The San Quentin Warriors started the 2016 season with high expectations. They recruited new talent, including a former Memphis University player, but ended the season 5-8 against Christian Sports Ministry, their worst record in years, yet they are still smiling.
“I’m surprised we won as much as we did,” said Bill Epling, the sponsor of the Christian Sports Ministry’s Green Team — the S.Q. Warriors’ toughest regular competitors. “The guy from Memphis didn’t help them too much.”
SQ Warriors Coach Daniel Wright said, “Arguably the most talented team since I got here in 2011.”
The former Memphis University player, 6-foot-7 Mack Simekins, showed promise in his first games, averaging 16 points a game as a Warrior, but he walked away from the team early in the season.
“Simekins didn’t meet my attitude requirements,” Wright said.
Similarly, when Simekins played for Memphis University, his team made the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16, but he didn’t get to play because of a suspension over off-court problems.
The SQ Warriors roster still looked improved from last year with the addition of Tevin Fournette. He averages 14 points per game, third on the team behind veteran players Allan McIntosh (18.8 ppg) and Harry “ATL” Smith (16 ppg). This allowed forward/guard Anthony Ammons, a starter last year, to become the sixth man. He averaged 10.8 ppg.
“We were a better team talent wise, but not team wise,” McIntosh said. “We didn’t play together as a team in any of the 20 something games. We get that team chemistry, we’ll be unstoppable.”
The Golden State Warriors model the type of chemistry their incarcerated namesakes need. Golden State logged almost 500 more assists than the second-highest scoring NBA team. Their 68 field goal percentage comes mostly comes from assists, according to a New York Times article by John Branch.
“We play a certain style where everybody is involved,” said Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors in The New York Times interview. “There’s a lot of skill involved — skill that’s showcased by ball movement and flow.”
The SQ Warriors’ lack of chemistry led to their first losing season since Daniel Wright came on as coach, five years ago. They went 5-8 against the Green Team and 11-13 over all. (They were 2-2 against Imago Dei, 4-2 against Lincoln Hill, and 0-1 against the Golden State Warriors staff.)
SQ Warriors General Manager Robert Butler said, “It’s the first losing season in 13 years, going by the records. However, it’s never a losing season in my mind. We set up this program to teach life skills through basketball, and we have been successful at that.”
SQ Warrior Harry “ATL” Smith also considers the season a success.
“This was my most spiritually fulfilling season in regard to maturity,” Smith said. “I learned a lot dealing with patience and humbleness. I also got to meet Draymond Green, Kevin Durant and play against Willie Green.”
Butler added, “In fact I think this has been the best season ever. Never in the history of prison basketball have inmates been given the chance to play against the level of former NBA, overseas pro and college player talent that we have. Plus we were on ESPN this year.”
McIntosh plans to do his part to improve the team next season.
“I’m gonna work out hard and come back in shape,” McIntosh said. “I’ll be more outspoken about team chemistry.”