ROUNDUP: Bobcats' Chambers named Cal Pac Player of the Year

slynch@mercedsunstar.comMarch 14, 2013 

Aki Chambers knew he was going to have to be better.

The UC Merced senior took the California Pacific Conference by storm in the program’s first season, leading the team and league in scoring and finishing second in rebounding.

But Chambers wasn’t going to be sneaking up on anyone this year. Defenses — particularly in conference play — would be designed to take the ball out of his hands.

Chambers said in the long run it made him a better player.

He was forced to move off of the ball more and improve his ability to dribble-drive. The end result was a league-best 21.192 points per game and 6.879 rebounds per game.

Chambers was named the Cal Pac Player of the Year and on Wednesday was named to the NAIA Division 2 All-American third team.

“It’s surprising and good to know that all that hard work I put in paid off,” Chambers said. “I’m honored to be able to represent the West Coast and help get UC Merced’s name out there.

“Scoring was definitely a little tougher at first this year. I was forced to see the court differently and find new ways to get open.

“I worked on my shot, my conditioning and my ball handling in the offseason and I think all three really paid off.”

Chambers was the only NAIA Division 2 All-American chosen from California and only one of two players from the West Coast.

Making his mark

Luke Baum had himself a weekend.

The Merced College sophomore swimmer upped his game for one of the state’s most prestigious meets.

The 35th annual Cuesta College Swim Invitational sets up like a state meet preview with 17 schools and fields of up to 100 swimmers.

Baum made sure he stood out, winning the 200- and 100-yard breaststrokes. His times of 58.55 seconds and 2:07.02 each rank as the second fastest in school history and should both be state qualifying times.

Falling fast

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for first-year MC baseball coach Nate Devine.

A quick 2-0 start to his tenure is long forgotten as his young Blue Devils squad has struggled to find consistency.

A 2-1 week against Reedley dropped MC to 17th in the NorCal standings. Another subpar week could drop the Blue Devils (9-9, 5-4 Central Valley Conference) out all together, something that hasn’t happened in the last six years.

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