COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Wranglers ready for postseason run

Odessa College men’s basketball coach Kris Baumann has thrown down the gauntlet to the Wranglers.

After going undefeated in Western Junior College Athletic Conference play for the first time in program history, along with fashioning a 17-game winning streak, he was adding a little motivation.

“I told them that we will be playing at 7 p.m. on March 19,” Baumann said.

March 19th is the final day of the NJCAA Men’s Division I National Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas.

The march to that time slot begins Thursday when Odessa College faces Collin County Community College at 7 p.m. at Wolfforth Frenship High School’s Tiger Pit.

Baumann’s statement was matter-of-fact, not full of the false bravado teams use as rallying cries this time of the season.

Before taking over the Wranglers program in 2018, he had previously led Trinity Valley Community College to three appearances in four seasons at the helm of that program.

Since moving to the Permian Basin, he has guided Odessa College to Kansas twice, including an Elite Eight finish his first season.

“It’s a different season and that’s what I’ve told the players,” Baumann said. “Everyone starts all over again and is 0-0 and we are going to play some teams that have their back against the wall and we are going to have to play well to get a high seed at the national tournament; the undefeated run in conference and all the accolades that go with that are great, but it doesn’t mean anything now.

“To get to Kansas and win in Kansas, you have to have a good team and good players and I think we have both.”

The game against Collin County is the first of a possible three straight contests with make-or-break scenarios for the Wranglers (25-5), though their No. 8 ranking in the latest NJCAA poll possibly would get them through on an at-large bid should they falter.

It’s not the route that Baumann wants to take.

“The last two times we went, we ended up losing to the eventual national champion,” he said. “We want to win the regional tournament and get as high a seed as we can.”

One of the main differences buoying Baumann’s outlook has been the play of his point guards, Daniss Jenkins and Anthony Marshall.

Jenkins has been the team’s leader all season, a Division I transfer from the University of the Pacific who came to the Permian Basin to refine his skills before moving back up to the next level.

The change in scenery seems to have helped as Jenkins is averaging 15.3 points per game while shooting 48.3 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent (41.) from three-point range.

He’s hitting 86.2 perfect of his free throws, pulling down three rebounds a game and handing out more than five (5.3) assists per contest.

All while playing out of position.

“Daniss is a 2-guard, naturally,” Baumann said. “So we had to talk with him and get him comfortable playing the point and it was a learning curve early in the season for him.

“But he’s the leader for us and it makes my job easier when the best player on your team is also the hardest worker on your team. The others just follow suit and it just has been great to see the way the team has grown.”

The Wranglers’ other point guard, Anthony Marshall, has also grown into an integral part of the program despite missing the fall semester.

He joined his teammates on the court after the holiday break, immediately injecting energy into the offense as the first one off the bench.

A natural point guard who honed his game on the blacktops of Brooklyn, New York, Marshall plays with a completely different style, unafraid to drive his 5-foot-10 frame down the lane, looking for contact and the chance to get to the free-throw line, where he is converting at an 85.7-percent clip.

Though it has rarely happened during WJCAC play, Baumann knows that there will come a point during the postseason when both will be on the floor together for the Wranglers, which would allow Jenkins to move back to his natural spot as the shooting guard.

“These games are so important that I’m sure it’s going to happen,” Baumann said of the pair. “They have contrasting styles and I think the biggest difference is that Daniss is playing both ends of the floor and Anthony still is working on the defensive end, but he’s getting better at it.

“They both know how we want to play. We want to be on the run, the faster the better because we want to wear our opponents out; we have the depth and I think that’s one of the things that separates us from other teams.”

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