By GUY DOSSI
The Union Democrat
Five Claim Jumpers were recognized by the Central Valley Conference for their strong seasons, which helped Columbia reach the state playoffs for the first time since the turn of the century.
Sophomore Michael Meserole and freshman DeAndre Stallings were named to the All-CVC first team, freshman Lewayne Grant was awarded honorable mention, sophomore Trevin Wilson made the All-CVC Defensive team and freshman Bosten Van Der Veur, Grant and Stallings made the All-Freshmen team.
The Claim Jumpers finished this year 16-12, including 6-6 in the CVC, which was good enough to land them in the state playoffs for the first time in 16 years, since the 1999-2000 season.
“We are continuing to make strides in the right direction and are worthy of being a state-level team,” said Columbia head coach Rob Hoyt. “We had a number of distractions, and it’s my job to limit those as much as possible, but that being said, this was a very successful season. We didn’t play with a center the second half of the season, and this league is very center heavy. To do what we did, it says a lot and I think the people close to it are the only ones that can truly understand it.”
Meserole was the lone returner from 2014-15 that played significant minutes. Heading into the season, Hoyt looked at him to be a team leader and Meserole stepped into that role.
Meserole finished second in the CVC with 17.7 points per game. He also pulled down nearly five rebounds and dished out 3.3 assists per game.
“He was in a unique situation being the only guy to come back from the team before that actually played,” Hoyt said. “To adapt to all the new freshman and lead by example, he did a really good job. It was nice to know you had a really tough guy with the ball in his hands at the end of the game. He put in a really hard offseason and he deserved everything he got.”
Meserole is several looks from a number of four-year universities. The California Maritime University, CSU Dominguez Hills, Montana State Northern, Point Loma Nazarene University, Azusa Pacific, Menlo Park and Bellevue all have their sights on Meserole.
Stallings was a constant threat when the ball was in his hands. He averaged 17 points per game, pulled down 7.6 rebounds and hit 79 3s. Stallings scored a season-high 31 points against West Hills and 10 times scored 20 or more.
“He grew as the year went on and he did it a little bit quicker than average,” Hoyt said. “He’s 6-7 and shoots the ball extremely well. Guys keyed on him and he figured out a way to score. He didn’t take bad shots. I think he likes being part of a group of guys as opposed to being ‘the guy.’ He likes being one of the weapons instead of being the weapon. He’s extremely unselfish, but if you leave him open, there is a high percentage that he’s going to make the shot.”
Wilson was awarded for his outstanding defensive play. He did the dirty work that doesn’t show in the box score to help the Claim Jumpers win.
“He’s one of the guys on the team that will go as hard as he could until he would collapse,” Hoyt said. “He had asthma and there were times that he would go hard until he was on the floor. As a whole, we struggled defensively, but he brought a good work ethic every single day and is a tremendous athlete.”
Wilson, from Lafayette, Louisiana, redshirted in 2014-15. It was his constant team-first attitude and the way he carried himself during not only this season, but also while redshirting, that made him one of Hoyt’s favorite players to coach.
“He’s a joy to be around,” Hoyt said. “He understood that redshirting was the best thing for him. He practiced every day and did his best. He looked at it as a positive and got results because of it.”
Van Der Veur, from Utah, was one of the tougher recruits for Hoyt to bring to Columbia. In his freshman season, Van Der Veur scored 12.8 points, pulled down 5.2 rebounds, dished 2.3 assists and stole 1.2 balls per game. After an early season injury, Van Der Veur was back to the player he was when he was the leading scorer in Utah during his senior year at Park City High School.
“Bosten had an interesting season because the recruiting process went way later and longer than I would have liked,” Hoyt said. “When he got here, he was doing really well, but an injury set him back. When he came back, he was exactly what we thought he would be. I don’t think he exceeded our expectations, because our exceptions were really high. We know that he is going to improve and it’s exciting to know that he’s going to be even better.”
Grant came nearly 3,000 miles away, from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to play for Columbia. Grant excelled, scoring 12.3 points along with a team-high 3.5 assists per game. His ball handling skills and ability to drive made him one of the more dangerous players in the CVC.
“He had the biggest transition from high school to the college level,” Hoyt said. “In high school, he was a scorer and he had a different role for us. It’s like converting a running back to a quarterback. It took some time for that to develop and he did a great job. He was close to being first team all league, he was right there.”
With Van Der Veur, Grant and Stallings slated to return next season, as well as Will Collamer (who redshirted this season) and Aaron May, the Jumpers could make another playoff run. But for now, Hoyt doesn’t want those players to be worried about next season.
“Right now, the focus is on the academics,” Hoyt said. “We’ve locked up the balls and shut basketball down until the end of the year. As far as looking ahead, we’ve got a strong nucleus to work around. We feel that we can make a strong push to be a top five team in northern California and be a state team, more so than we were this year.”