WAC Offseason Recap
by Phil Dailey
Boise State Broncos
The Broncos are coming off a disappointing year. Beating tournament-bound Wyoming early in the season at home was their only bright spot. The Broncos went 6-12 in their first season as a member of the WAC. Out is Rod Jensen; in is Greg Graham as the new head coach for the Broncos Graham promises a run-and-gun style of offense, much like Oregon, where Graham served as 1st assistant on last years team that made it all the way to the Midwest final.
Key Losses: The Broncos will never forget Abe Jackson and his 19 Ppg. Also the shoes of Richard Morgan and Trever Tillman will need to be filled.
Who’s Back: Booker Nabors, Jason Ellis, Bryan Defares and C.J. Williams. All four were starters last season. Nabors is the best shooter on the team and can hit from long range. Along with Nabors, Defares and Williams will also start at the guard positions. Last season Ellis averaged five points a game as a freshman. Juniors Cory Ortiz and Joe Skiffer are both back this season after redshirting last season.
Who’s New: Marc Pratt 6-foot-5 inch, Kostas Avgerinos 7-foot-1, Larry Davidson 6-foot-9, and Aaron Haynes 6-foot-6, should all get playing time this season. Haynes was a member of the 2002 California Community College all-State team last season at Sacramento City College.
Fresno State Bulldogs
The Jerry Tarkanian era is over for the Bulldogs. Former Oklahoma assistant Ray Lopes is the new coach for Fresno State. The difference in these two coaches is night and day. Last season, the Bulldogs had a disappointing go of it considering the talent level. Fresno State tied for fifth, with a 9-9 record in the WAC, and was dismissed from the NIT by Temple in the first round.
Key Losses: Two-time WAC Player of the Year Melvin Ely, was dominating in the paint and averaged over 23 points and nine rebounds per game. Along with the loss of Ely, the Bulldogs lost Chris Jefferies and his 17 Ppg.
Who’s Back: Noel Felix, Damon Jackson and Travis DeManby were starters last season for the Bulldogs. Hiram Fuller looks to jump into the starting lineup in place of Jefferies. Jonathan Woods should see more playing time this season.
Who’s New: Rolando Todd is a JC transfer, who last year thought about the NBA, but decided to wait. Todd says he is the best college point guard in the nation. Another JC transfer, Renaldo Major, could possibly contribute for the Bulldogs
Last season the Warriors tied for the conference title with Tulsa, but lost in the first round of the tournament to a tough Xavier team. Going 15-3 in the WAC last season set the benchmark for the Warriors. Riley Wallace returns for his fifteenth season as the head coach at Hawai’i.
Key Losses: There is no question that last seasons success could be attributed to Predrag Savovic’s 20-plus Ppg. The Warriors also lost Mike McIntyre, who averaged 10 Ppg.
Who’s Back: Carl English is one of the best shooting guards in the country and once again will add to the success for Hawai’i. The Warriors also return starters Mark Campbell, Phil Martin and Haim Shimonovich, who should be one of the best big-men in the WAC.
Who’s New: 6-Foot-11 freshman Milos Zivanovic and 6-foot-10 Dane Dmitrovic are the only freshman newcomers for the Warriors. Highly touted junior college guard Vaidotas Peciukas is projected to step right in to the starting line-up.
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Like Boise State, the Bulldogs made their first tour in the WAC last season. Unlike the Broncos, La. Tech had a much more successful season going 14-4 in conference play. La. Tech fell short of the tournament but did get an invite to the NIT, only to lose to Villanova in the second round.
Key Losses: The tandem of Gerrod Henderson and Marco Cole led the way last year combining for 28 points and 10 boards per game.
Who’s Back: Starters Darrin Brown, Lavell Felton and Antonio Meeking return for La. Tech. Seniors Zack Johnson and Michael Wilder step into the starting line-up this season.
Who’s New: Freshman Jeremy Johnston, Eric Woods and JUCO transfer Barry Thompson are the newcomers for the Bulldogs.
Nevada Wolf Pack
Nevada ended their season last year tied for fifth with Fresno State and 17-13 record overall. Head coach Trent Johnson enters his third year for the Wolf Pack with a 36-51 overall record.
Key Losses: Nevada said goodbye to Corey Jackson, who was the starting forward last year, averaging over nine points and 11 rebounds per game.
Who’s Back: Starters Terrance Green, Garry Hill-Thomas, Sean Paul and Kirk Snyder all return for the Wolf Pack. Green, Thomas and Snyder all averaged over 13 Ppg last season.
Who’s New: Nevada welcomes three transfers this year. Dean Brown, Todd Okeson and Jair Veldhuis, who transferred from Villanova. Freshman Marcelus Kemp could see some playing time.
Last season Rice went 10-19, 5-13 for a eighth place WAC finish. Head Coach Willis Wilson enters his tenth season for the Owls with a record of 127-155.
Key Losses: Rice loses only one starter from last season’s squad, Shawn Tyndell, who averaged over seven points per game.
Who’s Back: Starters Michael Harris, Omar-Seli Mance, Jason McKrieth and Rashid Smith will all be back in the starting line-up for the Owls. Senior Brandon Evens looks to step into the vacant forward spot.
Who’s New: Rice welcomes five new freshman this year, including 7-footer Mike Kinsella, who should be ready to contribute.
San Jose State Spartans
Much like Rice, SJSU had a rough go last year in the WAC, finishing ninth with a 4-14 record, 10-22 overall. Head Coach Phil Johnson returns to the Spartans after being an assistant with the Chicago Bulls the last two seasons.
Key Losses: David Granucci, Marion Thurmond and Andre Valentine are no longer around leaving the Spartans to fill three starting positions.
Who’s Back: Brandon Hawkins is the only starter form last years team projected to start again this season. Hawkins led the team last year with 16 Ppg.
Who’s New: Antonio Lawrence comes to SJSU as a top 100 high school player last year. Along with Lawrence, Billy Lilly, Eric Watson and Keith West, three JUCO transfers look to jump into the starting line-up
Southern Methodist Mustangs
The Mustangs finished last year in the top half of the conference with a record of 10-8. Head coach Mike Dement brings back his 111-92 record and seven years of experience to SMU.
Key Losses: All-WAC shooting guard Damon Hancock and his 22 Ppg will need to be replaced.
Who’s Back: Kris Lowe, Quinton Ross, and Patrick Simpson all return to the starting line-up. Sophomore Eric Castro looks to join the starting line-up after averaging almost six Ppg last year.
Who’s New: SMU gets younger as five freshman join the team including Bryan Hopkins, who has been ranked in the top 20 as a national prospect and will try to fill the shoes of the departed Hancock.
Texas-El Paso Miners
Last season, the outlook was bright for the Miners. After going 10-22 including 3-15 in the WAC, disappointment might be an understatement, going 0-12 on the road last season and losing 10 games by five or less points. This couldn’t have helped head coach Jason Rabedeaux, who abruptly resigned on October 23rd, on the eve of his fourth season. No replacement has been named as of yet, with former Miner legends Don Haskins, Nolan Richardson and Tim Floyd resisting overtures to take the reins.
Key Losses: Starters Eugene Costello, Nick Enzweiler and Brian Stewart combined for more than 30 Ppg last season.
Who’s Back: Roy Smallwood and Antone Jarrell return to the starting line-up. Sophomore Luke Martin and senior Justino Victoriano will start as well for the Miners.
Who’s New: Freshman Keinon Kinkred comes to the team after averaging nearly a triple-double in high school last year. Freshman Giovanni St. Amant should get some serious playing time as well.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane
The Golden Hurricane went 27-7 last season under first-year head coach John Phillips. Tulsa not only tied for the WAC title, but also knocked off Marquette in the tournament before falling to Kentucky in the second round.
Key Losses: Tulsa will need to a replacement for the leadership of All-WAC guard Greg Harrington.
Who’s Back: Starters Charlie Davis, Kevin Johnson, Antonio Reed and Dante Swanson all return. Junior Jason Parker, who averaged nearly nine Ppg last season, will fill the empty spot left by Harrington.
Who’s New: Seneca Collins leads the way for the four new freshman. JT Ivie and Trevor Meier are back after redshirting last season.