continuing to work hard and “battle” despite a 1-11 record.

Except for a blowout 95-54 loss to former COS coach Ed Madec’s Fresno City team at the Modesto tournament on Dec. 10, the Eagles have averaged close to 80 points in their other four games since Heath moved into the interim head coach role.

Heath was a teammate with Billy Offill in the late 1990s at Mendocino College in Ukiah, which is his home town. He then played at Cascade College in Oregon before earning a Masters degree at University of Lucerne in southern California.

He came to COS last year to coach with Offill, who left COS after four seasons to take the head coaching job at Mendocino.

Heath and the COS Eagles squared off with Offill and the Mendocino Eagles twice in recent weeks, including an 89-80 loss at a tournament in Napa in late November and an 83-75 loss in Ukiah on Dec. 2.

The second game went back-and-forth until Mendocino made some plays down the stretch and Siskiyous resorted to fouling in an attempt to get the ball quickly.

In their most recent game, against Columbia, the Eagles hit 9 three-point shots in the first half and led most of the game before losing late, 83-81.

“That was tough,” said Heath, who sees the Eagle players trying to stay positive going into this weekend’s tournament at West Valley in Saratoga.

He’s hoping the team will have some success there before returning home for the winter break.

“For most of these guys it’s their first time away from home,” Heath said, noting that several of them came from across the country to attend COS. “I?just want them to have a good college experience.”

After the West Valley tournament, Heath said the players will go home for the break, the return to prepare for the conference season that starts in January.

The Eagles will also play their first home game of the season on Jan. 6 against Umpqua.

Among the standout players so far have been Ray Featherston of Washington, DC, Luke Cassedy and Dylan Griffin of Central Valley in Redding, Lionel Delisca of Miami, Fla., and Al Alexander of Brooklyn, NY – all freshmen.

“No one can guard”?Featherston, Heath said of the Eagles’ 5-10 point guard. “He’s been solid, scoring about 20 points per game since I took over. He’s thriving in the system.”

Cassedy, a 6-foot guard, has been averaging 18 to 20 points per game, including one recent game when he hit 4 three-pointers in the first half. “He’s our shooter,”?said Heath. “He’s a good competitive kid.”

Delisca is one of the tallest Eagles at 6-4, but Heath said he’s usually going up against taller players in the post. “He’s really athletic; he’s been averaging 6 points and 6 rebounds. He works hard; he’s raw but getting better and better.”

Griffin, a 6-4 forward/center, comes off the bench to play inside and shoot some threes. “He’s a competitor,”?Heath said.

Alexander, a 6-foot guard, has had some injuries, but Heath calls him “our best decision-maker; he does everything good, he gets it, he’s a leader.”