Big Sky Conference Preview
by Nicholas Lozito
1. Montana Grizzlies
Montana will look to a group of gritty forwards, and a shooting guard named David Bell to lead the team in 2002-03. Marcus Rosser, Brent Cummings and Victor Venters provide the Grizzles with a trio of rugged forwards, who set a physical tone play for Montana.
Junior Sam Riddle will return at the point, and his job is to penetrate and kick-out to sharp-shooter David Bell, who averaged 13.7 points last year. The senior led the conference with 3.16 made 3-pointers per game.
Junior college transfer Steve Horne could be the team’s eventual starter at small forward. The 6-foot-6 transfer from Pensacola JC should be the Grizzlies’ most athletic forward, and can provide Montana with a player who can push the tempo. The Grizzlies also signed Irvine Valley College transfer Derrick Mansell, who should back up Bell at shooting guard.
Redshirt freshman Chris McKay, a 6-foot-11 center, should also see playing time for the Grizzlies.
Starting 5: PG – Sam Riddle, SG – David Bell, F – David Horne, F – Brent Cummings, F – Marcus Rosser
2. Eastern Washington Eagles
The Eagles claim the best returning tandem in the league with point guard Alvin Snow and wingman Chris Hester. While standing only 6-foot-3, 180 pounds, Hester led the team with 4.6 rebounds last season.
Two other key returnees for Eastern Washington are sophomores Marc Axton and Darren Cooper. Axton should start at forward, while Cooper will back up at the guard position.
With redshirt junior Brandon Merritt set to make his Eagle debut, look for Eastern Washington to play a lot of three-guard lineups with Snow, Hester and Merritt.
Jeremy McCulloch, T.J. Williams and Gregg Smith should battle for the starting spot at center. With one of the smaller starting fives in the league, look for the Eagles to push the tempo with their supreme athleticism.
Starting 5: PG – Alvin Snow, G – Brandon Merritt, G – Chris Hester, F – Marc Axton, F – T.J. Williams
3. Weber State Wildcats
As long as Jermaine Boyette is on the roster, you know Weber State is going to be a contender. The 6-foot-2 senior is a two-time first-team all conference selection, and returns to lead a starting lineup consisting of four seniors and one junior. Boyette averaged a league-high 17.1 points last season.
Junior John Hamilton will start in the backcourt while Brad Barton and Stevie Morrison will compete for the other guard spot. Senior Stephan Bachman is a lock at the center position. Patrick Danley returns after receiving 17 starts last season at forward.
The signing of freshman swingman Matt Emadi should also help the Wildcats.
Starting 5: G – Stevie Morrison, G – Jermaine Boyette, G – John Hamilton, F – Patrick Danley, C – Stephan Bachman
4. Montana State Bobcats
2001-02 conference MVP Jason Erickson returns to lead the Bobcats. The 6-foot-3 junior averaged 10.1 points last year and was also named Associated Press Honorable Mention All-American.
While Erickson took conference MVP honors last season, then junior, Damir Latovic both outscored and rebounded his teammate by significant margins. Latovic has left the team to pursue professional ball overseas.
Pete Conway will start in the Bobcat backcourt, while Casey Reynolds will get the nod at small forward. 6-foot-7 freshman Shea Washington should help fill the rather large shoes left behind by Latovic. JC transfer Calvin Ento could also start in the front court.
Starting 5: PG – Jason Erickson, SG – Pete Conway, SF – Casey Reynolds, F – Calvin Ento, F – Shea Washington
5. Sacramento State Hornets
Academic ineligibilities to forwards Joel Jones and Leo Cravey, and guards Joseth Dawson and David Joiner Dawson will keep the Hornets from being possibly the top team in the Big Sky.
Jones will redshirt the season, while Joiner, Cravey and Dawson will return after 10 games if they qualify academically after the fall semester.
The Hornets return one of the conference’s top rebounders in Cedric Thompkins, who will start at power forward. Tony Champion (6-foot-11, 260 pounds), who has dropped over 50 pounds in his three years at Sac State, will start at center. Derek Lambeth will start at small forward, while Jimmy White will be the first forward off the bench.
Brandon Guyton should start at shooting guard, while freshman Deshawn Freeman will battle with senior Rashaad Hooks for the starting point guard spot. Dawson should start on his return, while Joiner and Cravey will most likely take on backup roles.
With Champion and Thompkins up front, along with freshman center Djibril Diop, the Hornets should be one of the biggest teams in the conference.
Starting 5: PG – Deshawn Freeman, SG – Brandon Guyton, SF – Derek Lambeth, PF – Cedric Thompkins, C – Tony Champion
6. Portland State Vikings
The Vikings ship all-but sunk over the off season. The team lost all-conference forward Anthony Lackey to graduation, starting point guard Aaron Fitzgerald transferred to Washington State and head coach Joel Sobotka resigned.
The Vikings do return starting shooting guard Jeb Ivey, who averaged 12.5 points last season. Troy DeVries will most likely start alongside Ivey in the backcourt, while Seamus Boxley will start at small forward.
JC transfer Seth Scott will start at power forward. Scott is a 6-foot-10 wingman, who will help soften the loss of Lackey. Freshman Marshal Hartman should bring size to the Viking front line.
Starting 5: G – Jeb Ivey, G – Troy DeVries, F – Seamus Boxley, F – Seth Scott, F – Marshal Hartman
7. Northern Arizona Lumberjacks
There is no doubt that this will be a rebuilding year for Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks return only two starters from last year’s team: Ryan McDade and Kodiak Yazzie. McDade will start at small forward after averaging 11.6 points and 7.1 rebounds. Yazzie will start at small forward after averaging 8.4 points last season.
JC transfer Aaron Bond leads a talented group of incoming freshman and transfers. Bond should see significant minutes at power forward and could force McDade to play a lot of center. Washington State transfer Kendall Minor should start at shooting guard, while Chris Ferguson could start at the point.
Starting 5: PG – Chris Ferguson, SG – Kendall Minor, SF – Kodiak Yazzie, PF – Aaron Bond, C – Ryan McDade
8. Idaho State Bengals
Senior Jeremy Brown will return in an attempt to keep the Bengals out of the Big Sky cellar. The shooting guard led Idaho State with 15.8 points last season.
Ray Munyagi and Rashad Kirkland will start at forward, while JC transfer Marquis Poole will most likely start at the point. Poole averaged 28 points at Mt. San Antonio College. Jesse Smith will most likely get the start at center. Danny Boticki should also see time at point guard.
Starting 5: PG – Marquis Poole, SG – Jeremy Brown, F – Rashad Kirkland, F – Ray Munyagi, C – Jesse Smith
G – David Bell, senior, Montana
F – Chris Hester, senior Eastern Washington
G – Jermaine Boyette, senior Weber State
F – Ryan McDade, senior Northern Arizona
G – Alvin Snow, junior, Eastern Washington
G – Jason Erickson, junior, Montana State
G – Jeremy Brown, senior Idaho State
F – Seth Scott, junior, Portland State
F – Brent Cummings, senior, Montana
F – Cedrick Thompkins, junior, Sacramento State