Season in Review: 2019-20 CMS Men's Basketball
Written by Mike Haas, CMC '79
13th Consecutive SCIAC Tournament Appearance
CMS is the only SCIAC team to appear every year
2019-20 was another exciting year for Claremont-Mudd-Scripps men's basketball, as the twenty members of the Stags came together to produce the program's 23rd consecutive winning season – extending the record both for CMS and for any team in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
And yet another team record came about at the end of the season as CMS qualified for its 13th consecutive trip to the post-season conference tournament. No other team in the SCIAC has reached the tournament each and every year since its inception in 2008.
The season began with a road trip to Spokane, Washington for a tip-off tournament hosted by Whitworth College. After a set-back in the opener, the Stags took off winning their remaining eight non-conference games before settling in for the always intense and competitive SCIAC schedule.
Indeed, once again CMS led the way in the conference. For over the 20 years in the new millennium, the Stags have finished in the top three position in the SCIAC standing 18 times including ten championships. In securing its 23rd straight winning season, CMS has strengthened its claim as being the winningest team in the conference since it began conference play in 1960.
This year's senior class once again showed its leadership both on and off the court by mentoring the younger members and newcomers to the team. There were six seniors in 2020 and all played big roles in their careers with the Stags.
Two juniors, five sophomores, six freshmen, and one graduate student making his CMS debut made up the remainder of the roster. These players together with the senior leadership formed the foundation of a Stags team that thrived going 19-7 on the season and 11-5 in conference play.
Miles President (Sr., HMC, Chino Hills) earned his fourth letter and his fourth year as the starting small forward. He was one of the team's leader in scoring after being the team's best defensive player in past seasons.
Max Kirsch (Sr., CMC, Atkinson, NH) returned for his fourth year and moved up to the starting power forward position. He scored both inside and out with a strong drive to the basket and high percentage three-point shooting. Max was one of four team captains.
Jeremy Horn (Sr., CMC, Wynnewood, PA) started at the post spot for the second straight year while earning his fourth letter. He continued his scoring efficiency by shooting 55 percent from the field and leading the team in points per game.
JD Levine (Sr., CMC, New York, NY) was another 4-year letter winner and played an increasing role as the team's sixth man in the back court. His defensive quickness and high percentage 3-point shooting gave the Stags a multi-faceted attack from the guard spot.
Kele Mkpado (Sr., CMC, Santa Barbara) was awarded his fourth letter for CMS and also played a more active role with his strong play inside. He led the team in blocked shots but also played outside making defensive stops and hitting 3-pointers.
George Walker (Sr., CMC, Washington, D.C.) showed his growth with a greater presence in the post position. He was the first man off the bench inside shooting 51 percent from the field and grabbing 5 rebounds per game.
Mitchell Kirsch (Jr., CMC, Atkinson, NH), stepped up to the starting off-guard spot in his third season with the Stags. Elo Oti (Jr., CMC, Los Angeles) also won his third-year letter award playing the wing spot for CMS.
Charles Meng (So., HMC, Cupertino) was the team's third point guard and brought strong defensive skills to the court for the Stags. TJ Askew, (So., CMC, Papua, New Guinea) played an increasing role inside as the season advanced. Alec Sinek (So., CMC, Fullerton) extended the CMS depth in the area of both shooting and point guards. Luke Webb (So., CMC, West Hills) came back from a first-year injury to return to action at the post position. Sam Johnson (So., CMC, Spring Lake, MI) came off the bench at the post in a more active role showing a soft shooting touch with his mid-range jumpers.
Brian Kenyon (Fr., CMC, Manhattan, NY) won the starting point guard position and brought strong defense to Stags while leading the Stags offense. Josh Angle (Fr., CMC, Lake Oswego, OR) came off the bench with a quick and accurate 3-point shooting arm as a wing player. Joey Ganley (Fr., Edina, MN) gave CMS another option at the small forward position. Jordan Hunt (Fr., HMC, Piedmont) could play either the power forward or the center position and always brought high energy to spark the team. Kiran Kruse (Fr., CMC, Menlo Park) was another from the forward arsenal for the Stags, whose season was interrupted by injury. Rhett Carter (Fr., CMC, Sudbury, MA) saw more and more action as a back-up center as the season advanced and showed why with this scoring ability.
The season started against Whitman College in Spokane, as CMS continued to get invited to elite tournaments for Division III teams. Host school Whitworth has been one of the top teams on the West coast representing both athletics and academics. The Stags defeated George Fox College in the second game 80-72 to start its winning ways.
When the team returned to action at the Wells Classic, it continued its winning ways with two more wins over Northwest Conference teams. The Wells Classic was created and then named in memory of former Stags head coach and athletic director David Wells who envisioned this Division III tournament for strong academic institutions with top basketball programs. CMS defeated both Lewis and Clark College and Pacific University during the weekend competition.
Before winter break, there were more non-conference wins over UC Santa Cruz, CSU Maritime, Gustavus Adolphus, and Lake Forest. There also was an exciting one-point victory over the University of Chicago, avenging last season's opening season loss to the Maroon.
January welcomed the New Year which also meant the start of SCIAC action. The conference has earned a national reputation for not only the closeness of the teams geographically, but the closeness of the games as the competition is as exciting and forceful as anywhere in Division III.
The January SCIAC schedule opened with home wins over Whittier and Cal Lutheran before CMS headed out for road games at Caltech and Redlands. The Beavers have become more improved and the Bulldogs were looking to challenge for the conference title. The Stags were up to the task and turned away both challenges with 59-54 and 77-60 wins, respectively.
CMS went on a four-game win streak winning twice at home in the friendly confines of Roberts Pavilion, the elite Division III arena in the country, against Occidental and La Verne, followed by wins on the road in the rematches versus Cal Lutheran and Whittier. Conference play ended with a final home win over Caltech and away game victories over La Verne and Chapman.
The SCIAC post-season tournament was next up for the Stags and CMS found itself playing at Redlands in the opening night semifinal match-up. A back and forth game ended with CMS seeing a last-second shot roll off the rim and a heart-breaking 68-66 defeat.
But there still were highlights to celebrate for the Stags as the SCIAC coaches met to choose the all-conference teams. Jeremy Horn and Miles President were selected second-team All-SCIAC for 2020.
At the team's annual banquet, the players chose their peers for the team awards. Brian Kenyon and Kele Mkpado were chosen as the team's best defensive players. Mkpado also was honored as the most improved player. Miles President capped his fine four-year career as the team's most valuable player. Fellow senior George Walker was the winner of the Kampe Hustle Award, named in memory of former Stags all conference player Chris Kampe who passed away from cancer but who inspired his teammates to play with the highest level of determination and exemplary effort.
The final team award passed out this year was the Bob Sunshine captains award given to Max Kirsch, Kele Mkpado, George Walker, and Mitchell Kirsch. The award was renamed in honor of former Stags captain Bob Sunshine who graduated in 1961 and who was the program's first captain back in 1958-59.
Looking forward to 2020-21 is a large unknown at this time. In the eyes of caution, the colleges, in concert with the entire conference, have decided to cancel all sports during the fall semester, and we all will wait to see what the spring brings. While we are optimistic and hopeful for CMS and SCIAC action, we also are respectful of the health and well-being of the student-athletes and coaches and officials.
As always, we thank you for your support of CMS Stags basketball. Please watch for new developments at cmsathletics.org. In addition, the website has archives of great CMS Stags basketball memories.