SCC men’s hoops eyes lofty goals; local coach leads charge

Scottsdale’s Isaiah Easaw drives past the Glendale defense during the Artichokes’ 97–78 loss to Glendale Community College on Dec. 7.

There’s a buzz around the Scottsdale Community College men’s basketball team.

Third-year head coach and Scottsdale-native Mark Bunker has worked to turn the program around as he led the team last year to a 15–15 record — its best in 10 years — and now has his eyes set on higher plains.

“(Last season), we broke all kinds of scoring records, the problem was we didn’t defend anybody,” Coach Bunker said in a Dec. 8 interview. “We’d put up 102 points but give up 108. It’s one of those deals where we’re really focusing on defense this year.”

As of Thursday, Dec. 8, the Fighting Artichokes have surrendered an average of 78.5 points per game, improving from 82.5 points allowed per game. However, the team lost 97–78 to Glendale Community College as the Gauchos diced up the Artichokes’ defense for several big runs during Wednesday, Dec. 7’s game.

“We want to get better at defense so we can stop people when they are in transition or on breaks,” guard Kenneth Melvin said during a Dec. 8 interview. “We’ve got to be more disciplined on defense and help side defense is a big issue for us right now.”

The push to improve defensively isn’t easy for Coach Bunker. He said he grew up as an offensive-minded player and played for coaches who had similar mindsets.

Coach Bunker said he has employed a solid defensive-minded assistant coach in Nigel Ramsey to help the team defensively and help him become a more defensive-minded head coach.

“I think he’s been the difference this year so far as to how much better we are defensively right from the start,” Coach Bunker said.

Offensively, Coach Bunker said the team carries its own, but still has some work to do.

One of those offensive bright spots is guard Isaiah Easaw, who the NJCAA named as its Division II Player of the Week. Melvin, who also greatly contributes on offense, said what makes Easaw good is the way he controls the ball and the game.

“I just like his game because he slows me down,” Melvin said. “He keeps everything straight on the court. He’s like a leader.”

With all these improvements, the campus and local community are starting to show more support for the team .

“It makes it a lot of fun and it makes it that much more rewarding because we’re doing the right things,” he said. “That’s what makes me proud to coach here.”

Scottsdale Community College head basketball coach Mark Bunker watches from the sideline during SCC’s 97–78 loss to Glendale Community College on Dec. 7. (Independent Newsmedia/Josh Martinez)

The man running point

Coach Bunker has deep roots in Scottsdale.

He was a three-year varsity starter at Chaparral High School, playing in the McDonald’s All-American Game. He then started two years at Scottsdale Community College before making the jump to Arizona State University.

After ASU, Coach Bunker played in the NBA Developmental League for the Albuquerque Thunderbirds and the Anaheim Arsenal.

He returned to coach at several Valley high schools before returning to SCC in 2011 as an assistant coach. He was the Interim Head Coach for the 2014-15 season.

SCC guard Kenneth Melvin (10) goes up for a lay up in the face of stifling defense of Glendale Community College’s Christian Hakilimali (15) during Scottsdale’s 97–78 loss to Glendale on Dec. 7.

Coach Bunker said the searching process was delayed throughout that season, which worked to his advantage as that season like a “year-long interview process as opposed to just an hour-long interview.”

During that time, Coach Bunker said he tried to be productive with his team and he coached them to the playoffs during his interim season.

His SCC coaching gig comes with some perks including coaching in his local community.

“My parents still come to my games so it’s really fun from that side,” he said.

“My family gets to come to games and being able to help a next generation of Scottsdale Community College players and even Scottsdale-based athletes. We get a lot of players from the Scottsdale area or even the Valley in general. It’s a lot of fun being a part of that.”

Coach Bunker’s impact isn’t only felt in the community but with the players on his team as well.
Easaw called Coach Bunker a “player’s coach,” saying he’s approachable and his system gives the Artichokes the chance for success.

“He’s very relatable to all of us because all of us came to junior college so we can get to the next level and that’s what he did,” Easaw said. “He went to junior college before going to a four-year university. He knows what it takes and he’s always available.”

Along with his coaching responsibilities, Coach Bunker is also the school’s sports information director. While he said this part of the job gets a bit tedious, he will gladly do it since it allows him to coach full time.

The reason Coach Bunker has stuck around the Scottsdale community for so long is because he says it’s a great area and while he has ambitions of moving to the NCAA someday, he loves coaching in the Valley.

“I have everything I need right now with where I’m at in my coaching career that if I stayed at Scottsdale Community College for a long time, I’d be in a really good spot,” he said.

News Services Reporter Josh Martinez can be contacted at jmartinez@newszap.com or at 623-445-2738

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