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West Coast Conference Preview

November 13, 2003 Conference Notes No Comments



West Coast Conference Preview

by Andria Wenzel

All-WCC first team
G – Blake Stepp, Sr., Gonzaga
G – Alex Acker, So., Pepperdine
G – Brandon Worthy, Fr., Loyola Marymount
F – Ronny Turiaf, Jr., Gonzaga
F – Cory Violette, Sr., Gonzaga

Player of the Year

G – Blake Stepp, Sr., Gonzaga

Freshman of the Year

Damian Martin, G, Fr., Loyola Marymount (Australia)

1. Gonzaga (24-9 overall, 12-2 WCC, first)

If the Zags steer clear from injuries there is no team in the conference that will come close to their talent level. Ranked 12th in the Hoopville preseason poll, the Bulldogs post a starting lineup that can upset any team from UConn to Arizona. Seniors Blake Stepp, Cory Violette and Richard Fox along with junior Ronny Turiaf have an offensive output that will go uncontested in the conference and lead the team to another NCAA tournament appearance.

Returning Starters
C – Richard Fox, Sr. (6.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
G – Tony Skinner, Sr. (9.2 ppg)
G – Blake Stepp, Sr. (18.0 ppg, 6.0 apg)
C – Cory Violette, Sr. (11.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg)

Supporting Cast
G – Kyle Bankhead, Sr. (7.5 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
F – Ronny Turiaf, Jr. (15.6 ppg, 6.2 rpg)

WCC coaches haven’t slept comfortably since the end of last year, thinking of the fact that Turiaf, Fox and Violette will be one of the most menacing frontcourts in the nation. If a WCC team chooses to concentrate defensively on the frontcourt, guards Tony Skinner and Stepp are willing to dish or knock down the jumper. The Bulldogs biggest trouble could come from the athletic backcourt of Pepperdine, but the Zags will cruise to WCC championship glory.

2. San Diego (18-12 overall, 10-4 WCC, second)

The team that upset the Bulldogs in the WCC tournament last year looks like the team that could make the fastest fall to the bottom of the conference with four starters departing, including center Jason Keep (18.0 ppg) and forward Jason Blair (17.1 ppg).

The Toreros could be helped with the addition of sharp shooter Brett Melton, who sat out last season after transferring from the University of Illinois. The team’ s only returning starter, Cory Belser, has been mostly known for his defense and has been asked to pick up his offensive game. Mike McGrain who saw time last season off the bench will take the starting point while last season’s bench spark plug Nick Lewis, will have to rework his game to spark from the tip.

Returning Starters
F -Corey Belser, Jr. (4.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

Supporting Cast:
F/C – Nick Lewis, So. (8.6 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
G – Mike McGrain, Jr. (2.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg, 2.8 apg)
G – Brad Lechtenberg, Sr. (4.1 ppg)

San Diego will have to rely on three newcomers to the team – Brandon Gay, Brice Vounang and Michael Hubbard. Gay will attempt to make up for the frontcourt losses. The 6-foot-8 forward will attempt to adjust to the Division I game after being named MVP of the Jayhawk West Conference while averaging 14.9 ppg and 8.4 rpg at Seward County CC in Kansas. Voungang spent time at Eastern Oklahoma JC and averaged 18.0 ppg, 9.0 rpg as a forward. He and Gay will take time to fill the void left by Kepp and Blair. Hubbard, a guard, hasn’t played in year after sitting out last season with an MCL injury.

3. San Francisco (15-14 overall, 9-5 WCC, third)

The Dons return four players who saw starting time last season and have two freshman recruits that may have the ability to break into the rotation. San Francisco was on the brink last year, beating the teams they were supposed to, while falling to the Toreros and Bulldogs. With four returning starters that will become more suited to their individual roles on the team, the Dons have the opportunity to score upsets, but will be tested in an overall improved conference.

Returning Starters
G – John Cox, Sr. (15.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
F – James Bayless, Sr. (10.0 ppg, 5.5 rpg)
F- Alvin Broussard, Sr. (8.3 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
G – Jason Gaines, Jr. (3.0 ppg, 5.1 apg)

Supporting Cast:
G – Jovan Harris, Sr. (4.4 ppg)

The passing ability of Jason Gaines and John Cox’s scoring ability will combine for another very talented WCC backcourt. But the question mark falls with contribution from two members of the freshman class; Australian forward Tom Burns who averaged 25.0 ppg and 12.0 rpg at Balwyn HS and Alan Wiggins who scored 15.3 ppg at Horizon Christian HS.

4. Pepperdine (15-13 overall, 7-7 WCC, fourth)

Breaking records is usually a good thing, but the Waves ended their four-year streak of appearing in the postseason (two NITs, two NCAA tourneys) in 2002-03 after injuries knocked three starters out of the lineup for the majority of the season.
Pepperdine’s success will rest heavily on the shoulders of forward Glen McGowan – who Pepperdine is counting on to return to the frontcourt after rehabilitating from knee surgery. With the backcourt solid and tall – two 6-foot-5 guards – the emphasis will be how McGowan, junior forward Robert Turner and sophomore center Derick Grubb play together.

Starters Returning (3)
G – Alex Acker (13.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 4.3 apg)
G – Terrance Johnson (15.0 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.9 apg)
F – Robert Turner (7.0ppg, 3.1 rpg)

Supporting Cast:
Derick Grubb

Pepperdine was picked to tie for second in the conference with Saint Mary’s, but the Waves have the difference makers. With freshman of the year Alex Acker directing traffic and Terrance Johnson (2003 All-Conference team) at shooting guard, the 6-foot-5 guards may have the best chance in the conference to upset Stepp and Gonzaga. The Waves also welcome four players who redshirted last year, one true freshman and on JC transfer.

5. Saint Mary’s (15-15 overall, 6-8 WCC, fifth)

The Gaels were picked in the coaches’ poll to tie for second place in the conference with Pepperdine, despite losing starting guards Anthony Woodards and Samuel Saint-Jean. Head coach Randy Bennett – in his third year with Saint Mary’s – has been an assistant coach with Pepperdine and San Diego, bringing him great familiarity and respect in the conference.

Saint-Jean was the first player to make the All-WCC team since 1999 and Woodards was named WCC Defender of the Year, so the holes to fill are certainly not insignificant.

Returning Starters
F – Daniel Kickert, So. (12.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg)
F – Chase Poole, Sr. (8.7 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
G/F – Tyler Herr, Sr. (7.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg, started in 12 games)
F – Frederic Adijwanou, Sr. (9.8 ppg, 4.8 rpg, started in six games)
G – Paul Marigney, Jr. (11.3 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 2001- ’02 stats)

Supporting Cast:
G/F – Jonathan Sanders, Jr.

If the Gaels want to live up to their preseason billing, then guard Paul Marigney will have to show no ill effects from returning to the court after sitting out 2002-03 with a torn ACL. In his sophomore season with the Gaels he averaged 11.3 ppg and 4.2 rpg and it will be he who will shoulder the loss of last year’s starting backcourt. The burden could possibly be lifted if the frontcourt of Daniel Kickert and Chase Poole perform to capability and attract defensive pressure until Marigney can acclimate himself to the pace of the game.

6. Portland (11-17 overall, WCC, sixth)

The Pilots’ starting guards will try to improve on their 2002-03 stats, after both were named to the All-WCC honorable mention team. Donald Wilson and Casey Frandsen are the heart of a team that struggles with an inconsistent frontcourt, especially in the rebounding department.

Returning Starters
G – Casey Frandsen, Sr. (12.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg)
G – Adam Quick, Sr. (9.7 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
G – Karl Aaker, Jr. (5.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G – Donald Wilson (11.9 ppg, 3.8 rpg)

Supporting Cast:
C – Andreas Gahlmann, Jr.
G – Eugene Jeter, So.
F – Patrick Galos, Jr.
F – Dustin Geddis, Sr.

The Pilots backcourt will once again have to carry them unless the frontcourt finds some sort of consistency and is able to grab the ball off the backboard. Look for Wilson to have an outstanding year and be named to the All-WCC team.

7. Loyola Marymount (11-20 overall, WCC, seventh)

The Lions were a young team that scored upsets over Gonzaga, Montana and South Carolina State last season. But more importantly the team lost 10 games by less than eight points and all that could change this year with an experienced lineup ready to step on the floor.

Returning Starters
G- Charles Brown, Jr. (11.1 ppg, 4.4 apg)
G/F – Keith Kincaide, Sr. (9.2 ppg)
F- Sherman Gay, Sr. (9.0 ppg, 60 blocks)
C – Chris Ayer, So.
G – Wes Wardrop, So. (4.7 ppg)

Supporting Cast:
G – Brandon Worthy, So. (11.0 ppg)

Sophomore guard, Brandon Worthy, the team’s offensive Player of the Year, will step into the starting five while junior Charles Brown, who was third in the WCC with assists, should expand upon his floor leading ability. Sherman Gay and Chris Ayer will try and control the frontcourt while swingman Keith Kincaide will be looked upon to lead the team with his five years of experience. The Lions may not be ripe enough too win the WCC tourney, but scoring more upsets this season and finishing in the top half of the conference may not be a surprise.

8. Santa Clara (13-15 overall, WCC, eighth)

Like Pepperdine, Santa Clara will be exuberant if the injury bug doesn’t make any unplanned visits. Two-time All-WCC player Kyle Bailey, after having surgery and rehabbing an injured leg, will return this season with his impresiive scoring ability. With forward Jim Howell returning for his senior season after making All-WCC honorable mention last year, this will be the first time an experienced Howell and Bailey will be able to share the floor. Add 3-point shooter Brandon Rohe – who broke two of Steve Nash’s records – and the Broncos will have a more educated and tested lineup on the court this season.

Starters Returning
C – Jim Howell, Sr., (9.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg)
G – Brandon Rohe, So., (10.6 ppg)
G – Ethan Rohde, Jr., (9.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg)

Supporting Cast
G – Alex Kargbo, Sr.
G – Doron Perkins, Jr.
F – Jordan Legge, Jr.
F- Scott Borchart, So.

The biggest pitfall of this team could be that the team’s two potential top scorers have never shared the hardwood before. It may take Rohe and Bailey time to adapt to one another. Rohe who made 51 three-pointers and attempted 145 will be competing for shooting time with Bailey, who led the Broncos in scoring before last season’s injury. Throw Southwestern Oregon CC transfer Doron Perkins into the mix, an athletic player who averaged 25.0 ppg and 6.5 apg, and Santa Clara will have the bodies to score, but it may not all come together until midseason.

     

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