When Atlantic Cape Community College (N.J.) Athletic Director Jamal Edwards asked Allen Ragland to take over basketball head coaching duties at the school, he was reluctant to accept the job.
Ragland knew it would be an arduous undertaken, but decided to give it a go as a way to make a difference while helping out one of his former players, Edwards.
Immediately, Ragland said he had to pull two student-athletes from the baseball team to field five players for the final five games of the 2019-20 season.
Next, Ragland noted that several members of the sqaud were academically ineligible to play basketball. So, he had to square away classroom issues before he could even consider court matters.
“The first law and order was to have them academically qualified,” Ragland said of his student-athletes eligibility. “The school needs them to have a 2.0 G.P.A., but I’m requiring them to have a 3.0 G.P.A.”
But before Ragland could field a full-fledged squad, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, forcing the cancellation of the 2020-21 campaign. But he did not want his student-athletes to fall by the wayside, so he had them enroll as part-time students to help them get accustomed to college life for the time being.
Meanwhile, Ragland took advantage of the time away from the hardwood to recruit student-athletes from the Garden State, South Carolina, and Georgia.
This year, the Atlantic City, N.J., native is continuing to work on placing a perennial winner on the hardwood. And he believes he has the firepower to put the Buccaneers, who play in the Garden State Athletic Conference Region 19 (GSAC), on the JUCO map while making them a success in life.
“We’re looking to build a family here,” Ragland said. “We’re looking to build a program that’s going to last for years to come, and (have) champions in life. We would like this to be a factory for four-year colleges to get quality student-athletes.”
After officially assuming the head coaching position at Atlantic Cape, Ragland said several of his former players followed suit. He noted that he has a number of future potential Division I players on the current roster, something for which the college is not known, he noted.
“I started notifying kids that I was taking over the program,” he said. “There were a lot of kids who wanted to play for me.”
First, there is David Coit, a underrated yet talented 5-foot-11 point guard who starred at Princeton Day School in New Jersey, where drained 1775 points in 94 games. Coit, who Ragland has known and coached for about three years in various hoops leagues, holds three D I offers at the moment: NJIT, North Carolina A&T, and Northern Illinois.
Plus, Swae Young, a 6-foot-6, 235-pound power forward from South Carolina. Then, 6-foot-8 Tim Bethel and South Suburban College (a highly-touted JUCO) transfer Ahmad Biggins (eligible in January), both former Atlantic City High School hoopers; Mohamed Mbye, a solid player from Georgia; Justin Baxter, a 6-foot-8 stretch-four from South Carolina who can bang home the three; Jonathan Cosme Almeida, a good shooter and rebounder; Justin Boston, a 6-foot-5 hybrid player who is extremely explosive and can man the the two-three positions; Shawn Spellman, who will be eligible in January, and holds a Western Kentucky offer, and D1 transfer Richard Jones, and Naji Wright, who has had D I looks.
Ragland is chopping at the bit to make a difference by challenging his players on and off the court. He is bringing his high-spirited coaching style, as well as lofty expectations for the 2021-22 Atlantic Cape hoops program, and beyond, to the fold.
“I’m already excited for the season,” said Ragland, who also runs the Isaiah Christopher Basketball Academy, a prep hoops program. “I’m looking to get out and break some barriers. I feel we can win a national championship, or, at least, compete. We have the talent to do that. This program can be a sleeping giant.”
While wins and loses do matter to Ragland, getting his players to higher levels in life is what it is all about, he noted.
“If you ask me my win and loss record, I don’t really know much about that,” said Ragland, who said he has over 25 years of player development to his credit. “I work to get these players better, and noticed.”
The Buccaneers tipoff the season on Tuesday, November 9th at 7:00 p.m. at Rowan College-Gloucester County.
— Jerry Del Priore
(Photo: Atlantic Cape Community College Athletics)