The competition was intense and the expectations high, but Hostos Community College would not be denied and brought another national championship back to the Bronx. Dubbing it “Bronx Madness,” the number one ranked Caimans successfully defended their NJCAA Division III title with a win over Owens Community College on March 16 in Bethlehem, Penn.
“The toughest part about it was managing all of the high level student-athletes we had in our program,” said coach DeVernie Winston, who was honored as Coach of the Tournament. “To make sure they came in and bought into the ‘team first,’ ‘we not me’ and ‘everybody eats’ mentality was the toughest part.”
He added, “Every day, we give our student-athletes the capability of having big games. It’s getting everyone to understand that at any given time someone can have a big game and making sure everyone else is genuinely excited about it.”
Sophomore Skydajah Patterson was named Tournament MVP. Last year’s MVP, Kayla Wilson, who will play for Saint Bonaventure next year, had a double-double. Winston credits his sophomores with bringing the experience of playing in big games and laying it all on the line in a national tournament.
“I’m not an easy coach to play for,” said Winston, who insists his players place a priority on academics—even doing classroom checks—and commit to his system. “For them to work extremely hard, not waiver under any circumstance and know that I would be tough on them, but I still love them at the same time, the sophomores brought that experience and helped the freshmen do the right thing the entire season.”
The team may have won a National Championship in 2018, but Winston and the assistant coaches insisted there was no slacking. Early in the season, the team played tough non-conference opponents. The Caimans finished the season 29–5 and proved they weren’t just dominant against other CUNY teams, but could outplay the best.
“They want to put themselves in a position to qualify for athletic and academic scholarships,” Winston said. “That type of accountability made it so everybody was truly focused on the goal. Once we got it done academically, the athletic part fell right into place. The work ethic transitioned to what we did on the court.
“Everyone had a personal goal and because we are an ‘everybody eats’ type team, they were able to get that.”