Despite new faces, CCSF among the state’s best again 

click to enlarge Chuks Iroegbu
  • eric Sun/special to the S.F. Examiner
  • Sophomore Chuks Iroegbu is averaging 13.6 points per game this season for CCSF.
It may shock people to see the City College of San Francisco men’s basketball team ranked No. 3 in the California Community College Coaches Association Poll, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Under the command of 11th-year coach Justin Labagh, the Rams have been accustomed to fast starts and winning a lot of games. Coming into the season, CCSF has won 283 games under Labagh while only losing 43. They’ve also won six straight Coast Conference North championships, including the 2011 California Community College Athletic Association state championship.

Labagh explained the formula to what has kept the Rams one of the top junior college programs in the nation.

“It’s about sharing the ball and having a defensive-first mindset,” Labagh said. “We’re not as sound defensively as we were last year, but this year we have more offensive weapons. This season, teams have a hard time stopping us.”

Despite having only three players back from last season’s team that went 31-1 and it’s only loss came in the Final Four, CCSF is 16-1, average 88.1 points a game, and during its 15-game winning streak, has won by a margin of 17.2 points per game.

CCSF is led by two players who were key contributors a season ago: University of Pacific-bound point guard Dulani Robinson is second on the team in scoring (14.3 points per game) and assists (4.6 per game) and sophomore forward Chuks Iroegbu — who is being recruited by Portland St., Cal State Bakersfield and the University of North Texas — pumps in 13.6 points and four rebounds a game.

“Chuks has improved every aspect of his game,” Labagh said. “He’s a better passer, can dribble better, his decision making is better. He really had the biggest offseason.”

But the Rams are a well-rounded bunch as five players average at least 11 points a game. Newcomer Kori Babineaux — a shooting guard who attended Drake University — leads CCSF with 16.1 points per game, Gabe Bealer adds 12.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game, and former Sacred Heart Cathedral star Joshua Fox — who was playing at UC Riverside last year before having season-ending ACL surgery — adds 11.0 points and 4.6 rebounds a game. The trio has gelled nicely with Robinson and Iroegbu.

“Babineaux has a real basketball IQ, and I believe is one of the best shooting guards in the state,” Labagh said. “[Fox] is still recovering from his injury, but he gives us some big time leadership, and Bealer can do a little bit of everything really well.”

The Rams have also added 6-foot-11 center Kanu Aja, who has signed with East Carolina. Aja just received his first start of the season Wednesday against Canada College and produced a career-high 17 points and eight rebounds.

Labagh said he’s having a ton of fun coaching this season, but he’s also ventured into other entities while leading another loaded CCSF team. He’s the founder of a sports app called “iPracticeBuilder.com,” an iPad app that allows coaches to interactively build practice plans.

With the turnover that comes year in and year out at a junior college program, and the head of a startup company that start in 2012, Labagh has plent to keep him busy.

“I have a successful start-up company and its one of the top apps under the sports category, so I have my hands full,” Labagh said.

However, it doesn’t sound like Labagh will be leaving the sideline anytime soon because he enjoys the challenge of putting together good teams, which seems to be the case at CCSF this season.

“Putting a good team out there, a good product where a team plays well year after year, it’s working for our players,” Labagh said. “If you come to one of our games, you’re going to see good basketball, year after year.”

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Bonta Hill

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