Matador Men/Women Start Basketball Practice
It's that time of the year again. Time for college basketball. The Matador men's and women's basketball teams officially open practice on Friday at The Matadome. Bob Vazquez and Geoff Herberg take a look at the outlook for the 2007-08 season.
Men's Basketball 2007-08 Season Preview
By Bob Vazquez, Assistant Athletic Director (Media Relations)
Northridge, Calif. - Grab a game program. There is a whole, new look about the 2007-08 Cal State Northridge basketball team. Twelve new players have arrived, and with the return of five lettermen, including three starters, and the addition of a redshirt freshman, head coach Bobby Braswell can't wait for the start of what promises to be an exciting season.
"On paper, I am extremely pleased with the recruiting efforts and the players we have brought in," said Braswell, who is entering his 12th season at the helm of Matador basketball. "We have good depth at every position. We have recruited several players who can fill some of our immediate needs."
Last year, the Matadors didn't shoot the ball with any consistency, defensive pressure was a season long concern, and turnovers were major concerns for the coaching staff. Braswell is confident he now has the tools in place at every position to be a good team as Cal State Northridge prepares for its 50th season of intercollegiate basketball.
"We now have more viable threats on the offensive side of the ball," said Braswell. "We're much more athletic which should help improve us defensively. We feel we have improved ourselves. Obviously, you never know until you start playing games to see how good you are, but I think we have a chance to be a good basketball team if everybody buys in. When you have 12 new players learning a new system, we'll need to simplify some of our sets at the beginning of the season. I feel like we should be better defensively than last year, and better offensively. I feel this group gives us a chance to improve in a lot of areas, and gives us a legitimate shot to compete for a championship."
Every season, Cal State Northridge schedules highly competitive teams and this year is no exception. The non-league slate will include games at national powers Gonzaga (Dec. 8, 5:00 p.m.) and a Dec. 22 encounter at Pac-10 power Washington (3:00 p.m.). The Matadors will kickoff the Big West season with two teams expected to be contenders for the league title, at Cal Poly (Jan. 3, 7:00 p.m.) and at UC Santa Barbara (Jan. 5, 7:00 p.m.). Cal State Northridge has scheduled 13 home regular season games, including an ESPN Bracketbuster contest on Feb. 23 (7:00 p.m.).
"We're excited to have the opportunity to play national powers Gonzaga and Washington," said Braswell. "Our hope is to go there and not only be highly competitive, but do something special. I think the Big West race is wide open. There are several teams that have an excellent chance to win the conference title. UC Santa Barbara has many excellent players returning so you have to think they will be very good and highly competitive. Cal Poly will be strong, and Cal State Fullerton returns a strong core of returning players."
Three talented point-guards will be compete for the starting position when the regular season opens on Nov. 10 against Chicago State at The Matadome. Rai Colston (5-9, 180, Senior, Woodland Hills, Ca) is the lone veteran returning. Colston played in all 31 games last year and understands the Matador system. His leadership skills will play a major role in the team's success this year. Two high-powered junior college players will form a trio, along with Colston, of talented players at this position. Josh Jenkins (5-10, 175, Junior, Albuquerque, NM) is a transfer from Frank Phillips College in Texas where he earned All-American honors in leading his team in scoring (18.7 ppg). Jenkins also led the team in three-point field goal percentage (45 percent), assists (9.1 apg, #3 in the nation), steals (2.1 spg), field goals (158), free throws (89) and free throw attempts (128). Jenkins has the total package; the ability to score, defend, pass the ball, and make his teammates a part of the system.
Paul Wayne (6-1, 165, Junior, Washington, D.C.) earned high marks as a point guard at the winningest junior college program in the country, College of Southern Idaho. Wayne simply knows how to win and compete, according to the Matador coaches. During his two seasons (College of Southern Idaho and Salt Lake City Community College) of collegiate competition, Wayne helped his teams to a 52-15 record. Last year at CSI, Wayne helped run an offense that was ranked ninth in the country in scoring (106 ppg). Wayne averaged a team-leading 4.5 assists per game, and was among the team leaders in steals (56).
"This was the position we needed to upgrade the most," said Braswell. "We really struggled with turnovers last year and had a hard time getting into our offense. This year, we feel that we have three solid point guards with Rai, Josh and Paul. If we get into foul trouble or have an injury, we have the talent and depth to continue to play at a high level. Paul is a playmaker who doesn't worry about scoring. His key asset is getting the other players involved in the offense. Josh has the ability to run the team and score. Rai gives the team veteran leadership, and he knows what the expectations are."
The shooting guard position is loaded with talent, depth and looks to be an area that will be much improved over last year. For the past two seasons, Rob Haynes (6-4, 185, Junior, Cerritos, Ca) has been a consistent, solid player, and his experience and court savvy will be a key asset in the Matador fortunes in 2007-08. Haynes can simply shoot from long range. In two seasons on the Matador campus, Haynes has hit .425 from behind the arc, the fourth-best percentage in school history. Last year, Haynes hit 50 percent or better from three-point territory in 14 games. His season percentage of .426 was seventh best in the Big West Conference. Look for Haynes to increase last year's scoring average of 8.5 ppg.
Deon Tresvant (6-0, 170, Junior, Long Beach, Ca) and Rodrigue Mels (6-3, 180, Junior, Les Abymes, Guadeloupe) will add to a powerful mix of scoring and defense. Tresvant was one of the top scorers in the California state junior college ranks last year at 25 points per game (Long Beach City College). Tresvant's game scoring totals were simply awesome. Tresvant scored what is believed a state junior college record with 63 points against L.A. Southwest College. In two other games, he scored 48 points apiece, and in another contest, he tallied 46 points. Needless to say, his offensive skills earned him all-state and league MVP honors. Mels was a late addition to the 2007-08 roster, and is another outstanding shooter. Mels gained tournament MVP honors in leading Midland College (Tx) to the National Junior College Championship title last year. Mels led Midland to a 29-9 record, and led the team in several offensive categories including scoring (14.8 ppg), free throw percentage (.783), field goal attempts (460), three-point goals (77), three-point attempts (209), and steals (70). There will be added depth with Matthew Wallace (6-1, 180, Freshman, Inglewood, Ca.) who possesses a great shooting touch, according to the Matador coaches.
"Rob Haynes, Deon Tresvant and Rodrigue Mels are three highly talented players who give us outside scoring strength and tough defense," said Braswell. "Rob has improved every year. Tresvant has a chance to be really special. The coaches have been amazed at what he can do offensively and defensively. Deon can also play the point. Rodrigue simply knows how to win. If you are going to be successful at the Division I level, you need players who know how to win and want to win. Rodrigue brings that to the court, plus the athleticism and the ability to shoot the three-point shot. Matthew Wallace has an excellent future in our basketball program."
Cal State Northridge will be noticeably more athletic along the front line in 2007-08. Braswell's philosophy is to play pressure defense, rebound the ball, and then push the ball up the court in transition. This year, the Matadors have an excellent stable of talented players to play that style. The veteran brigade is led by two of the best players in the Big West, seniors Jonathan Heard (6-6, 185, Senior, Inglewood, Ca) and Calvin Chitwood (6-8, 220, Senior, Phoenix, Az). Heard, who gained Honorable Mention Big West honors last year, led the team in scoring last year (13.5 ppg) and steals (44) and finished second in rebounding (5.5 rpg) and assists (63). Heard, one of the most athletically gifted student-athletes on the team, worked extremely hard during the off-season to improve his outside shooting. By the end of the 2007-08 season, Heard's name will be appear in numerous offensive categories in CSUN's record book. Chitwood, like Heard, has been a three-year starter who will also etch his name into the school's Top-10 record book in several categories including points and rebounds. Last year, Chitwood finished second on the Matadors in scoring (13.2 ppg) and third in rebounding (4.9 rpg). Chitwood led the league in free throw shooting (.851) which also is sixth-best in school history. Jayme Miller (6-8, 225, Senior, Newbury Park, Ca) is another veteran player whose confidence and experience will play huge dividends for the Matadors this year. Miller averaged 5.8 points and 3.1 rebounds per game last year. The high point of Miller's season was a 16-point (7-for-8 shooting) performance against UC Riverside. Miller started 13 games including five of the last six games of the 2006-07 season. The list of newcomers is impressive. Tremaine Townsend (6-9, 222, Junior, Phoenix, Az) and Jermaine Smith (6-9, 230, Junior, Irvington, NJ) are just two names who will add physical strength and toughness along the front line. Townsend earned all-state honors at Saddleback College (Mission Viejo, Ca). last year in averaging nearly 15 points and ten rebounds per game, and leading his team to the state tournament semifinals. For his efforts, Townsend was named league MVP. Smith, a junior from Ohlone College (Fremont, Ca), is a player who can block shots, and who can also finish plays around the basket. Smith is a great athlete who can get up and down the court in a hurry. Willie Galick (6-8, 225, Junior, Nanaimo, British Columbia) is a tough rebounding forward who has transferred from Pepperdine University. Galick, who started in 36 games for the Waves the past two seasons, will redshirt this year because of NCAA rules, but will be a vital player in daily practice sessions. Evan Scott (6-6, 195, RS Freshman, Long Beach, Ca) redshirted last year which gave him an opportunity to gain strength and learn the Matador system. Michael Lizarraga (6-7, 240, Freshman, Dixon, Ca), Tony Osunsanmi (6-4, 190, RS Sophomore, Ontario, Ca.), Xavier Reed (6-5, 205, Freshman, Minneapolis, Mn) and Therin Taylor (6-5, 180, Sophomore, Richmond, Ca) are young players who will add depth and talent to the already talent-rich roster. Lizarraga is a big, physical player who works extremely hard, and has an excellent future in the Matadors program. Even though he is listed at 6-foot-4, Osunsanmi is described by the Matador coaches as the "Dennis Rodman" of the basketball team because of his rebounding strength and great energy at both ends of the court. Reed ended his prep career as the fourth leading scorer and fifth leading rebounder in history at Osseo Senior High School. The future is unlimited for Reed, according to the Matador coaches. Taylor played one of year of junior college basketball at Merritt College in Northern California, thus he has three years of collegiate eligibility remaining. Taylor will have the opportunity to play a lot of minutes at the small forward position because of his ability to shoot and his athleticism.
"We will be a lot better defensively than last year, and definitely better offensively," said Braswell. "This is a hard working group of players who are athletic. We have post players who can play inside as well as outside. Daily practices will be highly competitive. We have 18 players on this year's roster, some of whom we will redshirt. We're excited about having competitive practices each day. The players will know that playing time will be decided by them, not by me.
2007-08 Women's Basketball Season Preview
By Geoff Herberg, Assistant Director of Media Relations
They've heard the whispers, the observations and predictions buzzing around their program. And they're not scared of the label that seems to be on the lips of so many: rebuilding. For the 2007-08 Cal State Northridge women's basketball team, the word rebuilding is not something to run and hide from, but rather a rallying point for a program eager to prove it's mettle.
"Our players, this coaching staff, we refuse to accept the belief that this is a rebuilding year," head coach Staci Schulz said. "Outsiders can say what they like, but inside the locker room and on the court, we as a unit know that there is too much to be accomplished to seek shelter under a term."
Still, Schulz recognizes the challenges ahead. Any coach would when they lose seven seniors and over 75% of their scoring, rebounding, assists and minutes played from the previous season, not to mention the addition of two new assistant coaches. Yet, optimism abounds for the Matadors as they enter the season, based largely on the camaraderie and determination Schulz sees in her players, from the lone returning senior to the six newcomers.
"The thing I have liked most about this team so far is the collective effort and commitment they have shown," Schulz added. "We have some holes to fill, but we also have players who are capable and excited to step into those roles. We are going to be a team ready to work."
One of the areas less affected by the departures is the Matador frontcourt. This is due in large part to the return of back-to-back Big West Sixth Woman of the Year, senior Katie Holloway. The Lake Stevens, Wash., native has been a solid performer throughout her career and will be relied upon heavily by her teammates and the coaching staff to display the leadership that has earned her numerous honors and distinctions.
"We are really looking a lot to Katie this year," Schulz said. "This is her year to step up and take on the responsibilities of being a leader for this program."
Despite missing 10 games last season due to a broken finger, Holloway performed valiantly for the Matadors, averaging 8.3 points and 4.8 rebounds in her 20 appearances. She also tied for the team lead in blocks and endeared herself to the coaches around the league with her hustle and determination on the court.
"She's in the best shape since she arrived at Northridge and now it's just about the seizing the moment without any hesitations," Schulz said.
Joining Holloway up front is another returner, junior Crystal Hahs. A 6-4 center with long arms, Hahs presents troublesome matchups for opponents due to her versatility on the court. Against Big West rival Pacific, Hahs set a new single-game school record when she recorded seven blocks against the Tigers. Yet, in the same game, Hahs also tied a career high with three steals and was 4-of-7 from the field.
"What excites me most about Crystal is her versatility," Schulz said. "She is a great shooter, which poses matchup problems for the opponents, yet she is also very effective at taking the ball to the basket. And with those long arms, she is a defensive threat anytime she comes from the help side."
In addition to Holloway and Hahs, the Matadors welcome the return of sophomore Morgan Pryor, who began to understand the rigors of Division I competition last year. Northridge also ushers in a host of newcomers looking to make an impact on the frontline. Among those is freshman Analee Viena-Lota, who made an immediate impression on the coaches with her performance during the summer.
"Analee has been a big surprise, showcasing a lot of talent and quickness that will catch people off-guard," Schulz added. Other newcomers include freshmen Lyneeka Boyd, a 5-10 forward, Charise Hall, another 5-10 forward and Bianca Davies, a 5-11 local product from Oxnard.
The 2007-08 Matador backcourt will feature an array of young talent eager and capable of picking up were the departed seniors left off. Leading the way will be junior Ashley Blake, a 5-5 combo guard who started 10 games last season, averaging 4.0 ppg and dishing out 52 assists.
"We are really looking for Ashley to provide the leadership that we need from our upperclassmen," Schulz said. "She sets a great tone by being the hardest working player on the team." To elevate her game to the next level, Blake will be counted upon to shore up her shooting consistency.
Blake will be joined by an assortment of players looking to make their mark on the Big West Conference. The team has brought in a pair of junior college transfers to the squad, infusing the team with some much-needed experience. Junior Tonicia Tademy comes to Northridge after spending the previous two seasons at Mt. San Antonio College. During her time with the Mounties, Tademy, a 5-foot-7 point guard, helped lead the squad to back-to-back state championships. In her second year with the Mounties, Tademy averaged 5.9 ppg, 3.3 apg and 3.3 spg and exploded in the title game for 14 points and seven assists.
Northridge's other transfer is Whitney Ligon, who joins the Matadors after two years at Santa Ana College. While with the Dons, Ligon helped the team reach the postseason for the first time since the 2001-02 season. For her play, she received All-Orange Empire Conference honors while averaging 15.0 ppg and 3.8 rpg.
"Both Whitney and Tonicia bring valuable experience to our team," Schulz added.
Returning to the Matadors in 2007-08 is a group of sophomores who gained invaluable experience with the 2006-07 squad. Katrina Thompson appeared in eight games during her freshman campaign, while Shanice Howard played in seven contests. Both will be expected to continue their growth and development in order to show up the Matador guard positions.
"Both Katrina and Shanice are tough players who have already shown their development in practices this offseason," Schulz said.
For some, the prospects of a season with so many new faces might seem bleak. That is far from the case with the Cal State Northridge women's basketball team. Despite the many changes with the Matadors, one thing remains certain: nothing will be lost due to lack of effort.
"People may already be counting us out," Schulz said. "That would be a big mistake.