Friday, September 28, 2012

Idaho State Beating Sacramento State Was Last Year's Craziest Comeback

According to Ken Pomeroy's data.

I'll let him tell the story.

1) Idaho State at Sacramento State, 1/14/12
The situation: Sacramento State 54-32, with possession, 10:29 left. (0.33%)
The outcome: Idaho St. 68-67.
Comments: As Big Sky previewer emeritus for College Basketball Prospectus, I’m more interested in the conference’s events than the average human. So it was surprising on a rainy January evening to see this second-half score flash across my computer screen. You see Sacramento State had owned the Big Sky basement, having finished last in the league four straight seasons, and being 0-4 at this juncture, appeared headed to a fifth-consecutive last-place finish. But on this night, the Hornets were not just beating Idaho State but crushing their soul. Ripping their heart out and having it for dinner with a garnish of offensive rebounds and free throws. Good for them!

It wasn’t until two weeks later that I discovered they were still winless in conference, somehow blowing their enormous advantage in this one. This game had the twist of a four-point play deciding the outcome. Kenny McGowen (32% from three, 78% from the line) was responsible for the winning points with eight seconds to go. A final possession for the Hornets resulted in Sherrod Baldwin blocking a three-point attempt, his lone block of the season.
New Big Sky member Southern Utah also got a mention with the seventh best comeback in all of college basketball last season..

7) Oakland vs. Southern Utah, 3/4/12
The situation: Oakland 81-70, Southern Utah ball, 3:13 remaining (0.58%)
The result: Southern Utah 84-82.
Comments: The only March game on the list, this was a quarterfinal in the Summit League tourney. The six-seed beat the three-seed here with the Thunderbirds providing a parting gift to the conference before their move to the Big Sky.
Hopefully we will more zaniness this year!

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Zach Gengler Verbals to Portland State

Last week Portland State picked up a verbal commitment from guard Zach Gengler, according to a report from Ian Ruder for the Oregonian.

His top three were PSU, San Diego, and Pacific. He is a 6'2'' guard that is already high high school's career scoring leader. According to his high school coach, he is already good enough of a defender to play at the college level. Last year he averaged 21.1 points, five rebounds, and an impressive 4.3 steals per contest.

Portland State's recruiting has leaned toward junior college guys in recent years, so it's nice to see them nab a high school with a lot of potential. Looking at the Viking's roster makeup, he seems like he will have to chance to earn playing time early in his career, especially with his defensive abilities.

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Projecting Starters For Big Sky Teams, Part 2

The time has come to try and project the starters for all of the Big Sky teams. Part 1 can be found here. Let's take a look at the next three teams.

G - Antonio Biglow
G - Christian Moon
F - Xavier Blount
F - Flavien Davis
F - Eric Norman
FG - Jamie Stewart
FB - Jeff Budinich

Comments: There are so many new faces on the Bobcats that it is tough to peg down a lineup at this stage, especially in the frontcourt. The backcourt appears a little more settled. Antonio Biglow comes highly regarded, and Christian Moon was solid for them as well. Xavier Blount can play the two or three. Jamie Stewart has the ability to backup both guard spots. The frontcourt, though, seems to be anyone's guess. Jeff Budinich is the most experienced returner, but he will be serving a suspension to start the year. Flavien Davis would be a bit undersized for the four, but put up good rebounding numbers in junior college. Eric Norman is a transfer from SMU that I know they are excited about. There are a lot of guys that will be in the mix there.

G - Jamal Webb
G - Aaron Anderson
F - Troy Huff
F - Brandon Brekke
F - Alonzo Traylor
FG - Josh Schuler
FB - Jaron Nash

Comments: It seems to me that much of UND's success in their first year in the Big Sky will depend on Troy Huff. He has the ability to be an all-conference guy in the conference, but he seemed to regress a bit from his freshman to sophomore year. Jamal Webb can be a nice PG, but Aaron Anderson was their most efficient player last year. Brandon Brekke is a nice inside player, and he should finally have help with the additions of Traylor and Nash. Whether Josh Schuler starts or not, he will see tons of minutes.

G - Stallon Saldivar
G - Gabe Rogers
F - Gaellen Bewernick
F - Ephraim Ekanem
F - Jordyn Martinb
FG - Michael Dunn
FB - Ben Olaynika

Comments: Another tough lineup to project because of all the turnover on the roster and coaching staff. The backcourt would seem to be set, as both Saldivar and Rogers are seniors with a ton of experience, and Dunn will be a senior as well. They will all need to be leaders of the team. Gaellen Bewernick was a bright spot for them last year, and can play the three or four even though he is only 6'6''. The frontcourt doesn't appear to be very deep, and I suspect Jack Murphy will play lots of small ball. It will be an interesting year in Flagstaff.


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Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Look at Keron DeShields and Jordan Gregory

With the news that Montana's Will Cherry will likely miss 10-12 weeks with a broken foot, the word is that either Keron DeShields or Jordan Gregory will be starting in his place during that time. I am guessing that not many people know about them, so I thought we should shed a little light on their games.

If I had to bet, I would say that Keron DeShields would be the one to take the starting spot. He is 6'2'', and though he seemed a more natural fit at the two, a backcourt of him and Kareem Jamar could work. He played 161 minutes last year as a true freshman, and didn't have a ton of impact. He made 8/22 from downtown, but was very much a situational and mop-up player. However, he certainly has the talent to take on a bigger role and be a very nice player for Montana.

Anyone that knows about his background knows that mentally, he is a very tough guy. He had a tough upbringing, and so you know the moment of starting would not be too big for him. He is a diverse offensive player, with the ability to hit from the outside or take it to the rim. He averaged 20 ppg in high school in Baltimore. In his limited time last year, he didn't dish out a bunch of assists, but he did have a solidly low turnover rate. I believe he will have a very bright future for Montana.

Jordan Gregory played a bit less (75 minutes last year), but I know Grizzlies fans think he will have a nice career. He was only 2/9 from downtown, but from watching him in warmups, he has a nice, fundamentally sound stroke (which I know was something a lot of the scouting reports said he would need to work on. He is a very good scorer, and scored 24 ppg as a junior in high school. He seems to be to be a bit more of a pure PG than DeShields..

Montana fans, who do you think will get the nod in Cherry's absence?

*Photo credit from here

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Marko Kovacevic Ruled Ineligible

It has been a rough week for the Montana Grizzlies, and as a result, the Big Sky race appears to be even more open.

There were some rumors floating around, and Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg has confirmed, that Montana big man Marko Kovacevic has been ruled academically ineligible.

Kovacevic, a potential replacement for graduated center Derek Selvig, has been ruled academically ineligible next season because he did not achieve a high enough grade in a math class he took at Western Nebraska Community College, a source said. Montana is appealing the ruling and hopes to receive definitive word from the NCAA sometime next month.
Assuming they do not win their appeal, tt is a big blow for Montana's frontcourt, because they do not have much depth there. It appeared that Kovacevic was going to be in line to start, and would have been the post scorer they didn't really have last year.

Mathias Ward will play the 4 or 5, but he is a jump shooter (a really good one). Eric Hutchison should get plenty of minutes, but he doesn't bring much offensively. Andy Martin was a redshirt candidate, but will probably play this year though he is raw. As Mslacat pointed out in the comments of an earlier post, this could open up playing time for Spencer Coleman (my projected starter at the three) and freshman Jake Wiley to get plenty of minutes at the four.

It looks like Montana will be extremely perimeter-oriented once again.

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Will Cherry May Miss 10-12 Weeks

Last night I posted that Will Cherry could miss 6-8 weeks with an injury, but it turns out that may have been a bit optimistic. CBS Sports' Jeff Goodman is reporting that it may put Cherry out 10-12 weeks.

Now Cherry is out 10-12 weeks with a broken right foot, sources told Montana coach Wayne Tinkle wasn't allowed to talk about the specifics of the injury, but was informed that it occurred this past weekend in a pickup game.
The injury and timeframe was confirmed by Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg.

We will get deeper into what this means for Montana in the future on the blog, but for now it looks like Keron DeShields or Jordan Gregory is likely to get the start in place of Cherry.

The bottom line is this... if Cherry is back for conference season, and back at full strength, this might wind up benefiting Montana in the long run, because it will give Gregory/DeShields extra experience. However, if the injury lingers, or causes Cherry to be anywhere less than 100%, this will be bad news for Montana.

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Projecting Starters For Big Sky Teams, Part 1

The start of the season is about a month and a half away, but it is time to speculate on what the lineups might look like for the teams in the Big Sky. I'll just take it in alphabetical order, three at a time! Would love to hear thoughts and opinions, because I am not working from any inside information, just my guesses.

It should be obvious, but I will try to get the starters right, and the first guard and first big man off the bench.

G - Justin Crogsile
G - Jeffrey Forbes
F - Collin Chiverton
F - Venky Jois
C - Martin Seiferth
FIRST GUARD - Parker Kelly
FIRST BIG - Jordan Hickert

Comments: The toughest spots to project are the 4/5 positions, because both starters and their top reserve have all graduated. Venky Jois seemed to impress on the Canada trip, so he gets the nod here. Martin Seiferth is a transfer from Oregon, and should be a good post man in the Big Sky. Danny Powell is another name to remember, because he is good enough to get minutes right away. In the backcourt, they will have a lot of options once again. I'm not sure Parker Kelly will start, but he will have the chance to be in at the end of a lot of games. Kevin Winford is a great fourth guard, and they have a couple newcomers (Daniel Hill and Ivan Dorsey) who could play as well. They will have a deep squad.

G - Melvin Morgan
G - Tomas Sanchez
F - Andre Hatchett
F - Nnamdi Ezenwa
F - Jakub Kusmieruk
FG - Sherrod Baldwin
FB - Neveij Walters

Comments: This might be the toughest lineup in the Big Sky to project, because there is so much turnover on the roster (and coaching staff). A lot of this is pure speculation. I really like Tomas Sanchez coming in the backcourt, and from what I know of him it seems like he will be a really solid player. Up front, Andre Hatchett was solid for them last year, though he was forced to play out of position as a four. Jakub Kusmieruk may start, but on the other hand he may not play more than the 11 mins per game he played last year. Ezenwa and Walters are athletic but not super big. ISU will not be a tall team this season. Bengals fans, any thoughts?

G - Will Cherry
G - Kareem Jamar
F - Spencer Coleman
F - Mathias Ward
F - Marco Kovacevic
FG - Kevin Henderson
FB - Eric Hutchison

Comments: Nothing is easier to pencil in than a Cherry/Jamar backcourt, which will be the best in the Big Sky and one of the best out west. Mathias Ward is also a shoo-in starter, and could even lead the team in scoring. The other two spots are tougher to predict. I have Spencer Coleman at the three, but he will have to fight off Kevin Henderson and Keron DeSheilds for that spot. Jordan Gregory should be in the mix for backup time at the one as well, which is suddenly an important spot after the injury to Will Cherry. I like Kovacevic to get time over Hutchison or fellow newcomer Andy Martin. However, there are some rumors around that Kovecevic may not be eligible... I am trying to see if I can find anything out on that.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Will Cherry Out 6-8 Weeks

Don't have any details yet, but the word is that Will Cherry will be out for about 6-8 weeks. That was snuck into an article about Montana's schedule this year.

Both returning guards were first team all-league selections last season, although Cherry, who led the Griz in scoring (15.8 ppg) as a junior, recently suffered an injury and is expected to be out six to eight weeks.
Cherry is the best defensive player in the conference (and one of the best defensive guards in the country), and the odds on favorite for Big Sky POY. I will try to find out more information about the injury and pass it on.

Hopefully he has a speedy and full recovery.

UPDATE: Got this tweeted to me from Shaun Rainey, a sports reporter in Missoula.

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Chris Miller Verbals to Northern Arizona

Last weekend wing man Chris Miller gave a verbal commitment to Northern Arizona, according to Josh Gershon. Miller becomes the third player committed in what is shaping up to potentially be the best recruiting class in the Big Sky next season.

Last year Miller averaged 21 points and six rebounds per game, and was forced to play inside a lot, showcasing his versatility.

"I went up there a month ago and really liked what was going on," said Miller, who averaged 21 points and nearly six rebounds a game for Greenway last season when he was asked to play inside the paint a lot because of a lack of height on the team. "He really wants to find top in-state talent and I want to be part of that."
Miller is from Phoenix, showing that head coach Jack Murphy is looking to grab the in-state talent.

Murphy has impressed myself and lots of scouts and writers since he has been hired. It is hard to imagine a worst season than NAU had last year, but Murphy has injected a ton of life and hope into the program. With three guys already in the fold for the next recruiting class, the future will be bright for the Lumberjacks.

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Incoming Montana Grizzly Jake Wiley

Bob Meseroll of The Missoulian has a nice article on Jake Wiley, who will be a freshman at Montana this season.

Jake Wiley’s path to the University of Montana was strewn with obstacles.

The Griz basketball freshman was raised in a rough-and-tumble neighborhood near Long Beach, Calif. He admittedly surrounded himself with friends who were bad influences and owned a 1.6 grade point average at the end of his freshman year at Lakewood High.

Right after that school year, his father packed up and took his son to Newport, Wash., a town of a little more than 2,000 people northeast of Spokane on the Pend Oreille River where his father’s parents lived.

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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Skol Vikings

We interrupt your scheduled Big Sky information for this:

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Eric Norman Confirmed Eligible Immediately for Montana State

Last month, Montana State signed SMU transfer forward Eric Norman, and the thought was that he would be eligible to play right away, because (from all accounts), he was essentially cut by new SMU coach Larry Brown.

That was confirmed earlier this week, as Gidal Kaiser reports that Montana State head coach Brad Huse found out late last week and announced on Tuesday that Norman would indeed be eligible to play immediately.

“That was our hope,” Huse said of the ruling, “and it worked out well to have Eric in a situation where he’s able to play this year. It gives us a lot of depth on the front line.”
Montana State will certainly have options up front, as they have eight forwards and ten frontcourt players on the roster for next season.

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Eastern Washington Interested in PG Justin Byrd

I got a tip on twitter earlier today from Aaron Burgin that Eastern Washington is going to be watching a California PG named Justin Byrd workout this week.

Burgin goes on to call Byrd "one of Southern California's most underrated guards." There was a nice interview on NC Hoops with him, which can be found here.

Justin Byrd is one of the most versatile point guards in San Diego, if
not Southern California. He slashes. He scores. He rebounds. He
passes. He defends.
He’s at his best in the big games. He wants to take the big shots.
And if you’re outside of North County, you’ve probably never heard
of him – until now.
Byrd averaged about 16 points, eight rebounds, and three assists per game last year.

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A Couple Montana State Links

Gidal Kaiser was busy last week. In addition to his writeup on future Bobcat Vance Wentz, he wrote a couple more articles of note that may be of interest to MSU and Big Sky fans.

He wrote about former Bobcat standout Bobby Howard, who is now trying to become a coach. He was hired on at Minot State University (the Magic City!), and it will be fun to see his coaching career progress after a solid Big Sky career.

He also wrote an article on new MSU assistant Shawn Dirden, who is back on MSU's staff after a year at the University of South Dakota.  He is pleased to be back coaching at the Division I level, as he also spent a few years coaching high school basketball between his first and second stint in Bozeman.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Scotty Tyler Commits to Idaho State

Lost in the hubbub of all the commitments last week was that 6'7'' forward Scotty Tyler will be playing his college ball at Idaho State.

An interesting tidbit on Tyler, is that Miller also reports that he picked Idaho State over an offer from Penn State. I read also that he had an official visit scheduled to Penn State later in the month, so obviously it's a nice little coup for Bill Evans and his staff.

Tyler averaged 14.1 ppg as a junior, and his school bio lists him as a "Long, skilled small forward who can stretch a defense with his ability to shoot from the perimeter." He will need to bulk up, but even his videos show his solid range.

Frankly, getting a commitment in the early signing period is a great step for Idaho State. As Bengals fans well know, they were almost notorious under head coach Joe O'Brien for needing a late summer recruit to fill out their roster. To get someone of Tyler's caliber at this stage in the recruiting process is a big step in the right direction for new head coach Bill Evans.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2012

PG Jordan Wilson Commits to Northern Colorado

Northern Colorado has a nice recruiting class in place this year, and they are getting the 2013 class off to a great start as well.

According to ESPN, Los Angeles PG Jordan Wilson has verbally committed to Northern Colorado .

Francisco also desribes Wilson (in the article), as a "true point guard who has a bevy of moxie. He affects the game in mulitple ways"

He goes on -  "Last season he led his team to the semi-finals at the prestigious Torrey Pines tournament and put together some dominating moments versus highly regarded DeMatha Catholic (Md.) and their ESPN 100 point guard James Robinson (Pittsburgh signee). In other words, I feel Northern Colorado got a steal."

Wilson is just 5'7'' and 150 pounds (according to his ESPN profile), but plays bigger than his size. He is super quick, and can kill you on the break with his ability to just be up on the defense in a second. According to reports he has a great crossover, and a solid midrange jumpshot. At the college level, the lack of ideal size can definitely be overcome (as has been shown time and time again) if you possess other traits, which he seems to possess.

UNC has traditional not been one of the more athletic teams in the Big Sky, but they have some excellent athletes coming in this year, and Wilson will add another dynamic that is not currently on the squad. I suspect that during his time in the Big Sky, he will be one of the most exciting players in the conference, and worth the price of admission every night.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Vance Wentz Verbally Commits to Montana State

I got the news late last week that Montana State got into the party for verbal commitments, getting one from 6'4'' G Vance Wentz out of Kansas. By the time he graduates, he will have been a four-year starter at the two guard spot, which could give him a chance to play early, as MSU will have some seniors at that spot.

Wentz is a shooter with tons of range and a quick release. As a sophomore, he averaged 15 ppg on 39%, and was drawing interest reportedly from teams like Missouri State, Belmont, and Northern Colorado. As a junior, he bumped up his average to 16 ppg, while also getting five rebounds and three assists per contest.

There seem to be some concerns about his ability to create his own shot, and that he may be spot-up shooter more than anything else. Still, if he is a good enough shooter, and has a quick enough release, there is no reason he can't be a good college player even if he doesn't develop the ability to create his own shot. It will be interesting to see how that part of his game develops in his senior year.

According to Gidal Kaiser, it sounded like Wentz was sold on the town, the coaching staff, and the guys in place. “It was awesome, just the atmosphere and the support the school gets from all their fans. I love the community of Bozeman, it’s an awesome place."

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Friday, September 14, 2012

Weber State Gets Verbal Commit From Jeremy Senglin

Weber State already secured a nice commitment from Richaud Gittens, and now they can add someone else into their future backcourt. As first seen on the twitter account of Eric Bossi, they got a commitment from Jeremy Senglin, a 6'2'' guard out of Texas.

I am told that the other teams in Senglin's top 6 were Nebraska, TCU, Tulsa, Richmond, and Tulane, and that Colorado State was in the mix as well. That is a couple BCS schools, as well as schools like Richmond and CSU that have had a lot of success recently. This makes it an impressive coup for Randy Rahe and staff, similar to their signing of Joel Bolomboy in the class of 2012. Simply put, Weber State seems to be recruiting a different caliber of athlete from the rest of the Big Sky right now.

Senglin is billed as a great shooter, but he is not exactly lacking in the athleticism department. While not elite, he will be plenty athletic for the Big Sky. Check out the dunk at the beginning of this video sent to me from The Upset:

He looks from this seat that he has the potential to be a star in the Big Sky.

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Big Sky 2013-14 Recruits

Now that a lot of verbal commitments are starting to roll in, I thought it would be good to start a 2013-14 recruiting tracker. It's important to note that these guys (as of the time of this post) are verbal commits, meaning they are not allowed to sign a Letter of Intent yet, but it gives a good idea of things.

Eastern Washington
- Sir Washington (6'3'' G) - My article
- Felix Van Hofe (6'5'' F) - My article
- Drew Brandon (6'3'' G) - My article
- Ognjen Miljkovic (6'8'' F) - My article

Idaho State
- Scotty Tyler (6'7'' F) - My article
- Justin Smith (6'6'' F) - My article
- Andrej Slavik (6'9'' F) - My article
- Ajak Magot (6'11'' C) - My article
- Jeffrey Solarin (6'4'' G) - My article
- Marcus Bradley (6'7'' F) - My article
- Ben Wilson (6'6'' G) - My article
- Evann Hall (6'4'' G)

- Brandon Gfeller (6'3'' G) - My article
- Riley Bradshaw (6'2'' G) - transfer from Utah State - My article
- Mario Dunn (6'0'' G)  
- Chris Kemp (6'7'' F) - My article
- Martin Breunig (6'8'' G) - My article (not eligible until 2014-15)
- Jake Lopez (6'5'' G) - My article

Montana State
- Vance Wentz (6'4'' G) - My article
- Stephan Holm (6'3'' G) - My article
- Terrell Brown (6'4'' G) - My article

North Dakota
- Quinton Hooker (6'0'' G) - My article 
- Chad Calcaterra (6'10'' C) - My article
- Estan Tyler (6'1'' G) - My article (not eligible until 2014-15)
- Cole Stefan (6'4'' G) - My article (possibly not eligible until 2014-15)

Northern Arizona
- Kris Yanku (6'3'' G) - My article
- Zachary Reynolds (6'8'' F) - My article
- Chris Miller (6'3'' G) - My article
- Terry Winn (6'7'' F) - My article
- Travis Meeker (6'4'' G) - My article
- Ako Kaluna (6'7'' F) - My article
- Quitnon Upshur (6'4'' G) - My article

Northern Colorado
- Jordan Wilson (5'7'' G) - My article
- Corey Spence (5'10'' G) - My article
- Dominique Lee (6'5'' F) - My article
- Jeremy Verhagen (6'10'' C) - My article 
- Anthony Johnson (6'3'' G) - My article

Portland State
- Zach Gengler (6'4'' G) - My article
- Kyle Benton (6'6'' F)
- DeShaun Wiggins (6'2'' G) - My article
- Sebastian Suarez (6'4'' G) - My article
- Tiegbe Bamba (6'6'' F) - My article
- Kyle Richardson (6'7'' G) - transfer from Long Beach State - My article

Sacramento State
- Eric Stuteville (6'9'' F) - My article
- Nick Hornby (6'5'' G) - My article
- Case Rada (6'3'' G) - My article
- Zach Mills (6'5'' F) - My article

Southern Utah
- John Marshall (6'1'' G) - My article
- Race Parsons (6'3'' G)
- McKay Anderson (6'5'' F)
- Juwan Major (6'3'' G) - My article
- Casey Oliverson (6'8'' F) - My article
- Trey Kennedy (6'3'' G) - My article

Weber State
- Richaud Gittens (6'4'' G) - My article 
- Jeremy Senglin (6'2'' G)- My article
- McKay Cannon (6'2'' G) - My article
- Josh Fuller (6'7'' F)
- Christian McDonald (6'4'' G) - My article
- JC Kennedy (G) - My article (Walk-on)

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Northern Arizona Going After Keonta Vernon

According to recruiting experts via Twitter, Northern Arizona visited 2013 PF Keonta Vernon in house on Tuesday night.

Josh Gershon of reported first:

2013 Tulare (Calif.) Union PF Keonta Vernon is hosting Northern Arizona and Wyoming on in-homes tonight.
Dan Wolken of the USA Today responded with:

Wyoming might as well not even show up. Murph is magic right now.
Of course, much of the praise for Murphy comes on the heels of them securing a committment from 2013 PG Kris Yanku, who should be a big time player for NAU.

Vernon is an undersized four-man that rebounds well in his area and is solid attacking the rim. That is the type of player that thrives in the Big Sky Conference. He would be a big time snag for NAU if Coach Jack Murphy can convince him to join the Lumberjacks. It appears he already has an offer from Santa Clara.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Quinton Hooker Verbals to North Dakota

North Dakota went big with their 2012 recruiting class, but their first commit for 2013 is a PG in Quinton Hooker.

If North Dakota is ever going to become a consistently good basketball team, it is vital that they get a solid recruiting pipeline into Minnesota. That is why it has to be especially nice to have Hooker aboard. I saw it first reported by Ryan James.

Hooker is a 6'0'' guard from the Twin Ciites, and he had offers from schools like South Dakota State, North Dakota State, Wofford, and Tulane, among others. According to James, Hooker has been recruited for over a year by UND assistant coach Gameli Ahelegbe, who has right to be excited about a job well done.

Phenom Hoop Report had a nice little blurb on him back in May:

6’1 2013 PG Quinton Hooker (Howard Pulley) is a scrappy and determined player that maximizes his entire skill set which was on display Saturday. He enjoyed a solid overall game by scoring 17 points going 7-12 from the field and 3-5 from the free throw line. His midrange game was effective and didn’t attempt a 3 point shot during the game. That being said, he was able to dribble penetrate effectively throughout the course of the game. He plays hard and loved his on the court demeanor.

Hooker has a smooth handle and nice looking shot, and should be able to finish in the lane. After playing in the Twin Cities, I doubt he will be intimidated by the Big Sky. UND will be full of seniors next year, which will give him a nice chance to break in, and then hopefully take on a bigger role as a sophomore. UND's basketball program is better today than it was yesterday.

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Richaud Gittens Verbally Commits to Weber State

Weber State scored a verbal commitment last week from class of 2013 guard Richaud Gittens.

Last year, Gittens averaged 14.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 2.2 steals per game, and is rated a three star recruit by Rivals. Eric Bossi of Rivals has this to say:

He fits with Weber State's recent theme in recruiting - which is to go after explosive athletes. They did it with their 2012 recruiting class, and appear to be headed that way with 2013 as well. He has long arms, and can really get after it in the open court. He may need a year or two to refine his game, but that is a luxury the Wildcats can afford in with their depth.

It appears that as of now WSU will have two scholarships available next year, and one of them will be used on Gittens.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Northern Arizona Scores Committment from Kris Yanku

Northern Arizona has received a verbal committment from 2013 guard Kris Yanku, self-proclaimed "Turkish Mamba" on his twitter handle. He is a very nice pickup for the Lumberjacks, as Jack Murphy continues to rebuild the program.

There is a nice article on him over at SoCal Recruit Spot:

At 6’3, and possessing near-Point Guard handles, Kris Yanku proves a tough, if not nightmare, match-up for most High School opponents. He’s an accurate passer (particularly on the run) and appears to carry a natural feel for the game. This past season Yanku played for one of California’s top teams (Taft, Woodland Hills) and on multiple occasions led his team in scoring.
He is not an elite athlete, but you don't have to be in the Big Sky to be a very good player. He is a solid defender and competitor, and has the ability to get to the rim off the dribble. He is also drawing praise from some of the biggest names in recruiting, such as Dave Telep.

Josh Gershon of has praise as well:

I have been high on head coach Jack Murphy since he was hired by NAU, and it seems that everyone agrees he has been a homerun hire so far. NAU was as bad as you can get last season, but they are slowly turning the ship around. Yanku is another building block as they look to climb back to their spot as annual contenders in the Big Sky.

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2012-13 Breakout Sophomores in the Big Sky

A few days ago I took a look back at my picks for breakout sophomores in the Big Sky last year, and was pretty happy with my efforts. Now, it's time to look into the crystal ball again and try to identify five sophomores from the Big Sky that will have breakout years compared to their freshman years.

One note... Dylan Garrity of Sacramento State is a guy I am not including on this list, but not because I don't think he is worthy. I just think that since he was the Freshman of the Year in the conference, and led all NCAA freshman in assists, it would be too easy to project him as "breaking out." It is a compliment to him, because I think he was too solid in year one to include here, and I wanted to dig a little deeper. So, the five I am choosing...

Tevin Svihovec (Northern Colorado)
You could almost argue that he should be similarly gauged as Garrity, but I am including him on this list because I think he is going to break out in a big way. By the end of last season, Svihovec was the guy UNC went to if they needed a bucket down the stretch, and he became a leader for them. I see that continuing this year. He does not beat you with athleticism, but he knows how to play the game and get good shots. He is an efficient player and that should improve with a year under his belt. If he can be a leader defensively, and be a little more of a pure point guard (in terms of taking care of the ball and getting teammates involved), he can be an all-conference guy sooner rather than later.

Gelaun Wheelwright (Weber State)
With the loss of Damian Lillard, Wheelwright has a great chance to be the starting PG, which will give him a lot of responsibility. Last year, a lot of his offense came either off Lillard or off the fast break, so it will be interesting to see how effective he can be in a half court game. He might be the fastest player in the conference, and this allows him to get easy baskets at times. He has to improve his outside shot to keep teams honest. He shot 31% from downtown last year, but needs to get that up to ensure teams won't sag off of him. If forced to play up on him, he will beat a lot of guys off the dribble. He also had a low assist rate of 10.8%, which obviously must improve if he is going to start at the one. He has a long way to go, but you get the feeling he is only scratching the surface of his potential.

Kevin Henderson (Montana)
A lot of this prediction will depend on playing time. Minutes will be opened up by the loss of Art Steward, but there are other candidates to take those minutes. If he does play, he has the athleticism to be a difference maker defensively, and solid offensively. Against UNC last year, I saw a press featuring Will Cherry, Kareem Jamar, and Kevin Henderson, and it was lethal. There is a lot of speculation here because he only played 98 minutes last year, but I have a good feeling about Henderson's future in the Big Sky.

Tim Huskisson (Northern Colorado)
Athletically, there are not a lot of guys with his talent in this conference. He can play above the rim, and just make things happen that other guys can't. The unique thing about him is that he also shot 46% from three (19/41) lst year, and over 51% from two. The talent is there to be a big time player. However, like many freshman, he looked like he may have been farther along physically than mentally. Look for him to take a step closer to putting it together, which will earn him the extra minutes that comes along with that trust.

Gaellen Bewernick (Northern Arizona)
Bewernick was a rare bright spot on a bad Lumberjacks team, as he played a bit out of position but posted solid rebounding rates and efficient offensive numbers. I think NAU is going to be a lot more organized and tougher this year, and that could benefit Bewernick. With better gameplans in place, he could take the next step and become a focal point of Jack Murphy's rebuilding efforts. It can be tough to predict how a guy is going to do in a new system, but I think he has the talent to make it work.

Just Missed:
- Keron DeShields (Montana) - Has lots of talent on the offensive side of the ball, but will be battling for minutes again in a crowded backcourt. For Wayne Tinkle, tie goes to defensive-minded guys.
- Gary Winston (Portland State) - The hardest guy to leave off. Good all-around player that should have a much bigger role in year two.
- Parker Kelly (Eastern Washington) - He had a nice impact as a freshman and should be equally solid this year, but I'm not sure he has the talent to break through and get a ton of minutes in a crowded backcourt.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Eastern Washington Basketball Now Has A Blog

If you are looking to get deeper into Eastern Washington basketball, they have started a blog that is actually pretty solid and in depth.

The blog can be found here.

They've got player facts such as this one, which made me laugh:

Jaylen Henry is related to one of the lead singers of the Temptations, David Ruffin. Unfortunately, Jaylen didn't receive the vocal genes.
They also have a lot of information from their Canada trip, with pictures, and videos with Coach Hayford talking about the games.

In a conference where it seems that doesn't have a lot of teams really utilizing the internet to do much marketing, Eastern Washington's blogging efforts are one of a kind in the Big Sky for now.

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Look Back At Last Year's Breakout Sophomores Predictions

Last August, I made five predictions on guys that would be breakout sophomores in the Big Sky. Because I am all about accountability here, let's take a look back and see how the predictions turned out.

Paul Garnica (Northern Colorado)
What I said: "Garnica is loaded with potential, as he does a lot of things very well. He posted one of the best steal rates in the BSC (4.3%), rebounded well from the guard position, and made some plays passing the ball (21.4% ARate). However, he needs to improve in 2 areas - taking care of the ball, and taking better shots."
How it turned out: Not a bad start. He showed a ton of improvement shooting the basketball, as he bumped his three-point shooting from 27% to 49%, and was a big part of the reason why UNC was the best three-point shooting team in the country last year. This bumped his EFG% way up. However, his turnover rate remained too high, especially if he is going to be a primary ballhandler. His steal rate also went down. He improved in some areas, but still has a lot of room for growth.

Emmanuel Addo (Northern Colorado)
What I said: "Addo will log a lot of minutes in the post, and he looks to be up to the challenge. He played 37% of the team's minutes last year, but was an excellent performer for his time on the court. He was a great offensive rebounder, with his 12.3% second on the team to Mike Proctor. He was also an efficient scorer, with a 53.5% from inside the 2-point arc while making a respectable 68% of his FTs (and he was solid at getting to the line)."
How it turned out: Addo played a little bit more (bumped his minutes from 15 per game to 21 per game), but remained mostly the same player. He averaged 9.6 ppg and 4.1 rpg last year, but in watching him you get the feeling that he has a lot more room to grow. He shot a similar percentage, and was a little bit better at getting to the line (and maybe  75% of his freebies, up from 68%). He was a better defensive rebounder, but pulled down a little less offensive rebounds. Talent wise, he can be one of the best big men in the conference, he has that much athletic ability. If he can develop from solid fringe starter and really consistently utilize all of his skills, UNC's frontcourt will be in good shape.

Kareem Jamar (Montana)
What I said: "Jamar is hampered a bit by the solid depth the Grizzlies have, but he had a very productive freshman season and has the talent to be even better as a sophomore. He was solid but not great offensively, shooting 48.5% from inside the arc and 38% beyond it. Both solid, but there could especially be improvement from 2 point range. Jamar is a solid rebounder for his size, and takes good care of the basketball for a guard."
How it turned out: This was my best call, as Jamar developed from a good player into one of the very best in the conference, and he should have a chance to be the Player of the Year this season. He bumped his scoring by 5.5 ppg, and he did it very efficiently (better three-point shooting, better free-throw shooting, and getting to the line more often). He improved his passing and is one of the very best in the Big Sky, averaging 3.7 assists per game out of the two guard spot. He continued to rebound at a great rate for a guard. Jamar is now a bona fide star in the Big Sky, and even bigger things should be on the horizon. A Jamar and Will Cherry backcourt will be worth the price of admission every night.

Byron Fulton (Weber State)
What I said: "One of the answers will likely be Fulton, who had a solid freshman year as a role player. At 6'7'' Fulton will be one of the big guys, but he does not have a traditional low post game. He is dangerous from outside the arc, shooting 24/50 from long range last year."
How it turned out: Fulton was mostly the same player in year two and in year one. He played similar minutes, and had similar stats across the board. He did not shoot as well as he did in his freshman year (though still a more than respectable 43% from downtown), but he improved as a rebounder. Fulton is a nice contributor for them... any team can use a big man that can step outside and hit shots, but can also defend and rebound down low. Fulton will be a key contributor once again for the Wildcats.

Jackson Carbajal (Sacramento State)
What I said: "Carbajal played solid minutes last year, and will be relied upon even more after the graduation of Sultan Toles-Bey. He has room to improve, as he was not that efficient last year. He took a lot more 3s than 2s, even though he was a 31% shooter from downtown and 57% shooter inside the arc. He should reverse that trend, and look to get inside more this season."
How it turned out: Carbajal had some injury issues (and was facing more competition for time on a more talented team), but he showed great improvement when he was on the court. He was a better outside shooter, improving from 31% from downtown to 36%, which was huge because he is not shy about taking that shot. He also did very well to cut down his turnovers, from a 23.6 TO Rate to 15.1 last season. Those two things made him a much better offensive player, and makes him a reliable scoring option for the Hornets at the two spot. If he can improve further, the Hornets starting five could be just about as good as anyone else's in the Big Sky.

How did I do?

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Revision on my 2010 Recruiting Class Rankings

When I had the idea to re-rank the 2010 recruiting classes in the Big Sky, I thought it would be a fun exercise. The hardest part was probably trying to find who was a part of all of the classes.

It was before I began blogging on the Big Sky, so I had to try and go on what I could find online for all of the recruiting classes. With transfers/redshirts/JUCOs/etc it was tough to track down who was in every team's class. So, I tried to use what I could... as a main resource, I used ESPN's listings, because they seemed to be most accurate. As a backup, I used Scout, though they were even less accurate.

As it turned out, neither was that accurate in some cases. For Eastern Washington, I ranked their class dead last, based on the players on those sites. However, what was later pointed out to me was that I missed some guys... and key guys! Cliff Colimon, Cliff Ederaine, and Willie Hankins among them. Obviously that would change their rankings a ton. I have made an edit in my original post to correct this as well (I just edited their section).

I just wanted to point out my mistake, because it was a big one there. I think it is important to admit your mistakes, and do what you can to learn from them.

In my case, I have learned not to re-rank past recruiting classes unless I can be absolutely sure I know who is in the class (read: I'm not planning to ever re-rank any except maybe the 2012 classes).

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Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Montana Recruit Andy Martin in Rare Company...

... As one of just four Division I recruits from the state of Wyoming, according to a nice article from Yahoo's Jeff Eisenberg.

Those in Wyoming basketball circles can only identify four scholarship Division I players from the state for the 2012-13 season, UC Santa Barbara wing Taran Brown, Montana 7-footer Andy Martin, Pacific big man Tim Thomas and Wyoming guard Jason McManamen. Considering there are well over 4,000 Division I basketball players on scholarship next season, that's a very small group even for the least populous of all 50 states.
Martin will be a freshman for the Grizzlies this season.

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Eastern Washington Gets Ready For Canada Trip

Eastern Washington is off this week for a trip to Canada, where they will play seven games in six days. Head Coach Jim Hayford said, "The level of competition isn't the equivalent of Division I, but it's solid."

The trip comes at a good time for the Eagles, because they will be breaking in a ton of new guys. There are six newcomers - five freshman and one newcomers - as well as three guys who redshirted last year. The trip should be a good opportunity to gain some experience, as well as a chance for Hayford to begin fleshing out the makeup of the roster. With all of the newcomers, they are as tough to predict as any team in the Big Sky, and I suspect that even the coaching staff is waiting to see how a rotation plays out.

If I had to guess as of today, I think things would look something like thi:

Starting Lineup
G Justin Crogsile
G Jeffrey Forbes
F Collin Chiverton
F Venky Jois
C Martin Seiferth

Really, the only thing we know for sure is that Collin Chiverton will be in the starting lineup. He could lead the league in scoring, and Coach Hayford said he is fully recovered from a foot injury that bothered him all of last season. Jeffrey Forbes started last year which makes him a good bet to start again, but they have a lot of depth there. Justin Crogsile played a lot of minutes for St. Joseph's in his first two years, and my guess is he would have the inside track on the point guard spot, though that could depend on how ready Forbes is to be able to handle the primary ballhandler responsibilities.

Of course, they could start three guards and go with a small ball lineup, though I'm not sure how likely that is. Parker Kelly was a big-time player for them last year, and provides a bunch of range. Kevin Winford had a little bit of a disappointing year last year, but he can put up points in a hurry. Freshman Daniel Hill comes to the program with a lot of high praise, but it will be tough for him to secure a ton of time in a crowded, veteran backcourt. Ivan Dorsey went to junior college with Collin Chiverton, so obviously that familiarity will help him. There are a lot of good options back there.

In the frontcourt, things are a bit more unsettled thanks to a lot of graduations. Jordan Hickert has the most experience at EWU, but I'm not sure he brings enough to the table to play more than 15 minutes per night, as he is a three-point specialist but only an average rebounder. Martin Seiferth has drawn praise, and should be in the mix after sitting out a year after a transfer from Oregon. Venky Jois is just a hunch, as he appears to be an athletic big man that should be ready to play.

Another option is Danny Powell, who put up big time numbers in high school. He can score inside and outside, and he shot 46% from downtown as a junior. It wouldn't be a shock to see him get a lot of minutes. Jaylen Henry played a bit last year, but I am not sure he is a great fit in Hayford's offense. Frederick Jorg (Germany) and Thomas Reuter (Germany) are tough to project also, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see at least one of those guys redshirted.

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Montana State Hires Shawn Dirden as Assistant Coach

With an assistant coach job open after the resignation of George Pfeifer, Montana State has filled it with the hiring of veteran coach Shawn Dirden. Dirden was on MSU's staff for two seasons from 20006-2008, and now rejoins the staff.

“Having to hire a coach at this time of year is not ideal,” Huse said, “but we came out of this in good shape with the addition of Coach Dirden. His background and experience at MSU will allow him to hit the ground running. In addition, he has the ability to generate relationships quickly and I know the players will respond to him positively.”
Dirden was an assistant coach at the University of South Dakota for the past two seasons.

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Monday, September 3, 2012

A Look at Southern Utah Signee AJ Hess

Earlier this month, Southern Utah announced the signing of 6'6'' guard AJ Hess to their recruiting class. He joins four other signees for first year coach Nick Robinson.

Hess put up nice numbers in high school, with 19.5 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.4 steals, and 2.4 assists per game, while winning the state championship at his high school. He was the Player of the Year for Arizona's small schools, so certainly there is some question about his level of competition (if he were putting those numbers up against big-time high school programs, he likely would not have been available so late).

"We are excited and fortunate to welcome AJ to the Thunderbird family at this time of year," Robinson said. "He comes from a great family and has been taught well by his coaches. Having won a high school championship earlier this year, A.J.'s versatility and competitive nature adds depth to our team as we enter the Big Sky."
Nobody knows Arizona basketball as well as Chad Groth of Area Codes Basketball, and they wrote about him here.

At 190 pounds, AJ Hess is 6 foot 6 and can really shoot the long range jumper, after his senior season at Phoenix Country Day High School in Phoenix, AZ, We thought it was best to keep playing thru the Spring and Summer and something will pop.
Hess is long and wiry, and Groth notes that Hess has been working with a strength and conditioning coach. It is tough to tell how physically ready Hess is, but he would seem to have a solid skillset to eventually be a contributor at the Big Sky level.

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Alex Tiffin of UC Davis Transfers to Sacramento State

Bryan Metcalf of has informed me that forward Alex Tiffin of UC Davis has decided to transfer to Sacramento State.

Tiffin is a 6'9'' F that played 16.3 minuters per game last season for the Aggies as a sophomore, averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He played two seasons at UC Davis, so would then presumably have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out for a season.

He shot 46% from the field last season, and 63% from the charity stripe. He was an ok rebounder for the Aggies, posting a 9.4 OR% and a 10.4 DR% for them. To be honest, that defensive rebounding rate does not jump out at you for a big man. He averaged three fouls per game and seemed to have some trouble staying on the court.

Last year when UC Davis played the Hornets, Tiffin played 11 minutes, scoring one point and grabbing one rebound while racking up four personal fouls. As a freshman, he played in 13 minutes against Sac State, but posting no line.

You can probably never have enough big guys, but Tiffin has struggled to make an impact in two seasons with UC Davis. Perhaps with a year to sit out, he will be a nice rotational player for them in his final two years.

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