Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Big Sky Working On A New Logo

This article is a bit old, but from the Standard-Examiner comes word that and the Big Sky is working on a new logo.

The Big Sky Conference, where Weber State resides, is working on a new brand of its own to represent its identity as expands in July from a nine-team conference to 11 in all sports and 13 in football. The logo is likely to be unveiled around the league’s football media days in Park City on July 15-17.
I've heard in some circles suggestions that the Big Sky should go for a name change, since the name "Big Sky" doesn't necessarily fit anymore with the geographic footprint, but I don't see that happening.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Money Games and Montana Coaches Contracts

Daniel Martin from NBC Sports has a cool article on the concept of "money games" and how Montana has worked that into the contracts for Coach Wayne Tinkle and the assistant coaches.

According to the Associated Press, Tinkle must generate $80,000 per year in “money game” guarantees, and is able to share any additional money up to $150,000 with his assistants.

Tinkle will receive a base salary of $135,000, in addition to incentives and other bonuses for athletic and academic progress.

The most appealing part for the school, as the report points out, is that Tinker can have a more competitive salary, while not burdening the state. With revenue coming from other sources, Montana will not have to pay as much, but could keep him in the head coaching role.
Head over there and give the article a read.

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Interview With the Big Sky Commish

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle has a nice interview with Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton, and the second part of it is up. He had some interesting things to say about the state of Big Sky basketball, including this:

Having said all that, I think that it’s been too easy in the Big Sky Conference to put demands on our coaches, particularly on the men’s side, that causes them to have to go out and play games, not play home games. I’m trying to get the basketball coaches, the basketball administrators, the ADs to adjust how they fund basketball. On the men’s side, I see a huge scheduling issue. On the women’s side, I see a huge recruiting issue. We need to find a way to get talent. How do we do that? That’s going to be a major push over the next few years.
When I looked at attendance in the Big Sky last year, one of the things I talked about was how uninspiring their schedules were, especially at home. This obviously carries over to respect (or lack of) that the conference receives, as well as seeding in the NCAA Tournament.

Fullerton talked about the Big Sky in Bracket Busters, and how the biggest reason Montana got as good of a seed as they did was because they won a return game from Long Beach State (who they played in the Bracket Busters the year before), and I think that is true. Somehow, the Big Sky teams need to find ways to play more quality competition, especially if they can get something at home.

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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ayibakuro Preh Commits to Idaho State

According to Rivals, Idaho State has secured a commitment from big man Ayibakuro Preh. Preh is a 6'8'' forward that spent last season at Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana. He is originally from Nigeria.

Bill Evans had this to say:

"We are excited to have Preh in our program,” Evans said. “His best days of basketball are ahead of him. He can really help us at the defensive end and we look for him to also help us offensively. He is an outstanding student who plans to major in engineering."
Last season he averaged 6.9 points, 8.5 rebounds per game, and 2.4 blocks a contest, making him typical of many big men that sign in the spring. He will not help much on the offensive side of the ball (less than seven points per game at the JUCO level does not translate very well to DI), but the should be able to help out defensive and on the glass. Realistically, if you can get a big man that can help out in those areas late in the spring signing period, that is not a bad thing.

Preh is unofficially the fourth member of Idaho State's recruiting class.

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Vishal Banipal to Transfer From Idaho State

According to Barry Hayes of Hoop Stars Canada, guard Vishal Banipal will transfer from Idaho State.

6'2" guard Vishal Banipal (Calgary, AB/Southwest Academy '11) has departed Idaho State after one season.
Banipal signed with ISU last August, right before the start of the school year. The man nicknamed "The Sniper" had no impact in his first year, playing just 40 minutes all season long, averaging 0.7 points per game.

It is not too big of a shock to see him transfer... he was signed so late in the summer last year, which probably means he wasn't in former coach Joe O'Brien's immediate plans. That would also make it very possible he wasn't really in new Coach Bill Evans' plans. To that end, it is easy to see why he might be moving on. Hopefully he will turn up somewhere and play some good basketball.

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy Memorial Day

Just wanted to take this day and this platform to say thank you to all servicemen and women, dead or alive, retired or active. The USA is a great place to live, and much thanks to go our men and women in the military.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Dime Magazine Profiles Damian Lillard

Dime Magazine has put up a solid NBA draft profile of former Weber State guard Damian Lillard, and I was happy to be able to contribute with my view on his NBA potential.

"At times last season, Damian Lillard looked like a man amongst boys in the Big Sky - his best was simply better than other people's best. He missed most of the 2010-11 season with a foot injury, and he used the time off to get stronger and faster, earning rave reviews for his time in the weight room. His range starts the minute he steps on the court, and he shot 41% from beyond the arc, making just about three per game. His offensive game is far more than just launching threes, however. He is adept at getting into the lane (and is a strong finisher) and getting to the charity stripe, as he shot over eight free throws per game last year (making 89% of his attempts). He will play PG in the pros, and he has the skill set for that. He averaged four assists per game, and was a willing passer. Among all elite PGs in the country last year, his turnover rate was among the best. Defensively, he is average, but he has the athletic ability to get better. He may draw comparisons to Rodney Stuckey, because of the Big Sky ties, but he is more skilled (though less athletic) than Stuckey. He is not a natural point a la Kendall Marshall, but he could be the first one off the board because he knows how to score, and he should be ready to step in and contribute from day one."
Lillard is projected to be a lottery pick in this June’s draft, and could go in the top 10. He is widely expected to be the first point guard off the board, thanks to his NBA readiness and versatile scoring skills (especially from deep range on his jumpshot).

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Could Idaho State Be Facing Sanctions?

Other than a few bright moments, it has been a rough few seasons for Idaho State, and they hoped to get a fresh start with the hiring of Bill Evans. However, they might not quite be able to escape their past quite yet, as The Idaho State Journal writes that the men's basketball team is under investigation by the University for possible NCAA infractions.

’s expected that the NCAA itself will soon be involved in the matter, but right now university sources say it’s an internal investigation.

ISU Athletic Director Jeff Tingey would not elaborate on the nature or type of the alleged NCAA violations.

“According to the policies and procedures of the NCAA, while there’s an ongoing investigation the university’s not allowed to comment until the investigation is completed,” Tingey said.
Obviously not many details yet, but we will wait to see what (and hopefully there will be nothing) will emerge from this.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sacramento State Signs Joey Quigley

Sacramento State has secured yet another commitment for their recruiting class, with 6’8’’ F Joey Quiqley. Quigley attended Southerwestern Illinois College last year, and will begin his career with the Hornets as a junior eligibility wise. He is the sixth member of Sacramento State's recruiting class.

“Like some of the other recruits we’ve brought in this year, Joey is a very versatile player,” Katz said. “He can primarily play three positions (shooting guard and both forward spots), and even got some playing time at point guard in junior college. He is a tough kid who can handle and pass the ball well, and really knows how to play the game of basketball.”
Quigley played primarily as a power forward, but obviously looking at the quote from Katz he will be moved around a bit. Last year he averaged 7.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 0.6 blocks per game. He is a very solid athlete, as the article notes he was also an all-state football player in high school.

I don't think Quigley will be called upon to start many games, but he should continue to add depth for the Hornets as they look to qualify for the Big Sky tournament next season.

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Nice Article on PSU Recruit Aaron Moore

When I read and wrote that Portland State had signed JUCO big man Aaron Moore, the name sounded awfully familiar, but I couldn't figure out why. But when reading an article by Rob Dauster of NBCSports, it all became clear.

Moore is a central character in the fantastic book Play Their Hearts Out: A Coach, His Star Recruit, and the Youth Basketball Machine, a book I ranked as the third best high school or college basketball book that I had ever read (and one you should check out if you have not read it yet).

From Dauster's article:

Walker gets the majority of the attention because he is the guy that had Sports Illustrated write about him as a 14 year old, but the fact of the matter is that the book is about an entire team, and Walker was far from that team’s most heartbreaking story.

That title goes to Aaron Moore. Moore was a 6-foot-7 freshman that worked his way into Compton’s powerhouse Dominguez program, which has produced talents like Tyson Chandler and Brandon Jennings. But Moore’s upbringing was quite upsetting to read about. He was molested by his step-father before he even entered elementary school. He was propositioned — although, according to the book, never assaulted — by convicted child molester and former Dominguez head coach Russell Otis. His mother, who was receiving payouts from Otis for her son to play at Dominguez, tried to get Moore to return to the school to keep the money coming in. He was missing class and games as early as his sophomore season, and when he should have been attending prom and picking a school to attend, Moore was a homeless dropout.
Moore is a guy that will be very easy to root for, that is for sure. Here's to hoping he has a stellar two-year career for the Vikings.

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North Dakota Signs Texas Tech Transfer Jaron Nash

This happened a few days, but I am just able to sit down and write about. Due to senior Nick Haugen reportedly not returning to the team next season, North Dakota had a third scholarship available. It was used to sign Texas Tech transfer forward Jaron Nash, a 6'8'' F who will have two years of eligibility remaining.

Nash is transferring to be closer to his father, who has multiple sclerosis, according to the Grand Forks Herald. Because of this, he is appealing to the NCAA to be eligible to play this season for North Dakota.

Nash played in 27 games for the Red Raiders last year, averaging about eight minutes per game. He averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds per game. He shot 52.8% from inside the arc, but a dreadful 12/43 (27.9% from the free throw line). He had pretty average rebounding rates, and turned the ball over a lot more times than he got assists.

All that said, it is clear that if he is able to play this year, he will compete for a starting spot right away. There are four guys likely etched into the starting lineup - Jamal Webb, Aaron Anderson, Troy Huff, and Brandon Brekke - but the other spot is clearly up for grabs. The most likely candidate to step in was probably JUCO big man Alonzo Traylor, but he would have stiff competition from Nash.

Going into the offseason, frontcourt depth was a huge issue for UND. After the spring signing period, it is clear that North Dakota has done a lot to clear up their biggest weakness.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Weber State Makes Offer to Ben Emelogu

According to Rivals, Weber State has made an offer to 2013 prospect Ben Emelogu.

Emelogu is a shooting guard from Texas. Highlight videos can be found here... from brief watching, it appears he has a very nice shooting touch.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Idaho State Signs Tomas Sanchez

According to Twitter, Idaho State has signed JUCO guard Tomas Sanchez of Fresno City College.

Idaho St. signs Shoreline native 6'3 G Tomas Sanchez Co-MVP of CVC, 1st Team All State for Fresno City College (CA) per @Tomas206Hoop247
For a great profile on him, check out NorCal Basketball back on January 12th.

Maybe he is on the appropriate recruiting radars, maybe not, but some coaches are going to rue the day they passed on participating in the Tomas Sanchez sweepstakes.
He can play both guard spots, is an excellent passer, and can hit from long-distance. He was co-MVP of the Central Valley Conference, and first-team All-State for a very successful program. He looks like a guy that should be able to step into the lineup immediately for ISU and be one of the best newcomers in the conference.

Also need to mention that Sanchez was a teammate of Marcus Hall, a Portland State recruit.

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Southern Utah Signs JUCO Jayson Cheesman

Southern Utah has their fourth commitment of the year, as they have signed JUCO big man Jayson Cheesman to a National Letter of Intent. Cheesman is a 6'11'' big man that played for Salt Lake Community College.

"We are thrilled to have Jayson join the Thunderbird family next season as we enter the Big Sky," Robinson said. "Jayson brings needed experience, size, and skill to our frontline. He has been well coached under Coach Phillips and we look forward to his contributions to our program."
Cheesman averaged 7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game last year, shooting 50% from the field. Those numbers don't jump out at you, but big men are hard to find in the Big Sky, and he is certainly a big body that will at the very least be a nice rotation player. If he can be a solid rebounder and defender down low, that is a nice pickup.

Cheesman reportedly also had interest from San Francisco, Rhode Island, and San Jose State.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Portland State Has Big Plans for Stott Center Improvements

Portland State added a big video screen in their arena, the Stott Center, last year, and it appears that more big things will be on the way.

The Portland State administration hopes to change that with recently unveiled plans for a dramatic $44 million makeover that would transform the dated home of Vikings athletics into a striking, multipurpose venue highlighted by a 82-foot-high glass entry facing the Park Blocks.

Tentatively dubbed "Viking Pavilion," the plans call for replacing the eastern half of the building on Southwest Hall Street with a large concourse and a three-story arena that looks onto the Park Blocks. With seating for 4,700 for sports and 5,500 for performances, the new arena would more than triple the capacity of the current facility (1,500). The plans would leave the current gym intact at the rear of the facility and add a substantial amount of space for students, academics and physical education.
Once it is completed, that will certainly do a lot to inject life into the program. It should allow them to be consistent and a contender every year in the Big Sky.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Article on NAU Coach Jack Murphy

If you are interested in learning a bit more about new Northern Arizona head coach Jack Muprhy, the Northern Arizona website has a very nice article on him.

Jack Murphy was named the head coach at Northern Arizona University on Thursday, April 12. Almost one month later, he has transformed the program with a new coaching staff and signed a talented Arizona-based recruiting class that has brought renewed excitement about Lumberjack basketball.

"It has been a fun, wild ride," said Murphy sitting in his campus office. "Literally people tell you once you get hired it is a whirlwind. I can't think of any word better to describe it."
He appears to be a bright, young guy with high recommendations from a lot of people that are very well-respected in the basketball community. Obviously time will tell how the hire works out... but if I was a betting man, I would honestly say I think Murphy is going to do a great job with the Lumberjacks, and inject a lot of enthusiasm into the program immediately.

For a program that had a very rough year last season, he looks like, in my book, a homerun hire.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Big Sky Attendance Was Up in 2011-12

One of the earlier posts I wrote for this site was last year, looking at attendance in the Big Sky and wondering if there was a problem. Well, according to the attendance figures released by the NCAA, the Big Sky's attendance was up this year!

Since I just started blogging on the Big Sky this year, I think it is safe to assume that this website was the primary reason for the increase in attendance... (OK, I suppose correlation might not equal causation...)

Two years ago, the Big Sky was 20th out of 31 conferences in attendance with an average of 2,288 fans per game. Last year, the Big Sky moved up to 18th out of 31 conferences in attendance, and had an average of 2,532 fans per game. That is a pretty impressive increase.

Since I like spreadsheets so much, here is a team breakdown of the last two seasons, which should help see the team-by-team comparison very easily.

There are not too many surprises here. Not counting North Dakota and Southern Utah, four teams increased attendance, and five team decreased. Let's look at it.

Attendance increases:
- Eastern Washington got a boost of energy from new head coach Jim Hayford, and it certainly showed. They had the biggest increase in attendance, more than doubling the number of fans per game. Hayford has energized the EWU fanbase, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see that number continue to rise in the future, especially if they are able to have success this year with a lot of newcomers.
- Idaho State has a very passionate fanbase, and they were certainly energized by the great run that the Bengals had under Deane Martin. For the first time in awhile, they were relevant in the Big Sky, and it was good to see that reflected in the attendance.
- Montana stayed very steady, obviously. That should remain up this year, and hopefully rise a bit as the Grizzlies will be the preseason favorite.
- Weber State was helped by a full year of Damian Lillard. Certainly he was worth the price of admission every night, and lots of fans turned out to see a talent like is rarely seen in the conference. He was likely a reason for the boost for the conference as a whole, as opposing fans enjoyed seeing him also.

Decreases in attendance:
- Montana State was down 306 fans per game, as the fanbase becomes more and more disenchanted with head coach Brad Huse. It didn't help that they had a ton of new faces, and should again this year. This is a make or break year for Huse, as he is approaching the end of his contract and the fans are getting restless.
- Northern Colorado had a historic year the season before. It is not a surprise that attendance dropped a lot, since they lost many graduating seniors and recognizable faces, as well as the simple fact that they were not as good of a team as the year before. As they get back to the winning ways and being back in the top half of the conference, I suspect this number will get back to what is was in 2010-11.
- For Portland State, Northern Arizona, and Sacramento State... we don't need to sugarcoat it. Those attendance numbers are pitiful. Granted, all three teams play in small arenas (or at least, NAU does depending on where they play), but those attendance numbers are pretty pathetic. Northern Arizona just barely took the crown for lowest attendance. Fortunately, there is hope for all three... Portland State is improving their arena, and they look poised to consistently compete. Northern Arizona should have some extra excitement with new coach Jack Murphy, and he will hopefully get them competitive again. Sacramento State should have their best team in years this season. Hopefully we will see all three teams rise in attendance.

For the two joiners... North Dakota increased, and hopefully that number will go up again in their first season in the Big Sky. Southern Utah may have a difficult time reaching that attendance number again. They are moving from a solid conference in the Summit League, and they could struggle in head coach Nick Robinson's first season.

What are your impressions?

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Thursday, May 10, 2012

Danny Cheek and Josh Lepley Are No Longer on NAU Roster

The tumultuous offseason for Northern Arizona continues.As friend of bigskybball MTJack has pointed out, Danny Cheek and Josh Lepley are no longer listed on the Northern Arizona roster.

NAU is already losing James Douglas and Colin Gruber to transfer (as well as a couple walk-ons), and now they will be without a couple more. Safe to say things will be looking a lot different this year in Flagstaff.

Cheek was a guy that looked to have a really bright future, as he came into NAU relatively highly touted. He was billed as being a plus athlete for the Big Sky level with the ability to attack the rim, and the ability to be a good defender. However, things never developed his freshman year, and he didn't get a ton of playing time and didn't flash that ability. Still, I was pretty excited to see his future in the conference, and see what he would be able to do with some different coaching. It is a shame he has moved on.

The other guy on the move is Josh Lepley, who has been in the headlines a couple times over the past year, but all for things off of the court. He was dismissed from the team last year by then coach Mike Adras, for "actions and behaviors not conducive to what the program is about." According to commenters I had at the time, that seemed to stem from a general unhappiness that Lepley (and others) had with Coach Adras. That seemed to potentially be vindicated a bit after Adras was forced out and Lepley rejoined the team. I am unsure why he is transferring now.

Whenever there is a new head coach, there is often a bit of housecleaning involved. This appears to be a major one going on in Northern Arizona right now.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Southern Utah Signs Drake Thomas and Zach Ghormley

Southern Utah had signed one recruit, but it was one that would not help them this year. That was Austin Waddoups, who will be going on his LDS Mission. Now, head coach Nick Robinson has inked two recruits that will be able to play right away.

One is Drake Thomas, a six foot guard from Ovilla, Texas. He is not much of a scorer, but he is a good distributor. Last season, he averaged 5.7 PPG and 7.3 APG, showcasing his excellent playmaking ability.

Zach Ghormley is a 6'4'' guard in Garland, TX, and is a guy that does a little bit of everything. Last year he averaged ten points, six rebounds, and three assists per game. Those numbers don't jump out at you, but it shows his versatility, especially as he did this on a very good high school team.

"We are excited to welcome Drake and Zach to the Thunderbird family," Robinson said. "Both come from a championship program under Coach Forsett and are high-character individuals who come from strong families. Drake is a true point guard with tremendous leadership qualities and Zach is as competitive as they come at both ends of the floor. Both Zach and Drake will help us make the transition into the Big Sky Conference."
Early on we see some of Robinson's recruiting philosophy. High character guys that understand the importance of team, and will be willing to do what is needed to help the program. With their relatively low scoring averages, they do not care about getting their stats, and that is important within a team concept.

Of course, this recruiting philosophy should not be very surprising, since that is the type of player that Robinson himself was.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Big Sky is Recruiting Idaho

The Big Sky Conference has expanded from 9 members to 11 members (for basketball; there will be 13 football members), but they would like to add the Idaho Vandals, according to the Idaho Statesman.

As Idaho considers the future of its athletic department, Big Sky Conference Commissioner Doug Fullerton is convinced his league offers the Vandals their best path forward.

“I think I could sit at a debate table and be able to convince an awful lot of people that the Big Sky will be the best option,” Fullerton said Monday morning.
Frankly, it seems to make sense for both parties. It would be nice to get to an even number for the Big Sky, adding a solid program in Idaho. For the Vandals, they would maintain regional rivalries, and the Big Sky would seem to be of a similar quality to their program.

Idaho was in the Big Sky from 1963 until 1996.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Southern Utah Snags Austin Waddoups

Southern Utah has lured a recruit.

PG Austin Waddoups from American Fork has signed with Southern Utah after getting a scholarship offer on May 6. Idaho State also offered him a scholarship. The Bengals offered on May 4. As far as I can tell, it is the first recruit for SUU.

"It feels great - it feels like a huge stress relief," he said. "I kinda knew it was gonna be like this. A lot of people have told me I'm too small to play Division I ball. I wanted to be patient."

And waiting for something good worked out for Waddoups, who helped lead American Fork to a share of the Region 4 title this past season. He was the second-leading scorer on the Cavemen, which also boasted Utah State signees Quincy Bair and Marcel Davis.
However, he will not be helping SUU this year. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Waddoups will go on his LDS Mission starting this July, and will join the team for 2014. I believe Waddoups is the Thunderbirds' first recruit this year.

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Montana Awards Nick Emerson a Scholarship

Nick Emerson is not a new recruit, but he will be a new player getting a scholarship for Montana. Emerson was a redshirt walk-on last year, but he has earned a scholarship, according to Montana's website.

A 6-5, 200-pound forward, Emerson walked on at Montana this past year and practiced with the team during the 2011-12 season.

"We are very excited about awarding a scholarship to Nick Emerson of Columbia Falls," said Tinkle, who is currently in Spokane, Wash., at a Grizzly Scholarship Association function. "Nick walked on with the understanding that he could earn a scholarship, and he certainly did that during his redshirt year.
As a high school senior, Emerson averaged 18 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists per game. He will join a deep backcourt rotation, and may not make a big impact this season. But he could follow in the footsteps of a guy like Shawn Stockton, a guy that didn't necessarily make a big impact early in his career, but was a key reserve by the time he left Montana.

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Friday, May 4, 2012

Northern Arizona Makes An Offer to Tanner Lancona

Northern Arizona head coach Jack Murphy was busy in recruiting for this season, and he is now getting a head start on next year. According to Tanner Lancona, he has received a scholarship offer from Northern Arizona.

Just got an offer from NAU thanks Coach Murphy see you soon!
Lancona is a 6'8'' PF that is finishing up his junior year. He is a dual sport athlete, as he plays football as well, so there is probably not much question about his athleticism.

Though NAU has signed a little bit of help in the frontcourt, they are still in dire need of depth up there, so he could have a chance to play early if he does decide to come to Northern Arizona.

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Montana Highlight Video

Nice highlight video of the 2011-12 season put together by Montana.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Portland State Signs Aaron Moore and Marcus Hall

Portland State also has a couple of additions to their roster for the upcoming season. The JUCO route has been good to Tyler Geving, and he continues to go for that type of player this year.

The first to sign was Marcus Hall, who went to Fresno City College last year. He averaged 12.9 points and 4.1 rebounds there last year. As 6'4'', he can shoot the ball well from the outside (45.2% from downtown), and is a versatile defender and athlete. He is not a big scorer, but will do all of the little things for the Vikings next season.

"Marcus is obviously a good defender, rebounder and athlete and he can really knock down open shots," Geving said. "Marcus does a little bit of everything. But most of all, he has winning qualities, and he proved that by winning Most Valuable Player honors and leading his team to the California Juco championship."
Today, the Vikings also signed Aaron Moore, who is 6'8'' and will be a junior this season. He averaged 14 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year. While PSU loses Chehales Tapscott and Nate Lozeau down low, Moore, returner Renado Parker, and Lamont Prosser (a JUCO forward that was signed in the fall) should continue to give them a solid trio up front.

"The best thing that Aaron brings to our team is a lot of versatility. He can face up and shoot it out to 18 feet, and he can also get a basket down on the block for us," said Geving. "He is a good athlete and a very good rebounder. Losing Chehales (Tapscott to graduation), that is something we need to address is rebounding. We have to make sure we are getting the job done on the boards and Aaron can do that.
Moore is the fourth member of their class, when including transfer Tim Douglas.

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Northern Arizona Roster Moves

Jack Murphy has been busy in his first few weeks as head coach of Northern Arizona. Slowly word has been coming in about the new additions to the roster, and NAU's official website has details on five new players for Northern Arizona.

Northern Arizona will have three scholarship signees, one walk-on, and one transfer, it has been announced.

Forward Jordyn Martin of Palo Verde High School in Las Vegas, forward Blake Hamilton of Pasadena (Calif.) High School and guard DeWayne Russell of Peoria (Ariz.) High School have signed National Letters-of-Intent to attend NAU this fall. Murphy also got commitments from former Tempe McClintock standout forward Cameron Forte, a transfer from Texas Tech University, and Sunnyslope guard Bryce Gosar.
We have talked a bit about Jordyn Martin, who is the big man of the class at 6'7'', and who should have a chance to step in from day one with NAU's lack of size. He averaged nine rebounds per game last season.

Blake Hamilton is 6'5'', but he may be called upon to play in the frontcourt a bit as well, if his high school numbers are any indication. He averaged 16 PPG, 11 RPG, and 4 BPG last season. His cousin (Jordan Hamilton) is in the NBA, and his father played college basketball as well, so obviously he comes from a very strong athletic background. Murphy said he called him on his first day as NAU head coach, and he could be a nice player for the Lumberjacks as early as next season.

DeWayne Russell is a 5'10'' that led the state of Arizona in scoring last season at 27 PPG. He also averaged over five assists per game, as well as almost four rebounds and four steals per contest. He originally committed to USC in January, but decommitted after the season (rumors are that he may have had academic issues, or USC may have lost some interest). He had a few other Division I offers after leaving USC, and it appears that he could step in and get immediate minutes.

Cameron Forte led the state of Arizona in scoring two seasons ago, when he averaged a robust 36 points per game. He spent last season at Texas Tech, but will transfer to NAU. He also averaged 12.7 PPG, and stands at 6'6''. He should have all four years of eligibility remaining, if I am understanding it all correctly. He could be a big coup for the Lumberjacks, as he has the potential to be an elite scorer in the Big Sky.

The last signee is Bryce Gosar, who was invited to walk-on at Northern Arizona. He stands at 6'1'', and averaged 21.6 PPG last season. Both of his parents played for Northern Arizona, which officially helped in convincing him to come aboard even if they don't have a scholarship for him at this time. He could contribute early as well.

For many Big Sky teams, they sometimes have to take on a few junior college guys to fill out their roster, especially late in the spring. That Murphy was able to get four freshmen and a DI transfer in such a short period of time is extremely impressive. The future that seemed a bit bleak a few weeks ago suddenly looks a lot more rosy.

Not everything is rosy though. We already talked about Colin Gruber transferring, and it seems that James Douglas will leave also (his name is no longer on the roster). He was one of the best freshmen in the Big Sky last year after leading the Lumberjacks in scoring with 11.8 PPG. He had the potential to be a really dynamic offensive player, especially as NAU got more talent and he was not asked to do as much. It will be interesting to see where he goes.


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