MAYS LANDING - Armin Cane didn't have many options after graduating from Pleasantville High School two years ago.
The 6-foot-1 guard was lightly recruited by NCAA basketball programs but didn't receive any scholarship offers.
"Nobody would give me a chance," he said.
Cane is on his way to earning that chance.
The sophomore has emerged as one of the best junior-college players in the nation for Atlantic Cape Community College, heading into the postseason with a 24.1-point scoring average that ranked fourth in the nation through Sunday.
Cane also has led a resurgence for Atlantic Cape, which went 1-21 the season before he arrived. The Buccaneers finished this regular season 11-13 overall and 11-9 in Region XIX of the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III. They have clinched a spot in the upcoming Region XIX playoffs and expect to find out their first-round matchup this week.
"He's been a gem," Atlantic Cape second-year coach Andrew Fields said.
The next step will be transferring to an NCAA program. Cane, who turns 20 next month, said he has three favorites: Delaware State (Division I), Wilmington (Division II) and Gwynedd Mercy (Division III).
Fields said there still could be other options. He wants to find a school where Cane can not only make the team but get significant playing time immediately.
Fields has connections, too. The Atlantic City resident won a Division II national title under legendary coach John Chaney at Cheyney University and was drafted by the Portland Trail Blazers before spending most of his 18-year professional career overseas.
"I'm going to try to use some of my ace cards. I'll put it that way," Fields said of helping Cane. "I know some people. I'm going to try to give him the opportunity to get out of here and make something of himself because he's dedicated, his work ethic is good and he's all of what a coach would be gracious to have with their program."
1,000 points and more
Fields won't be the first coach to help Cane. Atlantic City High School coach Gene Allen called Fields, a former Vikings star, when he first heard that Cane was headed to Atlantic Cape. Allen had become a fan of Cane from his team's games against Pleasantville, and he asked Fields to look out for Cane.
The first season was about rebuilding. Cane, who had been a third-team Press All-Star as a senior, averaged 24.5 points per game as Atlantic Cape went 16-15 and reached the Region XIX Division III semifinals. He was named to the Region XIX Division III first team.
Cane hadn't even known coming into that season whether he would continue to play basketball after Atlantic Cape.
"The goal was just to come out here and use these two years to have fun and find myself," he said.
But toward the end of last season, Cane started hearing from NCAA programs. One Division III school stayed in contact with him repeatedly, he said.
"It let me know that my talents could be used somewhere else," Cane said. "And then going into this year, I was just trying to better myself at everything."
He has succeeded. Cane scored his 1,000th career point in December. He also ranked 27th in the nation in rebounds through Sunday with 8.9 per game.
Despite weighing only 190 pounds, Cane said he's able to go up against taller forwards on the glass.
"I just keep jumping, keep boxing out, keep fighting and get the rebound," he said. "A guard that can get down there and bang with big men that are 6-5 and up, if (an NCAA program) can have a guard like that, then I don't know why you wouldn't want to give him a chance for two years to better your program."
While he's looking ahead, Cane also is enjoying his time at Atlantic Cape. His teammates include two fellow Pleasantville alumni but also two players each from Atlantic City, Absegami and Oakcrest, and one each from Egg Harbor Township and Holy Spirit.
"It's the best feeling," Cane said. "It's a feeling you can't explain because you go from being enemies for four years to now we can really be friends. And then we go out in practice and it's just like high school again."
The Buccaneers won eight of 12 before last Tuesday's loss to Brookdale Community College, the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. Cane said Atlantic Cape has the talent to make a run in the postseason.
"Every day, I think to myself, with (Fields) and just everything, not too many people can say they played on a community (college) team for two years and achieved anything," Cane said.
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