JOHNSTOWN - The roster for the Fulton-Montgomery Community College men's basketball team has been dwindling since the season began in early November.
The Raiders opened the season with 20 players. Then about a month later, they broke for the winter break with 16 players.
Then they lost three more, dropping the roster to 13 players as Derrick Cook, Devante Robinson and Ibrahima Diallo decided not to come back for the second semester.
Fulton-Montgomery’s Qwatee Williams looks for a teammate to pass to as Corning’s Shawn Coppin defends during a Dec. 9 game at FMCC in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)
However, the Raiders did pick up one more player - Bruce Simms - for the second half bringing the roster to 14 players when second-half play begins Thursday against Columbia-Greene Community College in the Raider's Den.
The biggest hit was the loss of Diallo, the Raiders' backup point guard.
"We're in pretty good shape," FMCC coach Ed Collar said. "We have most of our key players back."
Point guard Qwatee Williams is coming back to lead the team from the point, along with most of the key players that finished 7-6 overall and 5-6 in Region III. However the Raiders were awarded a win when Finger Lakes was forced to forfeit their wins and FMCC will enter the second half with an 8-5, 6-5 record.
Collar said during the first half with so many players on the roster, he spent a lot of time playing different combinations to see what would work.
"We started to settle into our roles a little better," Collar said. "We were playing a lot of freshman and were getting more experienced. We were starting to pull together a little better as a team."
The fifth-year coach will be looking to settle on a more permanent rotation as the Raiders move into the second half of their season and hoping the confidence the players built in the system carries over.
Collar also is looking for more consistency from his team as the inexperienced freshmen had a tendency to rush the offense.
"We never had the same player play consistently game in and game out. It was always someone different. We need to have that consistent player."
Two players Collar said he will be looking for that consistency from are sophomore guard/forward Andy Irizarry and sophomore guard Aaron Morton.
They also need to be more consistent on the defensive end of the floor.
"I think defensively, we have a lot of tough games," Collar said. "We tended to have some defensive breakdowns where we gave up some easy baskets. We have to communicate better on defense. Most of these games come down to two or three points.
The Raiders returned to the practice floor Thursday after about five weeks off. Collar said the Raiders normally have a three-week break. And once they start playing, they will have games "just about every other day."
"Our season is going to be made or lost in the first two weeks," Collar said.
Collar said the Raiders need a good start because they finish with the Mountain Valley Conference with Herkimer, Mohawk Valley and SUNY Delhi, three of the toughest teams.
"We're excited we got most of our guys back," Collar said. "This gives us a legitimate shot to make a run at regionals. We feel once we get to regionals, we're yet to see a team that we don't think we can beat. We'll see what happens."