JOHNSTOWN - The Fulton-Montgomery Community College men's basketball program made a strong late-season run last year, defeating Hudson Valley Community College, 86-66, in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III Region III tournament before falling to eventual runner-up Herkimer Community College in the semifinals.
Fifth-year Raiders' coach Ed Collar is not looking at the 2011-12 season as a milestone but as a stepping stone to the Raiders' 2012-13 season.
FMCC is scheduled to open the first half of its season Wednesday night on the road against Hudson Valley Community College.
"The freshmen will have to take on more of a significant role than last year," Collar said. "The few sophomores we have must be tremendous leaders so the team can quickly progress through our learning curve. The team has made significant strides through the preseason and will be prepared to make another run at regionals."
Although the Raiders lost key players Jose Irizarry (15 ppg.) leading defender Wynn Adams (12 ppg.), Tremayne Frazier (10 ppg.) and Rashad Hall (10 rpg.), Collar is looking to sophomores Aaron Morton (7 ppg.), Qwatee Williams (2 apg.) and Andy Irizarry (16 ppg.) who returns to the lineup after missing last year, to step up and lead a freshman-heavy roster.
Kadeem Stanislas (Paul Robeson), Paul Robeson (JFK), Darius Ward (JFK), Ibrahima Diallo (Canarsie), Tishaun Mann (Eagle Academy), Bryant Jack (Thurgood Marshall) and Khaleeq Baum (Fort Hamilton) are among the new members of the Raiders' roster.
"The Raiders are very young this year, but still talented," Collar said. "The key will be how quickly players can develop and feel comfortable in our system."
The Raiders, who have improved their record four years in a row and qualified for regionals two of the past four years, will host its home opener Sunday at 3 p.m. against North Country Community College. The game is the nightcap of doubleheader action with the Lady Raiders tipping off against North Country at 1 p.m.