Athletic expectations are no rarity at City College of San Francisco, one of the premier JUCO sports programs in the nation. For the men's basketball program, their unparalleled success the past decade means that every season is now predicated on one thing; hanging another CCCAA state title banner in the Wellness Center.
After snapping a 49- year- long championship drought in 2011, the Rams have gone on to win two more championships since then, taking home titles for both the 2015-16 season as well as in 2017-18. They were also state runners-up last season, failing to win back-to-back championships, but putting CCSF hoops in the crosshairs for every California JUCO basketball program.
Rams’ head coach Justin Labagh, entering his 17th season at City, is as excited about this year's team as any team he's ever coached.
"I really like this team," Labagh said. "We might have to take some lumps along the way, like any other team, but we're different. We're more athletic, especially our bigs, so we're going to play a lot faster."
Power forward Miles Norris, one of the new additions to this year's roster, will certainly be relied on to play the role of an "athletic big". After playing last season at the University of Oregon, Norris had originally planned to transfer to UC Santa Barbara. Instead, he became a Ram.
The lanky 6'10" Norris played his high school ball at New Hampshire's Brewster Academy, whose alumni include NBA all-star Donovan Mitchell, but he was born in San Francisco. He, along with sophomore swingmen Quincy Urbina and Emeka Udenyi and guards Dale Currie and Jason Ricketts, will undoubtedly be leaned on for their game experience, especially with six freshmen on this year's roster.
Still, despite the underclassmen, Labagh sees very few deficiencies from this year's squad.
"We're really skilled, and we can really shoot the ball this year," Labagh said. "We're not really missing anything, which is like a coach's dream, obviously."
After opening their season this Friday against Mt. San Antonio College in the Tip-Off Classic, the Rams will then get a rematch of the 2018 CCCAA Championship Game, with San Diego City College making the long trek to San Francisco. The Knights are considered one of this year's favorites to win the CCCAA title, and are ranked #2 in California, right behind CCSF at #1.
When asked about what he has addressed the past several weeks in practice and team meetings, Labagh kept his answer fairly straightforward.
"Details," Labagh said. "We know what to do on the court, we're fast enough and smart enough, and quick enough. But we know we're going to be tested."