Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tyrone Hanson learns not to mess with Mark Fox

Sophomore guard Tyrone Hanson is no longer a member of the Nevada Wolf Pack men's basketball team. Coach Mark Fox dropped the shooting guard from his squad after repeated team violations. Nevada also wasted no time in deleting Hanson from the official roster on the school web site.

Hanson had demonstrated outside-shooting ability in his brief stints last year and increased playing time was in the works for him in the upcoming season but no longer.

How does this impact the Wolf Pack? There may be some effect felt, although nothing dramatic, in 2007-2008 but Hanson certainly is replaceable.

Here is the beginning of the Reno Gazette Journal article on Hanson:

Nevada basketball: Fox removes Hanson from team
Steve Sneddon
Reno Gazette-Journal
October 31, 2007

Sophomore guard Tyrone Hanson, who was beaten and robbed at a Halloween party in Reno that ended in a triple homicide early Sunday morning, was dismissed from the Nevada basketball team.

Coach Mark Fox announced the dismissal in an emotional and unusual evening news conference Tuesday at Legacy Hall.

Fox said he did not remove Hanson from the team because he was involved in the fight. But, rather, because he was at the party in the first place.

"I held Tyrone out of a scrimmage for a violation of our policy," Fox said. "And he was directed to stay home Saturday night. He violated that direction."

Hanson, 20, of New York City, appeared in 30 games, all off the bench, and averaged 1.6 points and 1.0 rebounds in 8.1 minutes per game. He was one of nine letter winners who returned from last season.

He was held out of Saturday's closed scrimmage against Loyola Marymount.

Go here for the complete article.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Nikita Johnson

Credit T. Scott Boatright of the Monroe News Star for a good look at one of the primary reasons Louisiana Tech has been getting into the living rooms of players who normally wouldn't be giving LT the time of day.

Courting ballers: Tech's Johnson spearheads recruiting effort
T. Scott Boatright
Monroe News Star
October 30, 2007

RUSTON — Even for college basketball recruiters, it's not what you know as much as who you know.

When Kerry Rupp took over as Lousiana Tech's men's basketball coach last spring, he concentrated on putting together a staff capable of bringing in high caliber caliber to help bring the Bulldogs to their highest level of success ever. And he believes bringing in Nikita Johnson as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator was a major factor toward obtaining that desired future success.

"We both spent a lot of time at all-day recruiting events over the years, and we got to know each other from that," Rupp said after Monday's Bulldogs practice. "Everytime I saw Nikita he was working — talking to someone or pouring over information on players. You'd see some recruiters check out a player or two and take the rest of the day off. Not Nikita — that work ethic was the thing that first caught my attention. That, and he has that knack for finding great players."

Johnson said the secret behind finding those kinds of players is knowing who to talk to.

"You have to do your homework and get to know the player and those around him," Johnson said. "You work on building relationships with that player, so you find out his likes and dislikes. But you do that with his coaches, parents and teachers too. Everyone who might play a part in making that kind of decision."

Rupp put it more directly.

"Nikita has a great ability of finding out who really has influence with a given player and working with that person and the player to figure out what would be best for them and if our programwould be a good fit. Recruiting takes a lot of hard work, patience and time. You spend a lot of time on the road and more time on the phone — it's not a 9-to-5 job by any means. But Nikita is willing to do whatever it takes to help us reach out goal of making this one of the best basketball programs around.

Go here for the remainder.

Wendell McKines finally practicing at NMSU

Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News has reported on his blog that the NCAA has finally cleared freshman recruit Wendell McKines to officially practice.

The 6-4 McKines is a master of the spectacular , the physical and one of the quickest players in getting off the floor but needs major work on his handle in a set-up offense and added shooting range and consistency.

He'll help this season in spots but will face the adjustment of having a power forward skills set in a small forward body.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Bryce Webster commits to Utah State

Stew Morrill is definitely serious about never having to play with an undersized center in the paint.

Along with JC transfer Gary Wilkinson and Ohio State transfer Brayden Bell and with Modu Niang, an African kid by way of Japan in reserve, Morrill has landed another big boy.

6-9 240 Bryce Webster, formerly at Minnesota and playing this year in California at Irvine Valley Junior College, has agreed to come to Logan next season.

Webster was a much gloried player as a Minnesota prepster but failed to make much of a dent last season and asked for his release from incoming Coach Tubby Smith.

Here's a link to an article about this from Martin Renzhofer of the Salt Lake City Tribune.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Pope cleared* at NMSU

Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Sun-Review reported on October 18 that top recruit Herb Pope has received a waiver to begin practice although this eligibility has not completely or officially been determined as yet.

Two other Aggie recruits, Wendell McKines and Jahmar Young are still sitting at this point.

Pope is the key recruit. He's a starter from day one. The Aggies want him playing now because there is no way Pope remains in Las Crcues for four years. I would say two at most.

not real big but Richie Phillips hurt again

Steven Sneddon in the October 20 edition of the Reno Gazette Journal notes that Nevada's Richie Phillips is hurt yet again. This time it is a tibial stress fracture in his lower left leg.

Phillips has been unable to remain healthy since coming to Nevada and is now expected to be out 4-6 weeks but that apparently doesn't account for conditioning time.

This injury doesn't dramatically impact the Wolf Pack but it has to be frustrating for a young man who has yet to be able to 'show his stuff' to his coaches and fans.

A preview of Utah State men's basketball 2007-2008

Hasn't shooting guard Jaycee Carroll been attached at the hip to Stew Morrill for about a decade now? Seriously, Carroll is 24 but will be entering his final Western Athletic Conference (WAC) go-around in the 2007-2008 season. Look for him to also finally receive the conference most valuable player award.

Carroll was first in the WAC and 10th in the nation scoring with 21.3 ppg., and first in the WAC and 12th in the nation in free throw shooting at 88.8%. He also led the league in three-point shooting at 43%, was fifth in overall shooting at 52%, and was 12th in the league in rebounding with 6.3 boards per game.

But it won't be Carroll and a decent group of role players representing the Aggies in the upcoming season--as it was in 2006-2007. Under-sized Stephen DuCharme, at maybe 6-7, was the man patrolling the middle for Utah State last year and he'll be moving to power forward.

Morrill now will have three large, strong 'bigs' at his disposal in Gary Wilkinson, Brayden Bell and Modu Niang.

Wilkinson is a 6-8 240 stud down low and may very well find himself a first-team All-WAC selection at season's end. He's strong and relentless in the paint and will be at the free throw line 10-12 times a game.The Utah native Bell is a bounceback transfer from Ohio State. At 6-9 240, he's still raw but will be another banger in the paint. Bell also surprisngly displays nice touch and range on his shot but don't expect Morrill to be calling his number for 20-foot jumpers.

Niang is a Senegal native who somehow ended up in Japan for high school. He'll probably be redshirted unless a frontcourt injury bug hits the Aggies.

Granted, the underrated and steady graduated duo of small forward Chaz Spicer and wing Durrall Peterson will be missed but an offense refocused on frontcourt scoring, combined with Carroll's offensive firepower, just needs other role players to step up.

Here's Utah State's roster for next season as returnees and what they offer:

Nick Hammer 6-6 205 guard senior. An effective spot up, catch-and-shoot marksmen.

Kris Clark 6-2 180 guard senior.146 assists last season --- best in the WAC --- versus 66 turnovers, he stumbled a bit at the point early in the season but his scoring and passing picked up as the year progressed.

Jaycee Carroll 6-2 175 guard senior. What more can be said about Carroll?

Brayden Bell 6-9 240 center sophomore. Initially, Bell will probably be Wilkinson's backup.

Stephen DuCharme 6-7 230 forward senior. 10.2 ppg. 5.1 rpg. 54% from the floor last season, he actually has decent range on his shot and should find himself playing out of the paint more than in it.

Here are two signees who just completed their LDS missions and are returning to the team. Both will need to first get their basketball 'legs' back:

Tai Wesley 6-6 230 forward freshman. Back from LDS mission, was Mr. Basketball in Utah two years ago, initially a role player, is smart, tough and tenacious.

Tyler Newbold 6-4 190 shooting guard freshman. Back from LDS mission, he's a very good leaper and outside shooter.

Here's the new Utah State signees:

Gary Wilkinson -- 6-9, 240 center/power forward Salt Lake Community College junior college A well-deserved junior college All-American last season, Wilkinson averaged 18.5 points and 8.1 rebounds per game, shooting 60% from the field and 74% from the foul line. He ranked third in the Scenic West Athletic Conference (SWAC) and 38th in the nation in scoring, and was first in the conference in rebounding

Deundrae Spraggins -- 6-3, 180 guard/forward Paris Junior College. Possibly a Durrall Peterson look and play-alike, Spraggins averaged 11.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists a contest, shooting 52.8% from the field, 44.4% from three-point range, and 84% from the free throw line -- look for Morrill to turn to Spraggins early on.

Desmond Stephens -- 5-9, 150 guard Southeastern Illinois Junior College. Stephens is an extremely quick, good-shooting backcourter. He averaged 17.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.2 steals per game, while shooting 50.5% from the field, 51.6% from three-point range, and 75% from the free throw line Stephens will help when starting point Kris Clark is matched up against a smaller, quicker opponent.

Modu Niang -- 6-9 235 center high school, Japan. Apparently, very few people have actually seen Niang play but he's described as athletic despite his size and bulk.

Pooh Williams -- 6-5 190 wing/shooting guard freshman high school Washington. An excellent shooter, he shot 41% on 3's in high school, 58% overall (but is probably a redshirt candidate.

Jaxon Myaer ---5-9 170 high school, Utah. A tough little guy who will walk-on and probably redshirt his first season.

Morrill has led the Aggies to eight straight 23-win seasons (23-12 last year) and eight straight postseason appearances (5 NCAA, 3 NIT). Don't expect this to change now. Granted, a number of new players need to be worked into the rotation but the backcourt is pretty much set and the frontcourt has very solid candidates who should be able to step in and help out immediately.

As for a starting five, it will be Jaycee Carroll and Kris Clark in the backcourt, Gary Wilkinson in the middle, and probably Stephen DuCharme and newcomer Deundrae Spraggins.

We have to go with the Utah State Aggies as the team to beat in 2007-2008. Morrill played NMSU very close last season and the Logan-ites have amply added talent.

A preview of New Mexico State men's basketball 2007-2008

Reggie-dom is no longer.

Debonair and suave has been replaced with Marvin Menzies, curiously also a former Louisville assistant like Theus.

So what is Menzies looking at?

Try four returning starters for one, and lots of experience. Plus, an incoming elite freshman recruit.

New Mexico State was 25-9, 11-5 in league, last season, including a stellar 19-1 at home. The only Achilles tendon of sort for Theus' team, as it is with most squads, was a 6-7 road mark. Mind you, .500 on the road is actually envious but it demonstrates that the Aggies of last season were not the powerhouse type of club that could enter hostile territory and usually succeed.

Also looking in the rear view mirror, the Aggies led the WAC in scoring offense at 78 ppg, shooting a lofty 48% as a team, second in the league. Theus' squad shot 39% on three-point attempts, again second overall.

Conversely, New Mexico State was eighth in scoring defense at 72.4 ppg.

As for personnel losses, role-playing guards Elijah Ingram, Shaun Davis, Ted Knauber and forward David Fisher have departed. None are spectacular or irreplaceable losses but still played solid roles in the Aggie 2006-2007 success.

Here's a look at the returning players:

Jonathan Gibson -- 6-1 180 point guard/shooting guard sophomore. Gibson was eased into D-1 last season but, to his credit, notched 22 assists versus 23 turnovers on the season--an adequate ratio for a frosh. The biggest obstacle he faces as a young point is learning to slow down his play and not attempt to force everything. Grasping when to initiate the action and when to let the game come to him is the next step he needs to take in his advancement.

Fred Peete -- shooting guard/wing 6-4 200 senior. Peete suffered an injury late in the season but managed 9.5 ppg., 4.0 rpg., while shooting 40% overall, 37% on 3's. Peete was also lauded for his defensive efforts, earning a spot on the All-WAC defensive team. Call him solid, if unspectacular.

Justin Hawkins -- 6-7 205 small forward senior. The go-to guy on the squad, Hawkins was a first team All-WAC selection after finishing sixth in the league in scoring at 15.6 ppg. He shot 52% from the floor, going to the foul line 185 times. Hawkins also contributed 79 assists and grabbed 6.6 rpg.

Trei Steward -- 6-7 240 power forward senior. He's the only D-1 transfer out of the original group of four (others: Peete, Iti, Hawkins) who hasn't made a mark with the Aggies as yet.

Hatila Passos -- 6-9 230 center senior. Passos is an inside banger, relying more on physical play than his skills set. He averaged 8.7 ppg. in 2006-2007, shooting shot 63% from the floor. His 149 free throw attempts were second to Hawkins. Passos also grabbed 6.1 rpg.

Martin Iti -- 7-0 240 center senior. Known for his defensive presence, he led the Aggies with 40 blocked shots while averaging 6.4 ppg. Iti shot 63% for the season but combined that with 36% from foul line. He actually entered the NBA draft when he was still at North Carolina Charlotte but a dose of reality caused him to withdraw. He remains at a less-than-NBA skill level but he'll find work overseas. He's from Australia.

Chris Cole -- 6-1 190 point guard sophomore. A transfer from Hartford, he led his former team with 78 assists while making 21 starts as a freshman. There is an opening for a pass-first point on the team so Cole could surprise people with his on-court minutes.

Here are the New Mexico State newcomers:

Herb Pope -- power forward 6-9 235 freshman. Although shot during a violent incident that wasn't his responsibility, Pope is well on the road to recovery and should be ready to compete for a starting spot in his freshman season. He was named a fourth team Parade All-American after averaging 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots a game in 2006-2007 as a Pennsylvania high schooler. Pope is a terrific 'catch' for the Aggies. A scouting service described Pope this way: "...a horse on the inside. Will battle using his length and strength."

DeAngelo Jones -- shooting guard 6-3 180 freshman. Out of Seattle, he averaged 16.2 ppg. this past season. Shooting is his best talent at this point. One scouting service said of Jones: "Fairly athletic wing with decent ball skills." Look for him to possibly redshirt.

Aaron "Gordo" Castillo -- shooting guard/wing 6-4 190 freshman. Coming from crosstown in Las Cruces, Castillo was twice named the Gatorade Player of the Year in New Mexico. He averaged 25 points, seven rebounds and six assists as a senior. He's another redshirt candidate.

Jahmar Young -- shooting guard/wing 6-5 175 freshman. Young was ranked by HOOPSCOOP as the 26th best prep recruit in the nation this past season. He will be the backcourt frosh who sees the most playing time. Per his prep coach Marc Hsu: "He is a high major kid going to a good mid-major program. I really think he could play at the Big East, ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, any of those, schools. He is that level of a kid." Young's a Baltimore native.

JayDee Luster -- point guard 5-9 160 freshman. One listing has Luster as 5-8 and 140 but regardless, he was the player of the year in his San Diego league this season. He averaged 32.8 ppg. A description: "This guy is a good, smart point guard. He understands passing angles."

Paris Carter -- wing 6-4 225 junior. A second team NJCAA Division II All-American, Carter played at Cecil Community College MD, averaging 15.5 ppg., 4.3 rpg. and 4.8 apg. Like Chris Cole, Carter also played his freshman season at Hartford. Here's Theus on Carter: "I was looking for a multi-purpose guy and Paris fills that role very well for us. He has great size at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds and he is also a very good 3-pointer shooter."

Londale Theus -- small forward 6-5 190 sophomore walk-on. The second cousin of the former head coach, don't expect to see him on the court much but he is sterling in the classroom. We haven't been able to determine if he is related to the Londale Theus who played at Santa Clara in the late 1970s.

Wendell McKines -- power forward 6-4 220 freshman. He is a power player, with a power body but wing forward height. Being an amazingly quick jumper, he gets to the hoop before an opponent can react. His ball skills and shooting range need development but coaches love a guy like this because he wants it more than anyone else on the court and that can be contagious.

Taking what is known at this point, here's our best estimate at a starting lineup:

center - Hatila Passos
power forward - Herb Pope
small forward - Justin Hawkins
shooting guard - Fred Peete
point guard - Chris Cole

New Mexico State will battle Utah State for the top spot in the WAC. The load of talent Theus left behind is atypical for a new coach to inherit as Menzies doesn't immediately face any sort of a rebuilding job.

Psssst, here's our insider tip: it will be an Aggie March in 2008 for the WAC -- aren't we putting our necks on the line?

A preview of Fresno State men's basketball 2007-2008

Here's our latest on the 2007-2008 version of Fresno State.

Coach Steve Cleveland will have a veteran team in 2007-2008 but an untested one.

Why the oxymoron?

Let's explain.

Quinton Hosley and Dominic McGuire, plus don't forget Ja'Vance Coleman despite all his difficulties, have all left the Central Valley -- Hosley and McGuire took superb athleticism and count-on-it production with them.

But Kevin Bell, Dwight O'Neill, Eddie Miller, Alex Blair, Shawn Taylor and Hector Hernandez remain and will be joined by 'newcomers' Rekalin Sims and Bryan Harvey. Newly signed freshmen Nedeljko Golubovic and Brandon Webster are now also in the mix.

Bell will end up a rarity next season -- a four-year player for Fresno State. O'Neill redshirted last year and will be a junior. Eddie Miller and Alex Blair came in from junior colleges last season. Taylor also transferred in from a community college. Hernandez will partner with Bell as another peculiarity -- a four-year Bulldog.

The senior Sims has been a basketball vagabond and will play his first and final season for the Bulldogs in 2007-2008. He was in over his head during his sole year at Kentucky but the WAC should be much more conducive to his level of talent.Harvey rarely saw the court while at Louisville during his frosh season before he transferred to Raisintown.

So Cleveland has seven upperclassmen out of his top ten players. However, the group offers but 13 years of D-1 experience, hence the tagline veteran but untested.

The Bulldogs were 22-10 overall last season but such is ancient history what with top talent departures so previous team numbers and stats don't offer much value.

Here's who is returning:

Kevin Bell -- point guard 5-10 165 senior. Bell has always enjoyed an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio. Last season, he was tops in the WAC in assists per game at 5.89 and assist/turnover ratio, posting a 2.54 figure. For the season, Bell tossed out 178 assists while committing 83 turnovers. But a major Achilles heel for him is his shooting -- just 39% from floor and 63% on free throws. These are not numbers coaches desire, especially the free throw number since the ball is generally in the hands of the point near game's end. But Bell's the little engine that could and does.

Dwight O'Neill -- shooting guard 6-3 180 senior. He came out of high school with the rep as a shooter but has also demonstrating prowess as a defender. He redshirted last season and will definitely be in the backcourt rotation in 2007-2008.

Eddie Miller -- shooting guard 6-3 170 senior. Signed as a long range bomber, Miller lived up to his reputation scoring 10.5 ppg. on 38% overall and 36% shooting on 3's. His biggest bugaboo is that defenders knew how and where to play him as he attempted but 28 free throws in 32 games.

Alex Blair -- power forward 6-8 220 senior. Blair was termed a defender and lived up to the analysis. He lacks offensive skills and is a backend-of-the-rotation type for the frontcourt.

James Tchana -- power forward 6-8 275 junior. He played in only six games due to injury and also should be a depth provider.

Hector Hernandez -- power forward 6-9 225 senior. A native of Chihuahua, Mexico, Hernandez scored 11.2 ppg. as a junior. He's the best Bulldog from three-pointland at 41% and can create matchup problems for defenders with his outside roaming. Similar to Eddie Miller, Hernandez earned just 32 free throws in 31 games--an amazingly low figure for a forward. He also grabbed 5.2 rpg. but is not considered an especially effective boardman.

Shawn Taylor -- center 6-10 220 senior. Taylor played as a freshmen at Alabama but then transferred to a junior college in Florida. He moved on to Louisiana Tech but never actually appeared there and finally worked his way to the Central Valley. He has yet to be more than a tall and athletic frontcourter due to a deficiency in the basketball skills necessary to produce numbers. Don't expect a big change.

Here's who has been on the sidelines:

Rekalin Sims -- power forward 6-8 230 senior. Sims is from the Bay Area but he first played a couple of seasons at a prep school in Maine, then at Salt Lake City College before signing with Kentucky. It didn't work out there and he returned to California, hitching up with Fresno and Steve Cleveland. His previous game was that of a small forward with more of a mid-range effectiveness. Whether he has expanded his repertoire will be determined this season.

Bryan Harvey -- wing 6-5 210 junior. Originally from southern California, Harvey is a bounceback from Louisville. As a prepster, he was rated No. 32 nationally by HoopScoop and 62nd by Prep Basketball Magazine. College Basketball News had him in its Top 62 high school seniors. Playing time was scarce under Rick Pitino so Harvey looked and then moved elsewhere. He looks to be the most talented player on the roster.

Here's the new kids figuratively and literally on the block:

Nedeljko Golubovic -- forward 6-8 230 freshman, HS NV. Originally out of Serbia, Cleveland descibes Golubovic this way: "He is a very versatile player, who can score inside and step outside and shoot the three. He will add depth and strength to our post players." Look for him to be in the mix for playing time but Fresno fans won't see a lot of him in the upcoming season.

Brandon Webster -- center 6-10 235 freshman HS TX. Webster was going to sign with Texas A&M until a coaching change occurred and then was headed to another D-1 school until that fell through. He possesses the frame coaches desire but will need time to adapt his game to the D-1 level of competition.

Expect Fresno State to continue the barrage from outside -- O'Neill, Miller, Hernandez and Harvey will be the launchers this time around -- as the Bulldogs fired up 200 more three-point attempts than opponents.

Cleveland's squad was out-rebounded by three a game last season. That ratio could worsen due to the departure of Hosley and McGuire unless a couple of frontcourters step up their games for 2007-2008. Taylor, Sims or the two freshmen need to demonstrate rebounding prowess in order for Cleveland's team to turn the board deficit into a positive.

Here's our estimate of the Bulldog starting five:
center - Hector Hernandez
power forward - Rekalin Sims
wing - Bryan Harvey
shooting guard - Eddie Miller or Dwight O'Neil
point - Kevin Bell

That's a solid starting five, especially offensively. Defense is the questionmark.

A preview of Boise State men's basketball for 2007-2008

Here's the latest version of our Boise State preview.

Greg Graham can coach--there's no doubt about it. Greg Graham runs a clean program. Greg Graham is the type of person you would welcome to coach your son.

But when contrasted with the enormous -- some would say inexplicable to a degree -- success of the school's football program, men's hoops at Boise State inevitably suffers in comparison.

This has produced a number of Boise-atics who want changes in THEIR men's basketball squad, starting at the top.

Driven by the sports talk show callers and brew pub denizens, the complaints of 'if Dan Hawkins (now Chris Peterson) could do it, when 22 starters are required, then why can't it happen in men's basketball?' are echoing.

Even the success of Gordy Presnell with the Broncos women's basketball team -- conference co-championship, winner of the 2007 WAC tourney, 2007 Russell Athletic/Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Region 7 Coach of the Year and the Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year -- furthers the degree of pressure.

So who and what does Graham have at his disposal in PCB (Post Coby Karl) 2007-2008 to quiet the disaffected?

Here are his returnees:

Anthony Thomas -- guard 6-0 202 sophomore. Thomas was a very pleasant surprise with his numbers as a redshirt freshman and a continuation of his progress is critical for Boise to have a productive backcourt. He averaged 5.0 ppg. (but double figures in the last set of games), shooting 46% overall, 37% on threes. Thomas also compiled 50 assists to 41 turnovers, a decent ratio but especially so for a freshman. To top it off, he garnered WAC Freshman of the Year honors.

Reggie Larry -- forward 6-6 225 senior. The best athlete on the team, Larry scored 13.9 ppg., shooting 48% from the floor and 64% on his foul shots. He also nabbed 8.1 rpg. and led the Broncos with 44 shotblocks. His shooting range is limited, having nailed just 19% of his three-pointers but his physical prowess grants him the opportunities to create his own shot despite taller opposition inside. Larry won a spot on the All WAC Newcomer team.

Matt Nelson -- center 6-9 232 senior. After spending a redshirt season upon transferring from Eastern Washington, Nelson scored 13.9 ppg and grabbed 9.1 rpg., while earning All WAC Newcomer team status. He's only a 58% foul shooter and needs to upgrade that number in order to remain on the court when a close game is nearing completion. Nelson was third on the team in attempted shots, behind Karl and Larry, and should be the #1 or #2 shot taker in the upcoming season. That is, if Boise is to succeed.

Both the scoring and rebounding numbers for Nelson and Larry improved during conference play, indicative of a settling-in and blossoming. Expect more of the same.

Tyler Tiedeman -- wing 6-7 210 senior. He's a long distance, spot-up shooter who will help most in keeping defenders from packing the paint against Nelson and Larry.

Kurt Cunningham -- center 6-9 277 junior. Cunningham is a backup who rarely sees playing time.

Matt Bauscher -- shooting guard 6-2 197 senior. Bauscher is the backcourt version of Tiedeman but a better shooter. He shot 49% from the floor, 38% on 3's last season. Call him the Bronco backcourt designated shooter.

Here are last year's signees, all of whom redshirted:

Paul Noonan -- wing 6-6 200 redshirt freshman. Noonan is described thusly: "averaged 19.5 points and 6.9 rebounds as a senior. Made 54.5 percent of field goal attempts and 79.2 percent of free throw attempts."

Shawn Rouse -- wing 6-7 180 redshirt freshman. As a prep, Rouse averaged 16.3 points while making 46.4 percent of field goal attempts and 31.8 percent of 3-point attempts.

Zack Moritz -- center 6-10 230 redshirt freshman. Moritz averaged 15.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game as a high school senior, shooting 73% from the foul line.

None of these youngsters will play major roles in 2007-2008 for Boise.

Here's the new Graham recruits:

Aaron Garner -- combo guard 6-4 184 junior. A Yuba CC transfer, Garner displays an all-around game and should see time immediately. He averaged 16.2 ppg., shooting 43% from the floor, 42% on three pointers. He also passed for 4.1 apg. while coming up with 44 steals.

Mark Sanchez -- power forward 6-7 240 junior. Out of Pima CC (AZ), Sanchez verballed to Drake right after taking his very first recruiting visit. He then changed his mind after doing a roundtrip meet-and-greet up to Boise, leaving the Missouri Vallery Conference Bulldogs none too happy. Sanchez averaged 19.7 ppg., 8.3 rpg. and 2.0 blocked shots per game. Here's Graham on Sanchez: "Mark brings versatility to the four spot because he is a guy who can play inside and shoot the three. He is a very skilled passer who is unique because he is a 6-7, 240-pound guy who is as comfortable playing outside as inside which is ideal for our system." Sanchez will definitely be in the frontcourt rotation.

Jamar Greene -- combo guard 6-0 190 junior. Greene was a big-time scorer in the junior college ranks but also possesses some creative ability. He and Garner will battle for playing time.

Here's a somewhat fuzzy crystal ball take on Boise's starting five:

center - Matt Nelson
power forward - Reggie Larry
wing - Mark Sanchez
shooting guard - Anthony Thomas
point - Aaron Garner

Larry is but 6-6 but his lack of range predicates he play in and around the paint. Sanchez is bigger and beefier but has better range.

In losing Karl and point Eric Lane to graduation, 190 assists departed, plus Carl's point production. Neither Thomas nor Garner are pure points but, between them, should be able to satisfactorily get the job done.

How will success be defined for Boise State in 2007-2008?

That obviously depends on who is setting the bar. Graham has been successful with the program -- just not at the level some desire. The pressure will be to move the Broncos into the elite of the WAC, say one of the top two spots in the WAC. Barring injuries, with expected player development, Garner and Sanchez contributing right away, and a break or two, such is within sights.

A preview of San Jose State men's basketball 2007-2008

San Jose State has been in a drought for decades. Newish Coach George Nessman hasn't been able to change the lack of success for the Spartans in his first two years but the roster has now been refurbished with Nessman recruits. Experience is lacking but look for SJSU to be the most improved squad in the WAC.

Looking at the team by position, there is so much more talent and depth.

At the center spot:

C.J. Webster, sophomore - He has a partial Division One year under his belt but realistically this is his initial season. Webster is a load inside, with the strength and bulk that will help in getting his opponent matchup into foul trouble. He presents a wide target and isn't shy about banging bodies. With he and Oliver Caballero patrolling inside, San Jose State should have no trouble with the rebounding ledger. Realistically it's too early to tell to what degree but it appears that Webster possesses some shotblocking ability. It probably doesn't matter who starts as both Webster and Caballero will see plenty of playing time. In fact, there is the possibility each could be starters in the first bunch of contests while forward Chris Oakes fulfills his six game sit-out per NCAA transfer rules.

Oliver Caballero, redshirt freshman - He is a mix of power and cleverness inside. His strength and bulk is put to good use in carving out position and he employs pivots and reserve pivots -- although sometimes a bit too much -- to get open. He is ambidextrous inside, a skill that allows him to accurately release the basketball with either hand, something that will flummox opponents. He enjoys a physical style of play for beneath the calm demeanor is a fierce competitor. He may not be a high-jumping shotblocker but he'll contest shots and make opponents miss with his physicality. Caballero is one of the better passers on the team, sometimes too willing to give up his own shot but it's a trait that will endear him to teammates. It may not appear very often but he also possesses a nice face-the-basket jumper with 15-foot range if not more.

At power forward:

Chris Oakes, redshirt sophomore - Oakes has to sit out the first six games of the season due to his transfer from Pepperdine but look for excellent athleticism and solid power forward basketball skills hitting the floor as a starter for SJSU in game seven. He's a very good runner and jumper and has been working on adding weight and strength. Oakes is our candidate to be the leading rebounder for the Spartans in the upcoming season and the major minutes player at the 4.

DeVonte Thomas, junior - Call him a hybrid. No, his nickname isn't Prius -- it's that his strength and style of play is that of a power forward while his height pigeonholes him as a wing type. There's no doubt that he's a banger in the paint, using his body and strength to carve out openings. He'll create some mismatches as well as face some but expect a solid season as he is entering his junior year. Actually label Thomas a combo forward or a tweener.

Lance Holloway, senior - Holloway should be able to remain as a power forward this season so, barring injury or unforseen woes, he will no longer have to swing to the center spot. He's best as a shotblocker but also can board some.

Clint Amberry, freshman - Even at 6-10, he may just be the best long-range shooter on the team. But additional weight and strength, plus Division One experience, are needed for game in-game out consistency and production from him. Right now, think of Nick Fazekas shooting from three-point range and you have Amberry. But the post play Fazekas also exhibited is a work-in-progress for the Spartan freshman.

At the wing, small forward:

Tim Pierce, junior - He's a player who can score points in bunches and now needs to demonstrate greater consistency in his overall play. He was a 10-game starter and averaged 18 minutes a contest last season. He puzzlingly accumulated a better points per game average -- 8.3 -- overall on the season than he did in conference play with his 6.8 ppg. This despite the conundrum of shooting better in conference than league play, .410 for all his shots and .349 on three-pointers in the WAC versus 343% and .315 on 3's over the full season.

Kevin Fleming, redshirt senior - Fleming is returning this season, having one year of WAC experience and also a redshirt year under his belt. He had to play a number of minutes at power forward due to the makeup of the roster when was as a junior but that won't be the case this season. No, it's going to be all WSF this time around, providing him opportunities to face up to the basket.

DaShawn Wright, junior - This young man is going to bring an element of toughness to the court, with his rugged play and rebounding prowess. He played on a smallish community college team and grabbed seven boards game, 85 offensively (4th in his league) and 154 defensively (first in his conference). He shot close to 50% overall while nailing.35% of his threes.

Kevin McDowell, redshirt freshman - McDowell is the Spartan X-factor. He's the most athletically gifted player on the team but is still in catchup mode regarding playing experience. His focus is integrating his running and jumping talent, along with his basketball skills, into a team concept. When it finally clicks for Kevin -- and it is a question of when, not if -- then watch out as he will soar.

Two guard:

Senior Jamon Hill and sophomore Mac Peterson look to be the top two candidates for playing time at the shooting guard spot, with soph Darion Goins a darkhorse.

Hill averaged 9.7 ppg. [10.1 in conference play] last season and was an every game starter for the Spartans, playing 32-plus minutes each contest. He led the squad in assists with 79, while also grabbing 3.7 rpg. Hill shot.329 overall from the floor, .279 on his three point attempts. He went to the foul line 86 times, shooting .733, best on the team. Hill's minutes, tops on the team at 978 - 32.6 a game - will lessen this season because of the addition of Peterson and Goins' seasoning but look for him to either start or be the top shooting guard off the bench. He will also fill-in for Justin Graham at the point when foul trouble occurs or a breather is needed.

Peterson is right now the best long range shooter on the team but it remains for him to translate that skill into Division One game production. His shotmaking last season at Diablo Valley College (DVC) consisted of .440 from the floor, .514 on his threes and .909 from the free throw line. At 6-3, 190, he possesses a much more solid frame than Hill which will come into play with dribble drives to the hoop and when defending against the typical 6-2 to 6-4 shooting guards featured by opponents. Peterson played some point in high school and also passed for 112 assists versus 75 turnovers at DVC so his ballhandling is sufficient. It's worth noting that all his numbers were achieved as a 'marked man' -- the primo offensive threat and therefore target on the team.

Sophomore Goins will also be in the mix and he possesses good size and strength at 6-2, 200. Goins seemingly hit the wall in his freshman season and finished shooting .376 from the floor and .250 on his three-point attempts. He averaged 3.5 ppg., averaging 12.4 minutes a game, with a total of 371, including six starts. He showed promise performing in the catch-and-shoot role last year. Goins paced the team with 22 points in the 107-73 August win over the London Leopards.

Both Hill and Goins will shoot better this season just by being surrounded with better talent and more consistent offensive threats. Newcomer DaShawn Wright may also see time at shooting guard although we believe he will earn the majority of his playing time as a wing/small forward.

At the point:

First, our expectation is that redshirt Justin Graham will have earned the starting point guard spot for San Jose State beginning with game one so that means, for the very first time in our memory, that a freshman will be not only be starting but playing major minutes at the most critical position on the team.

Now we have no interest in burdening a young man, one who has yet to play a single minute in Division One, with impossible expectations and that is certainly not our intent here. We are simply writing what we believe will take place as a natural progression.

We also want to emphasize that the success we envision for Graham will be in the context of the team's prosperity as any point guard needs running mates who can also perform their roles with accomplishment. The shooting guard and the wing need to position themselves to receive passes that will lead to scores, as do the power forward and center. All must be able to finish.

From what we have seen to date, that potential and ability is certainly present throughout the squad. A pairing up with experience will fulfill the trifecta.

It's also important to note that senior Jamon Hill will be shifting over and providing relief for Graham this season, along with newbie Brad Langston filling in at times.

Do note the depth here and the challenges that will be faced in earning playing time, two radically new and positive concepts in SJSU men's basketball. Expect a mid-pack finish.

A preview of Nevada men's basketball 2007-2008

Here we go with our latest update on Nick Fazekas-less Nevada 2007-2008.

Nevada Coach Mark Fox is now going to better understand how the rest of the teams in the WAC have felt for some time. Fox is losing Nick Fazekas -- which would be devastating for many teams by itself -- but also standout point guard Ramon Sessions, plus two other starters in top defender Kyle Shiloh and outside shooting small forward Denis Ikovlev.

This is major. No, actually make it major minus, four major minuses.

Luckily for Fox, senior Marcelus Kemp pulled out of the NBA draft and will be the the Wolf Pack go-to guy in 2007-2008.

Here's who else Fox has returning:

Lyndale Burleson point guard 6-3 190 junior. Burleson is the new point with Sessions' departure. Sometimes, players rise to the occasion -- other times, greater expectations and responsibility prove to be a heavy burden. Regardless, with Burleson now projected to both start and play 30 minutes or so a game, his previously expected 2007-2008 role will need filling by someone else. However, there's no player on the current roster who immediately comes to mind to do so. This will be interesting to watch as the season plays out -- Burleson is not as good or productive a player as Sessions and it just may be the same for the player or players who step up to fill Burleson's old role. (Note: Burleson is now academically ineligible for the first semester)

Brandon Fields shooting guard 6-4 185 sophomore. Fields was primarily a scorer in the prep ranks and will have a golden opportunity before him in the upcoming season to earn much greater court time. He is also seeing some time at the point so far in the pre-season.

Marcelus Kemp wing 6-5 210 senior. On the plus side, Kemp, who averaged 18.5 ppg. last season will easily go above 20, maybe 25, in 2007-2008. Also look for Kemp to have 200 or more shot attempts than any of his teammates. But he'll have to work much harder for his points because Fazekas won't be present to draw the attention of defenses, and passer deluxe Sessions will also be absent. Kemp's assist to turnover ratio, not exactly an enviable one at 82 assists to 98 turnovers, will also probably decline due to having to carry a greater offensive load for his team. It's going to be an interesting time because scouts will want to see a more well-rounded game from Kemp -- one of the primary reasons he withdrew from the NBA draft -- but the heavy offensive load he will need to bear may just prevent him from developing or demonstrating other aspects of his skills set. Regardless, there's no doubt he's a first-team WAC selection and a player-of-the-year candidate.

Tyrone Hanson wing 6-6 195 sophomore. The most impressive stat he posted in his initial season was shooting 13-27 from three-point range. However, he shot better from three-point land than overall and was a virtual stranger at the foul line, going just 0-2 on the season. He may very well be who Fox turns to for upgrading the firepower of his rotation. Hanson should be Kemp's eventual replacement.

Richie Phillips power forward 6-7 220 sophomore. He redshirted as a true freshman and saw but 44 minutes of court time this past season. Deemed 'explosive and powerful' coming out of high school, he has yet to match the expectations. He recently injured his leg and is out for six or so weeks.

Matt LaGrone power forward 6-8 215 sophomore. Known more as a rebounder coming out of high school, he's a role player best suited for complementarily working in the shadows of others.

Demarshay Johnson power forward 6-9 210 senior. Johnson redshirted last season due to academics. A native of the East Bay and an excellent leaper, he's a top shotblocker and decent rebounder but his offensive skills remain raw.

JaVale McGee center 6-11 225 sophomore. McGee enjoyed the best situation of all rookie initiations, subbing for Wolf Pack great Nick Fazekas. Like Johnson, McGee is extremely unpolished offensively, scoring on dunks and putbacks. He shot 60% as a frosh but his free throw making, 16-34, indicates his weakness at the line and anywhere out of the paint. He's the best shotblocker on the team and possesses very good potential.

David Ellis center 7-1 222 senior. He's never been the power in college that he was in the prep ranks, mainly due to lack of strength and bulk. Ellis can score in the paint and is decent from the foul line but lacks the physical prerequisites to earn a starting spot.

Here's Fox's recruiting class:

Malik Cooke forward 6-5 190 freshman (North Carolina HS). Cooke is a wing/small forward. Here's Fox on him: "He is a long, athletic player who can finish. He also has a real knack to get to the glass. I really wanted a true small forward, and he is a good one."

Armon Johnson shooting guard 6-3 190 freshman (Nevada HS) Johnson is a big time scorer but as an incoming freshman he will need time to adjust to the collegiate level of basketball. He is also seeing time at the point early.

Ray Kraemer guard 6-4 200 sophomore (Texas JC) He had verballed to Weber State but ended up working out a better offer and landed in the WAC -- Donald Trump would be proud. Kraemer was named the North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference Newcomer of the Year and earned first-team all-conference honors as a freshman in 2005-06 after averaging 18 ppg. and grabbing 8.3 rpg. He also shot a nifty 42% on his three-point attempts. He did not play in 2006-07 due to a shoulder injury and will have three years of eligibility remaining at Nevada.

Here's our take for a Wolf Pack starting five in 2007-2008:

center - JaVale McGee
power forward - Demarshay Johnson
wing - Marcelus Kemp
shooting guard - Ray Kraemer
point - Lyndale Burleson

Nevada is coming back to the pack, pun intended, in 2007-2008. It's highly unlikely Mark Fox's squad will again shoot 48% from the floor as a team, out-rebound opponents by seven a game and have 116 more assists than the opposition.But as we have posted earlier, he has major reinforcements coming in next season with two top 100 prepsters and a darkhorse point from the Texas high school ranks.

A preview of Hawaii men's basketball 2007-2008

Here's our take on Bob Nash's Hawaii squad for next season:

Bob Nash is finally helming the Hawaii team after twenty years as an assistant in Honolulu. Plus, Nash played as a Rainbow Warrior back in the 70s so it would be an understatement to say he bleeds Hawaii.

Taking over for Riley Wallace, Nash is quickly establishing his imprimatur on the team, implementing an up-and-down playing style featuring an attacking offense and a pressure defense.

But the major question he faces is does he currently have the players to do just that? On television, the saying is let's go to the tape. Here, it's let's look at the roster.

Here's the returnees:

Bob Nash wing 6-6 195 senior. Nash started all 31 games last season, averaging 11.2 ppg. He shot 44% overall from the floor, 33% on his three point attempts. He led Hawaii with 125 long range shots while grabbing 4.0 rpg.

Matt Gibson guard 6-5 180 senior. He started 30 games at point guard after sitting out the previous season due to injury and disciplinary actions. Gibson scored 10.2 ppg. He shot 44% on the season, 36% on 3's. His three point attempts numbered 122, second on the team. Gibson was credited with 107 assists.

P.J. Owsley power forward 6-8 245 senior. Owsley wasn't expected to be a starter but he did just that in the last 23 games. He averaged 6.0 ppg., shooting 42% from the floor. Owsley is an intelligent player, putting his smarts to work to counter average, at best, athleticism.

Riley Luettgerodt wing 6-5 210 senior. More was expected from Luettgerodt as he enjoyed a marvelous sophomore season in the junior college ranks prior to landing at Hawaii. He generally came off the bench -- just one start -- and averaged 6.2 ppg. on 38% shooting. His long distance accuracy was an abysmal 17%.

Stephen Verwers center 6-11 255 senior. A transfer from Colorado State, Verwers was a viewed as quite the catch out of high school. He earned eight starts last season and should see more time in 2007-2008 if for nothing else but the fact he's the tallest and beefiest Rainbow Warrior.

Alex Veit power forward 6-8 220 senior.A transfer from Monterey Peninsula College, Veit was a little used backup last season and the same is expected in the upcoming season.

Here's the new recruits:

Paul Campbell F 6-10 215 sophomore (AR JC). Campbell played on year in the junior college ranks, starting every game but averaging just 3.4 ppg. and 4.3 rpg. Coincidentally, this was for the Fort Smith Arkansas team that new San Jose State recruit C.J. Webster was going to play for before he was injured. Here's Nash on Campbell: "Paul is a talented, young, big man who is a very good student. He had a slow start in juco last year but came on late in the year. He was heavily recruited and we're happy to get him. Paul's potential is unlimited. He's athletic, long, and has very good skills for a big man. We've had success with Canadians (in our program) in the past and we feel Paul will continue that tradition."

Conrad Fitzgerald guard 6-4 208 freshman (FL HS but from California). He attended Pendleton School in Bradenton, Fla., the past two years, a prep school that is part of the IMG Academy. Fitzgerald averaged nearly 17 points and 5 rebounds per game during his senior year playing both the small and power forward positions. Prior to Pendleton, attended Calabasas High School in California for two years. Here's Nash on Fitzgerald: "Conrad is an athletic wing who has improved his scoring tremendously from the perimeter. I first saw him as an eighth grader and he's made great strides throughout his high school career. He has tremendous quickness and his athleticism fits our new up tempo style of play."

Adhar Mayen forward 6-7 185 sophomore (TX JC). Mayen played one year at Hill College in Pflugerville, Texas and was named to the all-North Texas Junior College Athletic Conference first team after averaging 13.7 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks per game. He shott 61% percent from the field, playing primarily the "4" position. Nash on Mayen: "Adhar is a very exciting, explosive wing. He's very talented and has incredible upside. He made all-conference as a freshman in a very tough juco league. The best part is that he's young (18) and with more seasoning and development, he'll be a very good player for us."

Kareem Nitoto guard 6-3 185 freshman (CA HS). Nitoto is out of San Leandro High School. As a senior, he averaged 10.1 points and 3.6 assists per game. As a junior, he averaged 11.3 points, 4.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Nash on Nitoto: "Kareem is a very good student of the game on the court and in the classroom. He's an athletic guard who can play both positions for us. Above all, he provides us a much-needed athletic point guard who can beat people off the dribble. He's an excellent defender. We're excited about his potential and his development in our program. We hope this begins a new pipeline into the Bay Area."

Ji Xiang, a 6-10 kid from China, tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee and is lost for the season. He's a project and if he physically recovers, this year off may actually turn out to be a positive in his development.

Bill Amis, a 6-9 210 JC transfer from Pratt Community College in Kansas, was a late signee, coming in as a sophomore. Here's Nash on Amis: "Bill attended a camp this summer for the top junior college players and he stood out among the best. He has great upside, having grown from 6-6 in high school to almost 6-9. He's an athletic forward with multiple skills, a good ball handler and shoots well in transition.

Here's our projected view of the starting five:

center - Stephen Verwers
power forward - PJ Owlsey
wing - Riley Luettgerodt
shooting guard - Bobby Nash
point - Matt Gibson

Hawaii was 18-13 last season, 8-8 in conference, 6-2 at home, 2-6 away. With Ahmet Gueye (best shotblocker, best rebounder, second leading scorer, first in foul shots taken) and Matt Lojeski (leading scorer, second in foul shot attempts, second in rebounding, first in assists) having moved on, Nash will be looking for new leadership to emerge. His son will perform in that role and Gibson will also contribute but frontcourt point production could be a season long bugaboo.

Also, keep in mind that six seniors will depart after the upcoming season so not only is Nash making over the team's playing style but he also is facing an almost complete re-do of his roster. His first recruiting class, albeit with a very late start, is more athletic than in possession of polished basketball skills.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A preview of Louisiana Tech men's basketball 2007-2008

Kerry Rupp's late start due to his woefully-timed late hire in replacing Keith Richard at Louisiana Tech initially hurt Bulldog recruiting but then his hiring of Nikita Johnson as an assistant coach immediately got LT into doors previously unaccessible and any lost ground has certainly been made up.

With Tech's best players completing their eligibility after last season, a solid recruiting class was desperately needed -- a bedrock foundation for starting anew.

Rupp and Company succeeded.

Curiously, the official LT athletics web site doesn't yet offer a 2007-2008 roster but we'll do our best here.

Here's who Rupp has as returnees:Drew Washington guard 6-2 175 junior. Washington earned 25 starts last season and had some particularly effective moments against San Jose State but he averaged just 4.8 ppg. last year on 34% shooting from the floor, 33% on threes and just 12 of 28 from the foul line. All of his shooting percentages dropped in comparison to his freshman season. In his favor, he was credited with 63 assists against just 39 turnovers -- not a bad figure for a poor shooting Tech squad.

Keith Smith forward 6-7 225 senior. Smith was a late signee and ended up averaging 4.6 ppg. on 33% shooting from the floor. He is the younger borther of ex-San Jose Stater Kenny Smith.

Kyle Gibson guard 6-4 180 sophomore. He'll provide some backup help at best this season.

Adrian Rogers forward 6-7 225 junior. The opportunity will be there for Rogers to increase his playing time -- at least in the upcoming season before the new talent overrides the returnees.

The above group aren't necessarily a force to be reckoned with, but hold on.

As for incoming help, Rupp lost out on the best of Richard's signees in Marcus Britt, a 6-3 Arkansas prep guard, who requested his release after the dismissal of Richard and then remained in-state, signing with Arkansas. He would have really helped but is water under the bridge.

7-0 250 Tamas Cseh, a junior college transfer and another Richard signee, was told by Rupp to look elsewhere.

A Richard recruit who is sticking with playing in Ruston is Brandon Mims, a 6-8 power forward out of the Louisiana prep ranks. According to his high school coach Jerry White: "He has a perimeter game and he's a force to be reckoned with down low."

Rupp did sign junior college point guard in Jonathan Clark, 5-11 175 point guard (Trinity Valley CC, TX) to fill a hole at the point. Rupp on Clark: "He possesses great leadership qualities, along with many outstanding point guard abilities." Pat Smith, Clark's coach in the junior college ranks, had this to say of his star point: "The number one thing I can say about JC is that he's a very true point guard. He has great command of the game and excellent court vision, and he can score."

Besides Clark, Rupp and his assistants have also signed their share of players to fill the ranks -- "Louisiana Tech's men's basketball's 2007 incoming class got taller Friday as Bulldog head coach Kerry Rupp announced that transfer Magnum Rolle and freshman D.J. Wright will come to Ruston to play basketball. Rolle is a 6'10" center from LSU who started nine games for the Tigers while seeing action in 29. The Freeport, Bahamas, product averaged 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game. Rolle will sit out the 2007-08 season due to the NCAA transfer rule and will have two years of eligibility afterwards.

Wright highlights the incoming freshman class as a 6'7" perimeter player from Sault St. Marie, Ontario, Canada, who averaged 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds for his high school career at Toronto Academy Prep. "D.J. Wright is another tremendous and exciting player for our program," Rupp said. "I firmly believe he will make an immediate impact next season with his work ethic and ability to shoot the ball." Wright's AAU Coach Ro Russell had this to offer: "The way he's improved in the past few months makes me believe he will step in right away and make an impact his freshman year. He's very similar to (former NBA star) Glenn Rice with how he shoots and gets to the basket."

A player who will likely be the best of all before too long, Olu Ashaolu, was a somewhat late signee. Another kid from Canada -- they are apparently playing much more than hockey north of the border -- he forsook Rutgers for Ruston, primarily because of Assistant Coach Nikita Johnson. He will be Tech's top player before too long.

Of all the teams in the WAC, it's most difficult to predict a 2007-2008 starting lineup for the Bulldogs.

Washington and Clark seem likely to battle for the starting point guard position. Two other youngsters, Orren Tims and Dwayne Lathan will help in the backcourt in time. Tims is a 6-4 wing out of the Louisiana prep ranks, Lathan a 6-3 shooting guard. James Loe is a walk-on point who should be able to help out a few minutes a game.

Wright should be out there too, more than likely as a wing.

Ashaolu will also be an immediate starter.

After that, it's anyone's guess.

Besides the aforementioned Rolle, Rupp has also brought in two other D-1 transfers who must sit out this coming season: former Oklahoma State center Ken Cooper and former Nebraska combo guard Jamel White. Both will press for starting positions in 2008-2009.

But do keep an eye out for a rather large frontcourter, initials KM, in case Rupp decides to unleash a masked mystery player on the rest of the WAC.

LT seems too young this season to avoid a second division finish in the Western Athletic Conference. But next year...

A preview of Idaho men's basketball 2007-2008

Coach George Pfeiffer has been feeling heat for some time and he's only been in the position for little over a year. Just one season into a very difficult if not impossible undertaking, Pfeiffer had to re-populate his roster again this off-season.

It's telling that his squad has undergone more turnover than the position of Donald Trump's barber. But when your team is out-scored by an average of 13 points a game and out-rebounded by eight a contest, either improvement or new personel, or both, are prerequisites.

Simply put, Pfeifer didn't have the horses last season. So he corraled a new batch, ones more talented on paper, and the task for him is to form a more cohesive and productive team.

By our count, five players with eligibility remaining departed -- freshman point O.J. Avworo (to Navy), freshman forward David Jackson (an Arizona JC), shooting guard Miles Webb and top prospects Andre McFarland (Colorado State) and Harvey Perry (College of Southern Idaho), the latter a transfer from Washington.

Plus, 2006-2007 senior backcourter Keoni Watson, Idaho's top scorer, completed his eligibility.

So Pfeiffer has these players among those with significant playing time or contributions in the returnees column:

Trevor Morris shooting guard 6-4 175 junior. He was the best long range shooter the Vandals had last season even though his 31% on three-point attempts is unacceptedly too low. Morris launched 149 long range shots while averaging 6.5 ppg. His playing time will be reduced this season because of the influx of backcourt talent.

Clyde Johnson forward 6-7 205 senior. He averaged 4.8 ppg. and 4.2 rpg. and will perform again as a backup to the starters upfront. Here's Pfeifer on Johnson: "Pound for pound, Clyde is one of our best athletes. On top of that he is very long. We are counting on him to do a lot of things which do not show up in our stat book. One attribute we are counting on is Clyde’s ability to defend. With his quickness, size, and highlight jumping ability we expect him to have the capability to defend everyone from point guards to power forwards."

Michael Crowell forward 6-7 210 senior. Crowell was slowed by injury last season. Look for him to back up the starters in the corners. Pfeiffer's comment: "He is one of the most pure inside-outside players we have in our program."

Darin Nagle forward 6-10 221 senior. Nagle prefers to play outside facing the basket but by necessity he will be the starter at center. He scored 9.3 ppg., shooting 37% last year with a very telling total of just 59 foul shot attempts. He grabbed 5.6 rpg. and blocked 42 shots in 2006-2007.

Here's the new crop of hopefuls:

Luis Augusto forward 6-8 235 junior (OK JC) Idaho desperately needed some beef and Augusto fits that bill as Pfeifer describes: “Luis is exactly what we need. He is big and strong and is extremely hard working. Agosto averaged 10.5 ppg., 8.0 rpg. and 2 bpg last season.

Mike Hall guard 6-1 180 junior (TX JC) Hall hit 163 3-point field goals in 52 games over two years at the junior college level. He shot a combined 48-percent from beyond the arc in two seasons and, as a freshmen at Cincinnati State Tech, hit 82-of-133 (.609) 3-pointers to lead the National Junior College Athletic Association. Per Pfeifer: "He is not a one-dimensional player. To his shooting capability he adds the ability to put the ball on the floor and get to the basket. He is also very quick and moves well away from the ball."

Jordan Brooks wing 6-3 195 junior (TXJC) Brooks originally committed to Texas A&M out of high school, but ended up going the jc route which didn't turn out bad for him all. His Midland College team won a championship during the 2006-07 season and so did his Arkansas-Fort Smith squad during the 2005-06 season. He led Midland College in rebounding at 8.7 rpg. and in assists with 3.6 apg. He was second on the team in scoring at 14.2 ppg.

Terrance Simmons point guard 6-3 170 junior (OK JC) Simmons spent he past two seasons at Connors State College. While there, he averaged 10 ppg. and five apg. last season while shooting 42% from the floor, 32% from the 3-point line, and 73% from the foul line. Here's Pfeiffer on Simmons: “He has tremendous vision and decision-making ability and also possesses exceptional command of the ball. He is long and uses that to his advantage when getting the ball in the lane. He also has a good outside stroke.”

Phillip 'Tree' Thomas forward 6-8 250 freshman (CA HS). He averaged 16.4 points and 7.8 rebounds per game and shot nearly 70% from the floor as a senior. Pfeifer's description: "His size and girth are not easy to find on someone who is currently in high school. Tree has really come on. He played in a very competitive conference. His hands are very good and very big. We also like the fact he has a motor that runs at a high level.”

Brandon Brown guard 6-1 205 junior (CA JC) Brown originally signed with Utah State but eventually wound his way north. He averaged 18.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game at West Hills last season and shot 50% from the floor and 38% from the 3-point line. He was a first team all-California Junior College Team selection and was honored as first team all-conference last season. Here's Pfeifer weighing in: “What he does is score in a variety of ways and he is a guard at 200-plus pounds with a high level of quickness and explosion. What makes him so hard to defend is his ability to bounce the ball past people, pull up with the jumper, and also knock down the open 3-pointer.”

Sterling Jackson guard 6-1 185 freshman (OK HS). Jackson just signed with the Vandals. He is a combo guard from Del City High School in Oklahoma City, OK who averaged 16.6 points and seven assists per game as a senior. In Pfeifer's own words: “Sterling is a very competitive, hard-nosed basketball player who brings a lot of intangibles. He is left-handed, strong, quick and athletic. He is very assertive and his strength should allow him to come in and play valuable time for us right away."

Taking on a near impossibility, here's our best shot at Idaho's starting five in 2007-2008:

center - Darin Nagle
power forward - Luis Agosto
wing - Jordan Brooks
shooting guard - Brandon Brown or Mike Hall
point - Terrance Simmons

Will this influx of players make a sizeable difference? Let's put it this way: Idaho will be better and more talented but it still looks like a bottom level finish for the Vandals.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nevada recruiting even better than before

For a couple of recruiting cycles, Nevada's Mark Fox was picking up support talent to surround his star players Nick Fazekas, Ramon Sessions and Marcelus Kemp. Whether by purpose or due to the vagaries in landing new players, no possibly or expected-to-be future pros were signed. The possibilities of limited playing time or a number of starting positions sewn up may have factored into this limited recruitng haul.

But both Fazekas and Sessions are gone and Kemp will be too after the upcoming season.

So Fox needed some [re]building blocks in the 2007-2008 recruiting class and he has hit the jackpot with his first three verbals.

The case can actually be made that he is doing better than ever recruiting-wise because Fazekas, Sessions and Kemp were not considered NBA possibilities when each was signed but the three new recruits have at least received mention as possible future pros.

Reno prep star Luke Babbitt heads the list. He was originally headed to Columbus, Ohio and Thad Matta but re-thought his options and decided to stay close to home, real close.

Babbitt is a smaller version of Fazekas. Not a great athlete, he's a smart player who is equally effective inside and outside. We described him in an article some time ago as having long, longer and longest shooting range. Look for him to be an immediate starter for Nevada and soon to be the team's top scorer as THE building block..

What other Western Athletic Conference (WAC) coaches will try to do against Babbitt is force him to spend energy and hopefully fouls in defending. Babbitt's quickness and foot speed aren't remarkable so opposing teams will try and force him to match up against a more athletic opponent who can dribble drive and also be a threat from outside.

But on the flip side, it will be critical for opponents to play someone who can handle defensive chores inside and outside in order to match up with Babbitt, and that may be difficult.

Then two others joined with the Wolf Pack in early October, Mark McLaughlin and London Giles.

The 6-4 McLaughlin had earlier given a verbal to Washington State [is there a pattern forming here?] but re-opened his recruitment after having second thoughts about his fit with Tony Bennett's offensive style.

For what it's worth and truth is usually a rare commodity in this regard, McLaughlin was also being seriously wooed by Illinois and Oregon. If true, Fox won out over the PAC-10 and Big Ten, a feat that rarely occurs for a WAC team.

All indications are that McLaughlin should be the starting shooting guard for the Pack by his sophomore season, if not earlier.

Nevada has worked the Northwest well in recruiting, having earlier landed Kemp, Lyndale Burleson, Richie Phillips from the rain forest.

Giles is out of Texas, Dallas specifically. He plays the point and that spot is for the taking next season in Reno. Described as underrated and a very hard worker by his club team coach, Giles supposedly turned his back on entreaties from Marquette, USC, Oregon State and Santa Clara.

Again, if true, this is quite the coup but we have our doubts if USC was ever seriously in the mix.

Landing three talents who have the potential to be starters early in their college careers easily qualifies as a superb recruiting haul, the best to date in the WAC. Maybe it's true that Mark Fox isn't going anywhere despite his superb success in the Biggest Little City In The World and all the 'talk' that has 'placed' him elsewhere replacing so-and-so.

Nevada will stumble a bit this season in league play but looks to have re-loaded for 2008-2009 quite well. Having the WAC tourney in Reno after this season will be a bonus for what will be a young but talented team.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Does New Mexico State have to worry?

According to Jason Groves of the Las Cruces Suns-News today, three of New Mexico State's freshman basketball signees are having to sit out practice until the NCAA Clearinghouse gives the thumbs up.

Prize recruit Herb Pope, forward Wendell McKines and guard Jahmar Young cannot practice.

However, the key quote is this:

"... Aggies head coach Marvin Menzies expects Pope and McKines to be cleared by next Thursday, and he said Young could be cleared as early as Wednesday..."

The NCAA Clearinghouse typically is logjammed right around the beginning of college football season but gains some breathing room after that. Pope and Young hace been long-time commitments to the Aggies, with McKines being somewhat recent so the paperwork on Pope and Young should have been in the hands of the Clearinghouse for some time now.

San Jose State has two basketball players sidelined until the middle of the season last year and ended up redshirting both.

If necessary, that might work with McKines and Young but Pope will not be a four year player for NMSU [yes, he is that good] and his remaining in Las Cruces could be iffy if the Clearinghouse drags its feet. But Pope also isn't ready for the NBA -- although that hasn't stopped others from declaring themselves draft eligible.

Maybe this is all a tempest in a teapot and all will be forgotten by the end of next week, as Menzies alludes to.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Our take on the WAC pre-season polls and teams

Here's the coaches poll again -- in this instance, we're going to ignore the media one since the coaches offering should be the much better informed one. [this will not exactly score us points with the media]

Men's Basketball Preseason Coach's Poll Announced

Coaches could not vote for their own team or players1.

Utah State
2. New Mexico State
3. Nevada
4. Fresno State
5. Boise State
6. Hawai'i
7. Louisiana Tech
8. San Jose State
9. Idaho

OUR TAKE: As we have mentioned previously, the battle for WAC supremacy should come down to Utah State and New Mexico State and we are leaning toward Coach Stew Morrill's squad because of the consistency of high-scoring Jaycee Carroll.

To go into each game knowing you will receive at least 20 points and good percentage shooting is a rock solid base from which to build upon and Morrill will also have a much bigger and brawnier team than last season. The Logan-ites will need junior college transfer Gary Wilkinson to adapt quickly and we believe the 6-8 240 paint player will do so, battling NMSU's Herb Pope for best newcomer in the WAC.

We're not so sure about Nevada in the three spot as a number of Wolf Pack players will need to step up and assist high-scoring Marcellus Kemp.

Fresno State has a load of talent but is very unproven upfront and it's just the opposite for Greg Graham and Boise State. Matt Nelson and Reggie Larry anchor the Bronco frontline but a Coby Karl replacement will need to appear in the backcourt.

Hawai'i has some talent but we're not sure if newcomer Bob Nash has the players he needs at this point to truly implement his philosophy of an up-tempo offense and pressure at the defensive end.

Louisiana Tech is somewhat of a darkhorse, with an influx of talented newcomers, but it's a group primarily made up of freshmen who have yet to play a minute of D-1 basketball. But Coach Kerry Rupp certainly deserves credit for immediately upgrading Tech's recruiting.

As for San Jose Sate, MIddle Tennessee Coach Kermit Davis said this recently in describing the Spartans: "San Jose State will be the most improved team in the WAC this year." SJSU will be in Murfreesboro, Tennessee in mid-November to take part in a four team tournament, hence the quote from Davis.

We dp concur with Davis. Yes, the SJSU youngsters are short on experience and that will be a factor at times this season but the Spartans have the most potential to make the biggest move of all the WAC teams.

Idaho is Idaho. Almost a brand new roster has come aboard, featuring some skilled talents, but Coach George Pfeiffer will need to blend unfamiliar faces and also hold on to his core players.

One ominous sign is that the Idaho basketball camps were canceled this summer -- demonstrating that the fan base in Idaho is taking a wait-and-see approach. To Pfeiffer's credit, the position he is in is an extremely difficult one and we're not sure if anyone could make Idaho competitive in the WAC.

Preseason All-WAC Teams


Jaycee Carroll, Sr., G, Utah State

Justin Hawkins, Jr., G/F, New Mexico State

Marcelus Kemp, Sr., G, Nevada

Reggie Larry, Sr., F, Boise State

Fred Peete, Jr., G, New Mexico State

OUR TAKE: The inclusion here of Reggie Larry over teammate Matt Nelson is debatable. Nelson was steady last season with low double figure scoring and 8 or so rebounds a game while Larry was more up and down, spectacular but then disappearing.

Peete is a very solid defender and decent offensive player but we wouldn't vouch for him being a lock as a first-teamer in the WAC.


Kevin Bell, Sr., G, Fresno State

Hector Hernandez, Sr., F, Fresno State

Demarshay Johnson, Sr., F, Nevada

Bobby Nash, Sr., G, Hawai'i

Matt Nelson, Sr., F, Boise State

OUR TAKE: Kevin Bell is an excellent point, usually with a superb assist-to-turnover ration but he struggles with his shooting. He could be vulnerable to being picked off the second-team squad by an up-and-comer, possibly teammate Bryan Harvey who will be the recipient of many a pass from Bell.

Hernandez should enjoy a good season but it will be interesting to see if he has added to his offensive repertoire of outside shooting.

Johnson sat out last season due to academics. He's tops as a shotblocker, with rebounding his second-best skill. His offensive game two years ago was raw so it will be interesting to see if he has progressed.

Nash is a solid all-around player who will benefit from Hawaii pushing the ball more this season.

As we mentioned above, Nelson could land on the first team with a repeat of his junior year.

We will be shocked if Gary Wilkinson doesn't earn a second-team spot. A team [Utah State] that will by vying for the league championship should land more than one player on the honor roll.

Our estimation is that SJSU redshirt freshman Justin Graham and sophomore transfer Chris Oakes have the best SJSU shots at gaining WAC honors for the upcoming season.

Player of the Year: Jaycee Carroll, Utah State

OUR TAKE: If there is such a thing as a lock, it is Jaycee Carroll as the best player in the WAC. Look at what he accomplished minus a true inside threat on the Aggies last season. Case closed.

The WAC coach and media polls are out

Here's both the coach's and the media polls for the upcoming basketball season. We'll provide some commentary in a later post.

WAC Preseason Polls Announced
Courtesy: WAC

Salt Lake City -- The Western Athletic Conference is holding its annual Basketball Preview today in Salt Lake City. All of the men's and women's coaches as well as some of the top players in the league are meeting with media members from around the nation. The WAC also released several preseason polls from both the coaches and media that cover the conference.


Men's Basketball Preseason Coach's Poll Announced

DENVER - The Western Athletic Conference announced its men's basketball preseason poll and all-WAC teams as voted on by the nine head coaches in the league.

Utah State was picked to win the WAC, while the Aggies' Jaycee Carroll was selected the WAC's preseason player of the year.

Utah State received four first-place votes and 58 points to be picked first in a very close vote. The Aggies were 23-12 last season (9-7 in the WAC), and advanced to the National Invitational Tournament. Utah State has advanced to postseason for eight-straight seasons.

New Mexico State received three first-place votes and placed second with 57 points. Nevada received one first-place vote and 53 points for third followed by Fresno State with the final first-place vote and 46 points. Boise State was picked fifth with 34 points followed by Hawai'i (29), Louisiana Tech (17), San Jose State (17) and Idaho (13). Nevada and New Mexico State were NCAA Tournament participants last season.

The coaches also voted on a first and second all-WAC team. Utah State senior guard Jaycee Carroll was voted the preseason Player of the Year after earning first-team all-WAC honors last season.

He is joined on the first team by New Mexico State junior guard/forward Justin Hawkins, Nevada senior guard Marcelus Kemp, Boise State senior forward Reggie Larry and New Mexico State junior forward Fred Peete.

Carroll led the WAC in scoring last season with 21.3 points and also shot .888 from the free-throw line. Hawkins led the Aggies in scoring, averaging 15.6 points per game. Kemp was third in the WAC in scoring (18.5 ppg) and three-point field goals made (2.47 pg). Peete averaged 9.5 points per contest at New Mexico State, and Larry averaged 14.1 ppg. Carroll, Hawkins and Kemp were named to the all-WAC first team last year, while Larry and Peete were named to the all-Newcomer team.

The preseason second team is comprised of Fresno State's Kevin Bell, Fresno State's Hector Hernandez, Nevada's Demarshay Johnson, Hawai'i's Bobby Nash and Boise State's Matt Nelson.

1. Utah State
2. New Mexico State
3. Nevada
4. Fresno State
5. Boise State
6. Hawai'i
7. Louisiana Tech
8. San Jose State
9. Idaho

Coaches could not vote for their own team or players

Preseason All-WAC Teams


Jaycee Carroll, Sr., G, Utah State

Justin Hawkins, Jr., G/F, New Mexico State

Marcelus Kemp, Sr., G, Nevada

Reggie Larry, Sr., F, Boise State

Fred Peete, Jr., G, New Mexico State


Kevin Bell, Sr., G, Fresno State

Hector Hernandez, Sr., F, Fresno State

Demarshay Johnson, Sr., F, Nevada

Bobby Nash, Sr., G, Hawai'i

Matt Nelson, Sr., F, Boise State

Player of the Year: Jaycee Carroll, Utah State


Men's Basketball Preseason Media Poll Announced

DENVER - The 2007-08 Western Athletic Conference men's basketball media poll has picked New Mexico State as this year's favorite. Utah State senior guard Jaycee Carroll and New Mexico State freshman forward Herb Pope were named the preseason Player and Newcomer of the Year, respectively.

New Mexico State received 255 points and 13 first-place votes. Utah State was picked second with 250 points and 10 first-place votes. Nevada garnered 239 points with seven first-place votes for third place followed by Fresno State with 208 points. Boise State was fifth with 175 points followed by Hawai'i (151), Louisiana Tech (104), San Jose State (91) and Idaho (57).

Carroll was picked Player of the Year on 21 of 30 ballots while Pope was selected by 17 media members. Carroll was named first-team all-WAC last season and led the WAC in scoring, averaging 21.3 points per game. Pope is a freshman forward from Aliquippa, Pa., and averaged 19 points per game his senior season at Aliquippa High School.

The all-WAC team included Carrroll, Fresno State senior guard Kevin Bell, New Mexico State junior guard/forward Justin Hawkins, Boise State senior forward Reggie Larry and Nevada senior guard Marcelus Kemp.

The following is the complete 2007-08 WAC men's basketball media poll.

1. New Mexico State
2. Utah State
3. Nevada
4. Fresno State
5. Boise State
6. Hawai'i
7. Louisiana Tech
8. San Jose State
9. Idaho

Preseason All-WAC Team

Kevin Bell, Sr., G, Fresno State

Jaycee Carroll, Sr., G, Utah State

Justin Hawkins, Jr., G/F, New Mexico State

Reggie Larry, Sr, F, Boise State

Marcelus Kemp, Sr., G, Nevada

Preseason Player of the Year: Jaycee Carroll, Sr., G, Utah State

Preseason Newcomer of the Year: Herb Pope, Fr., F, New Mexico State

Parsing the WAC goes on-line

This blog is designed to provide information and commentary about Western Athletic Conference men's basketball.For disclosure purposes, we gladly admit to be fans of San Jose State but rest assured that such will not color our presentation here. Please call us on it if you feel we ever cross the line.

Despite the departure of Mr. Dress For Success -- ReggieT -- to the Sacramento Kings, along with a number of top quality players -- Nick Fazekas, Ramon Sessions, Dominic McGuire, Quentin Hosley and Coby Karl -- to the NBA, we expect the WAC to enjoy a very solid year overall. Two or possibly three Big Dance bids should be coming the WAC way come March 2008.

October 12 can't get here soon enough!