Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Meet Devin Aye

Let's rewind to the 2011-12 basketball season. It's March and Lassen Community College (LCC) just completed a one win season. The year before, it was two wins overall. Obviously not enough success and moving backwards.

In comes Devin Aye as the new head men's basketball coach. The program, considered the worst in the California JC ranks at this time, was something to be compared to the Bad News Bears.

Aye took over a struggling program in Susanville with no jerseys, basketballs or players to speak of. Making matters even worse, there was no salary to pay an assistant coach.

"I knew the potential of what LCC could be and was excited to have a program to call my own," Aye explained. "Once I was hired, I realized it was going to be quite a challenge with no assistant coach, no jerseys, no balls, no players and a tough situation to recruit to here at Lassen given the lack of success. But I am used to working and going the extra mile so I embraced the challenged and couldn't wait to roll the sleeves up and get to work."

Immediately, he hit the phones and got to work turning around LCC basketball. "My network I built over the years coaching at Chabot, CSU East Bay and Cosumnes River allowed me to get in touch with some talented kids who were looking for an opportunity to prove themselves. The kids I brought in for my first year all had a chip on their shoulder, felt unappreciated where they were and wanted to come in and make a name and prove themselves. It was a perfect situation really."

One, Charles Jackson, barely played high school ball and was cut from a few JC's he tried out at in California. "Charles was the cameraman for Chabot when I was the assistant. He followed me to LCC as a no-name talent and he led state in rebounds, earned All-State and Golden Valley Conference MVP honors his freshman season and just got named Ohio Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year at D1 Tennessee Tech."

"Garrick Wilson and Devin Bey both came in from an NJCAA program where they barely got in games their freshman season. Both were star prep players from South Carolina and were looking for a new situation where they could be impact guys. They came in and were named All-Conference and earned scholarships to D2 schools."

"Sammy Allen and Leroy Anderson both were from the Bay Area. Leroy sat out at Chabot with Charles Jackson, and Sammy was a regular at the same 24 Hour Fitness as me. Anderson became All-Conference and Allen led our team in scoring."

"Marshawn McMahan from Compton was a kid others overlooked. He came up and had one great year for us before taking a scholarship to D2 Academy of Art University. Each of those kids had a huge chip on their shoulders and we all went into that season with something to prove."

The Cougars definitely made some noise, finishing with a 23-9 overall record, a Golden Valley Conference championship, a top 10 state ranking and a sweet 16 playoff appearance.

Since that first 2012-13 season, Aye has amassed 64 total wins in just three seasons which puts Lassen as having the eighth most wins in the state over that span and just one game behind 2014 state champions Santa Rosa Junior College.

Lassen was ranked #3 in the state this year for first time in school history. The Cougars have been ranked in the top 10 in the state in each of Aye's three seasons.

Aye has turned out a pair of All-State players in Jackson and Diondrey Holt plus eight All-Conference players in the three years -- Holt, Marvin White, Murshid Randle, Juandrico Walker, Leroy Anderson, Garrick Wilson, Devin Bey, Denzel Famble.

As for the Lassen community, Aye has generated support with sponsorships of the annual tournament at LCC. In addition, he has established youth camps and plans to add summer camps in the coming months. His most unique fundraising event is the Frightmare Forest which has both the Cougar basketball men and women dressed in costumes and scaring thousands of patrons all during October in the woods of Susanville.

"As a community college coach I believe it's just as important to get out in the community and get involved as much as possible. My players will know their fans after our home games and I have the guys talk, sign autographs and offer thanks for their support. Some coaches forget basketball is supposed to be fun and enjoyable to both the athletes as well as those who come out and provide support. In my first game at Lassen, we might have had 20 fans in the stands. It was my goal to fill this gym with people and if you have been to a game at Lassen College this year you would see we have the toughest place to play with largest crowd in state. That is one of the goals I am most proud to have met here at LCC."

"I have been the Golden Valley Conference Men's Basketball Executive Board  Representative for the past two years and I enjoy being a part of the new changes to make California Community College basketball better.

Talk about a 24/7/365 job. "My first two years, I did scheduling, laundry, ordering jerseys, class checks, academic counseling, study halls, driving the team van (regularly five hours one way), travel plans, fundraising, film exchange, strength training program, conditioning program, community engagement, media reports, game programs, game set up, highlights films, stats, scouting reports, discipline, you name it!" This is in addition to earning two Masters of Science degrees.

"My first two years, I don't know how I did it. I had to wear so many hats and keep guys bought in without being too hard on them. The assistant is always the buffer, and I didn't have that luxury. Fortunately, I was able to convince Will Freedman to join me this past year as a volunteer. He has been the most valuable component to our success in this program. It took me time to adjust to having an assistant and delegating tasks to him. Luckily, he shares my same passion and he took the bull by the horn on many occasions and allowed me to relax a bit and focus on the team. No doubt he is the best assistant in the state. Who knows how many wins we could have if he was around all three years."

"Going forward, Lassen College men's basketball has established itself as an elite program. One that other teams respect. Next year's recruiting class is the most talented I've ever had here. It's amazing how success can change things."

Aye and Freedman are also moving players on to four-year universities. "I'm expecting seven guys off this year's team to sign a scholarship to a four year. If you come here, you will improve as an athlete, as a student, and as an active individual in society and you will leave happy with a scholarship. It was much harder to sell Lassen College to kids when I first got here, now the product we have sells itself and kids contact us wanting to be a part of it."

"I know I'm looking forward to next year's LCC Cougars and I'm sure Lassen County is too."

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