Former Elsie Allen standout Jacob Noisat, a Dominican junior, tops the Penguins in scoring and rebounding. (Photo by Courtesy Photo)
By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Bouncing around to find a footing in college basketball, former All-Empire players Matt Cousins and Jacob Noisat are having fun leading their teams early this season.
Cousins, a Chaminade senior, tops the Pac West Conference in scoring. Both Cousins and Noisat, a Dominican junior, are among the league leaders in rebounding.
The pair, who work out together at Santa Rosa Junior College over summers, have found NCAA Division II programs where they can improve and harbor hope of playing professionally.
“This season it’s really, really fun,” said Cousins, from Cardinal Newman. “I do want to pursue playing overseas and just really focus on finishing up this season as best as I can.”
Noisat’s first season at Dominican couldn’t have started better for the former Elsie Allen standout. He is aiming for big goals, including averaging double figures in points and rebounds.
“I enjoy leading the team,” Noisat said. “I want the challenge.”
Earning opportunities to play leading roles in the college game has been demanding enough. Both athletes left the programs that recruited them out of high school, played a year of junior college ball, and then gained scholarships at the Pac West schools.
“You think you can just do whatever you want and be successful wherever,” Cousins said. “Obviously that doesn’t work out always. You learn from those opportunities.”
After sitting out a year at Chico State and then playing a brief stint for the Wildcats, Cousins transferred to SRJC. At Chico State he was planted under the basket. Cousins fit in better as a mobile forward at the junior college, where he started for the playoff-bound Bear Cubs, and again with Chaminade the past three seasons.
Noisat was a big man in a guard-dominated offense at Cal State East Bay his first season. Moving over to Chabot College, he was a presence in the low post, drawing attention from four-year schools and getting a spot on the Dominican team.
“You can’t let it get you down. It’s definitely tough on the mind,” Noisat said of his moves among colleges. “You keep faith that good things will come.”
Improving despite varying systems and different coaches, Cousins and Noisat lead their teams in both scoring and rebounding.
Cousins is averaging more than 16 points — best in the Pac West — and 7 rebounds a contest for the Silverswords. He is seventh in the league in free-throw accuracy.
Noisat puts in 11 points and hauls down more than 6 rebounds a game for the Penguins. He is tied for sixth in blocked shots.
Already this season, Cousins and Noisat each has been named Pac West Player of the Week. Cousins also made the conference Honor Roll of top 10 players, and Noisat twice earned that accolade.
Offensive rebounds are an area Cousins worked on most coming into the season. Already a solid scorer in Chaminade’s motion offense, Cousins has become a sharper shooter.
“The main goal is just always be moving,” he said. “We get the rebound and push it. I even bring the ball up now and then.”
A highlight of the season was playing traditional large school powers UCLA, Georgetown and Tennessee in the prestigious Maui Invitational Tournament. As event hosts, the Silverswords open each campaign battle-tested, as Cousins appreciated again in the three losses — Chaminade’s only defeats.
Off the court, Cousins and a teammate spent time at the tournament banquet talking with Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has the most wins in NCAA DivisionI history.
“We were just talking shop,” Cousins said. “He asked more about us. He was really well-spoken and just down to earth.”
A polished scorer around the basket, Noisat has become a better all-around player, improving his passing, offensive rebounding, shot-blocking and overall quickness.
“I had to get more skills and stronger,” Noisat said. “I’m definitely playing the game at a better pace.”
Noisat’s play at center has helped Dominican’s guards enjoy more success as the Penguins look to improve.
After leading Dominican to its first win last week and making the all-tournament team at the Notre Dame de Namur Thanksgiving Classic, he earned conference top-player honors on Monday.
“You’ve got to work harder,” Noisat said. “You definitely have to spend every day playing basketball and trying to get better.”
Playing well enough to raise a team’s level of play is the goal for these big men. Chaminade won the conference last season, and Cousins would love another opportunity to compete in the NCAA Division II national tournament.
Cousins went out of state to keep playing college basketball. Noisat stayed closer to home.
Their journeys meet in January when Dominican hosts Chaminade in San Rafael. The conference foes match up again in Honolulu in February.
“We’ve talked about playing against each other,” Noisat said. “It will be fun and competitive.”
The pair became friends through basketball, first as prep opponents in the North Bay League, and are excited to meet in college.
“Now we’re both enjoying success,” Cousins said. “It was definitely worth it.”
You can reach Staff Writer Michael Coit at 521-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.