The article below originally appeared in the San Mateo Daily Journal and is being reprinted with permission.
The junior college football season never takes time off. And after setting a record last year with more than 30 student athletes heading to a four-year university, it appears the College of San Mateo is aiming to break that mark.
They’re off to a fast start.
Seven Bulldogs made four-year university decisions with a couple of all-state team members staying local and committing to the University of California at Berkeley to try and solidify the Golden Bear defense.
Safety Sam Atoe and defensive tackle Trevor Kelly (El Camino) committed to play for Cal next season. Assistant head coach and defensive coordinator Tim Tulloch said the two players narrowed their choices to a trio of schools but ultimately decided to go the Pac-12 route. Kelly, who returned to the Peninsula after a year at Sacramento State, was rewarded nicely for his play and his decision to come back.
“It can be stressful,” Tulloch said of the recruiting process. “It’s something we tell the kids, ‘Be careful what you wish for because it might come true,’ and with [Kelly], of course, it did. The whole recruiting process, schools at times pressuring you here and there and it’s a big decision. It’s not an easy decision. You have to make a life decision. What path am I going down?
“Those guys are going to be able to provide leadership immediately. They’ll provide a passion for the game, a tremendous work ethic. Those guys are going to be Pac-12 impact guys. Every week, they were monsters. We had monsters on both sides of the ball.”
Atoe and Kelly join Sione Sina, who last season transfered to Cal after a pair of extraordinary years with the Bulldogs.
Also staying in the Pac-12 is Hanitelli Lousi, who committed to Oregon where he’ll protect Marcus Mariota — an early front-runner for the 2014 Heisman Trophy.
Fellow offensive lineman and All-American selection Dominick Jackson confirmed his commitment to the University of Alabama of the Southeastern Conference. Joseph Turner also confirmed playing for Washington State.
Linebacker Michael Spivey committed to the University of Nevada at Reno.
Right now, the wait is on for defensive lineman Rika Levi to announce his commitment. Levi, the former South San Francisco HIgh School lineman, picked up All-American honors and was named the California Defensive Player of the Year. According to the team’s Facebook page, Levi has visited the University of Washington and will be making more visits come the spring.
“We believe greatness inspires greatness,” Tulloch said. “The guys before them set the table, created opportunities and made an impact at the four-year level. And they’re going to go somewhere and create opportunities for the next generation of Bulldogs. They’re an accountability that comes with that.”
The College of San Mateo will host the annual Tom Martinez Women’s Basketball Invitational beginning Thursday. The annual tournament will run with games through Saturday at the College Heights Campus Gym.
The Bulldogs (5-3) bring a two-game winning streak into Thursday’s nightcap at 7 p.m. against Butte College (3-6).
San Mateo swept both games at the Shasta Tournament in Redding — defeating Feather River, 54-42 and host Shasta 56-50.
Freshman guard McKenna Hilton currently leads the Bulldogs in scoring with a 12.5 point per game average. Sophomore forward Chureel Kanongata’a is CSM’s top rebounder with a 7.1 average and is No. 2 in scoring at 6.8.
The tournament opens Thursday at 1 p.m. with Contra Costa (5-4) meeting Hartnell (0-8). Other first round games feature Santa Monica (3-7) against Merritt (2-2) at 3 p.m., and Shasta (5-6) versus Reedley (0-10) at 5 p.m.
The championship game will be played Saturday at 3 p.m.