Friday, August 30, 2013

USA Today Projects Weber State as 13 Seed

USA Today is counting down their projected tournament field, and they have Weber State listed as a 13 seed.

Team strength/weakness: The Wildcats led the nation in field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage last season. Much of that hot shooting came from long-range specialist Scott Bamforth, who graduated after eclipsing Lillard's school record for career triples. Scoring will be the team's bread and butter, as always, but it won't come as easily this season in the halfcourt setting. How does the team win on a cold shooting night? Rahe believes it comes with defensive intensity — forcing turnovers — and better rebounding.

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Thursday, August 29, 2013

Portland State Will Play a Lot of Home Games

Schedules are officially trickling out, including the release of Portland State's. Their release states they will be playing a school record 17 home games.

Portland State men's basketball will host an unprecedented 17 home games in the 2013-14 season. The Vikings have seven pre-season home games including their own three-day tournament, Nov. 22-24. PSU has 10 Big Sky Conference home games for a total of 17 in the Peter W. Stott Center. The Vikings also play 12 road games in 2013-14 for a total of 29 leading up to the Big Sky Conference Tournament, Mar. 13-15.
As you may have guessed, those non-conference home games aren't always of the best quality. While teams like Portland and Idaho are coming to the Stott Center, so are teams like Evergreen State, Northwest Christian, and Pacific Lutheran.

The Vikings will be on the road for games against UNLV and Boise State, but otherwise have a non-conference schedule set up to begin conference play with some momentum, and potentially a strong record.

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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Top Departing #3: Jackson Stevenett

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

With Southern Utah entering their first season in the Big Sky last year, it was hard to know how to project how Jackson Stevenett would project. He had shown flashes of being an efficient offensive player, but it was still going to be completely new competition.

He was just fine, thank you very much.

Stevenett capped off a stellar career with an excellent senior year, one that saw him average 17.6 PPG and 6.1 RPG. While he never became an outside sharpshooter, his offensive game inside the arc was about as good as anyone else in the conference.

He shot 48% on twos last year, down from 53% as a junior. However, he did get better at getting to the free throw line (he shot about five per game), shooting a sparkling 87% when he got there. All in all, his 109.1 ORtg was one of the best in the conference, especially for a player with his usage (his shot percentage was in the top 150 nationally).

He also took better care of the ball in his senior year, with a TO Rate of 13.8, also excellent for a player with his usage rates. While he was not a great rebounder, he was certainly above average for someone that is 6'4'', giving him a nice all-around game.

Nick Robinson got a nice blessing when Stevenett was a senior in year one of his regime. Though he will be very tough to replace, he helped lead the Thunderbirds to a lot better finish than many (myself included) thought they would have in year one.

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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Montana State Signs Bradley Fisher

Last week, Montana State got their first verbal commit for the class of 2014, with big man Bradley Fisher saying he will become a Bobcat.

Fisher is a seven footer from England. Gidal Kaiser from the Bozeman Daily Chronicle has a lot of good information and interviews about him here.

The 7-foot, 245-pound Fisher played for Culver (Ind.) Academy and the Indiana Dawgz AAU club this past season. He averaged 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks per game for the Dawgz and 12 points and 10 rebounds for Culver Academy.
His recruitment was helped out by assistant coach Chris Haslam, a 7 footer from England in his own right. According to Fisher's AAU coach, the two have known each other for a few years. So, this appears to be a nice fit. Fisher is thin, but will have plenty of time to bulk up. If he does, he could be one of the better big men in the conference.

The Bobcats offered Fisher the scholarship in mid-July, and he accepted it on August 9th.

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Friday, August 16, 2013

The Power of Sports

Sports are great.

An acquaintance of mine named Michael Gentz has been through a tough year, and the Detroit Tigers did a little something to make it better, as chronicled here.

Here I was, in the middle of the most difficult year of my life, looking across the city I’ve never been afraid of, toward the ballpark of the team I’ve never fallen out of love with, having just been guests of this same team who I’ve loudly cheered for and criticized all my life. Truly, for me, summer goes as the Tigers go, and it’s always been that way. Now, this summer, which is like none I’ve ever dealt with before, pushed the Tigers to the backseat a bit as I learn how to live this new life of mine. But for one night, they thanked me and they showed me that I am, and their fans are, more than just a seat filler. I can’t thank my friends and the Tigers enough. I only wish Dawn was there to share it with us. I suppose she probably was.
It is definitely worth a read.

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Monday, August 12, 2013

Top Departing #4: Mathias Ward

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

In some ways, Mathias Ward for Montana was the consummate college basketball player. He came to the Grizzlies as a role player, got better and better each season, and left as an excellent player and superb student-athlete. While his career ended on a low note (with a season-ending injury), Ward was an excellent player who was great at what he did.

While he was 6'7'' and played the four spot for Montana, he was not a traditional big man. He wasn't a great rebounder, though he improved as a post defender throughout his time in Missoula. However, he was probably the best midrange shooter in the conference, which was huge for the Grizzlies' offense.

As a senior, Ward shot 54% on twos, 40% on threes (after shooting 21 threes in his first three seasons, this was an area of his game he worked on and became a legitimate threat), and 52% from the foul line. He could score from the block, and would occasionally post up, but he was deadly from the midrange, which worked well in an offense with Will Cherry and Kareem Jamar.

After a solid first two years where he was efficient as a role player, he stepped into the starting lineup and became even better. As a junior, his ORtg of 118.2 was great, buoyed by the great shooting and the fact that he did not turn the ball over. He knew his game and his role, and did not try to do too much.

Before he got hurt last season, Ward led the team with 14.8 PPG. It will be tough for the Grizzlies to make up that scoring, but hopefully everyone can strive to emulate Ward's constant improvement.

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Friday, August 9, 2013

Good Idaho State Article

Kyle Franko over at ISJ Sports had a nice article on Bill Evans and Idaho State, and it's worth a read.

“I loved my time at Southern Utah, but I think I learned a lot at Montana,” Evans said. “(Montana head coach Wayne) Tinkle gave me an opportunity to step away a little bit from some things, so I got more involved in others.”

At Montana, Tinkle saw the game from a different perspective. Now, in Pocatello, he’s been handed a rehabilitation project. But that’s a good thing, because Evans says he loves recruiting and developing players.

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Thursday, August 8, 2013

Top 20 Departing #5: Gabe Rogers

I am counting down the top 20 players that are departing the Big Sky via graduation, transfer, or any other way.

Gabe Rogers had an up and down career at Northern Arizona, mostly due to an injury. After his sophomore year, where he averaged 13.0 PPG and shot 47% from three-point range, he looked like he would be a star in his last two seasons. The he suffered a shoulder injury in the offseason, and even though he was able to return for part of his junior year, he wasn't the same player. As a junior, he averaged 10.2 PPG and shot just 31% from the floor.

Last season, he became the centerpiece of an NAU offense that didn't have a lot of guys to create their own shots, leaving much of the scoring burden to him. While his efficiency numbers didn't look great (39% shooting overall, 37% on threes), he put the offense on his back, which sometimes forced him into less than stellar shots. He finished the season averaging 17.9 PPG, among the best in the conference.

He took 33.5% of the team's shots when he was on the floor, the 15th highest mark in the nation. Despite having the ball so much, he did take good care of it, with a low 16.6 turnover rate. Though he wasn't great at getting to the free throw line, he got better at it as his career went along, which was a boost since he shot over 81% from there last year.

I am not sure if Rogers would have been as valuable to any other team in the Big Sky last year as he was for NAU, but they needed him to be the centerpiece of their offense, and he took that responsibility every night, which helped other guys around him perform better. His 18 points every night will be tough for the Lumberjacks to replace.

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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Cam Michael Is Transferring to Northern Colorado

Former Air Force guard Cam Michael will be transferring to Northern Colorado, per The Reporter Herald.

After playing for one season at the Air Force Academy, Michael chose to leave the school and informed Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill he will transfer to Greeley in the fall. He has yet to enroll, so UNC cannot officially comment on the move.

Michael said it came down to UNC and Utah State, but if he had stayed in the Mountain West, he would have had to go to a junior college first, thus giving up a year of eligibility.

"At UNC, I'm going to have to redshirt this year, but I'll be able to play for three years," said Michael, who averaged 4.1 points per game while shooting 45 percent from the field for the Falcons. "The big thing for me was being able to kind of have a career somewhere rather than having a short stint for two years."
Even though Michael did not play a ton for the Falcons as a freshman (16.2% of the team's minutes), he was wildly productive when he did play. He was 13/18 from inside the arc, and shot 45% (18/40) from downtown. He also had a stellar 14.1 defensive rebounding percentage, and took good care of the basketball, with an 11.9 turnover rate (he turned it over 7 times all year).

Again, sample size issues are big (especially since his two biggest games were against Western State and Regis University), but he also scored 11 points in a late season loss to UNLV. With the great efficiency numbers, combined with a year to sit out at UNC and learn the system, he could be a star for the Bears.

Shooting guard Tate Unruh will be a senior this year, and I think BJ Hill has likely found his replacement for the next three years in Cam Michael.

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Big Sky 2014-15 Recruits

Now that a lot of verbal commitments are starting to roll in, I thought it would be good to start a 2014-15 recruiting tracker. This list will be ever changing, and there will likely be some times where it will be a little outdated. If you notice anything I have missed, please leave a comment on this post, email me, or send me a message on twitter!

Eastern Washington
- Will Ferris (6'1'' G) - My article
- Kyle Reid (6'7'' JUCO F)
- Bear Henderson (6'6'' F)
- Cody Benzel (6'4'' G)
- Bogdan Bliznyuk (6'6'' F)

- Jake Straughan (6'1'' G)
- Arkadiy Mkrtychyan (6'6'' F)
- Nate Sherwood (6'8'' F)
- Nahshon George (6'9'' JUCO F)

Idaho State
- Geno Luzcando (6'3'' G)
- Jason McClellan (6'9'' JUCO F)
- Ian Fox (6'1'' G)
- Novak Topalovic (7'0'' C)

- Bryden Boehning (6'10 F)
- Jermaine Edmonds (6'4'' JUCO G)
- Fabijan Krslovic (6'8'' F)
- Daniel Nwosu (6'2'' JUCO G)

Montana State
- Bradley Fisher (7'0'' C) - My article
- Kavell Bigby-Williams (6'10'' F)
- Quinn Price (6'9'' F)
- Zach Green (6'4'' G)
- Joey Frenchwood (6'1'' G)

North Dakota
- Bryce Cashman (6'10'' F)
- Geno Crandall (6'1'' G)
- Josiah Coleman (6'5'' JUCO F)
- Carson Shanks (7'0'' C) - My article (transferring from Utah State)

Northern Arizona
- Tate De Laveaga (6'3'' G) - My article
- Geoffrey Frid (7'1'' JUCO SO C)
- Jaleni Neely (6'0'' JUCO G)

Northern Colorado
- Cam Michael (6'5'' G) - My article (transferring from Air Force)
- Spencer Mathis (6'7'' F)
- Ibrahim Sylla (6'6'' F)
- Drew Bender (6'4'' JUCO SO G)
- Dwight Smith (6'4'' G) - transfer from Colorado State

Portland State
- Collin Spickerman (6'8'' JUCO F)
- Braxton Tucker (6'6'' JUCO F)
- Dorian Cason (6'7'' JUCO C)
- Bryce White (6'5'' JUCO SO G)
- Iziahiah Sweeney (6'3'' G)
- Calaen Robinson (6'2'' G) - transfer from Arizona State, will sit a year

Sacramento State
- Justin Strings (6'5'' F)
- Marcus Graves (6'0'' G)
- James Herrick (6'10'' C)
- Mason Stuteville (6'10'' F)
- Jiday Ugbaja (5'10'' G)

Southern Utah
- Tyler Rawson (6'8'' F)
- Jeff Nibo (6'5'' JUCO G)
- Sherron Wilson (6'5'' F)
- Christian Thompson (6'7'' JUCO F)
- Austin Waddoups (6'2'' G)

Weber State
- Zach Braxton (6'9'' F) - My article
- Ryan Richardson (6'6'' G) - My article
- Jeremiah Jefferson (6'2'' G) - My article
- Hayden Hunter (5'11'' G) - My article
- Chris Golden (6'1'' JUCO G)
- Jaelyn Johnson Coston (6'6'' F)

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Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Matt Schuman Passes Away

If you have attended any Northern Colorado basketball games, you have likely seen Matt Schuman of the Greeley Tribune. He was almost an omniscient figure at Northern Colorado games, being their beat writer for the Tribune. We crossed paths often over the past couple of seasons, so I was sorry to hear of his passing. Scott Ward for UNC wrote a great piece on Matt, and you should read it.

The world owed Matt Schuman a lot—it's just not fair that he was born the way he was, and I was born the way I was—but he would have disagreed with this sentence. He never came looking to collect on the debt. He tackled every day with zest and energy and kept his eyes on the box scores, looking for the next great story to tell.

I'm going to miss him, and I'm never going to forget him.

I hope he's in a place now where he can run and catch some footballs over the middle. Where he can leg out a triple, run a 400, hit a nasty return serve and really see what it's like to split that high screen and hit that 20-footer.

For nearly 30 years Matt told the stories of others who could do those things with the littlest of effort. He deserves the chance now, and I hope there's a reporter there ready to document his successes.
RIP Matt.

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Weber State Scores Commitment from Ryan Richardson

Last week, Weber State got a verbal from big man Zach Braxton, who looks like he could step in and immediately be a solid contributor for them.

This week, they got another big-time recruit in wing man Ryan Richardson.

Richardson is a 6'6'' wing with deep deep range, as he shot 49% from three-point range last season. He averaged 16.9 PPG, shooting 55% overall. Reports also say he has a long wingspan and can finish above the rim. He is also a willing defender.

Watching his highlight video, he has a quick release, solid athleticism, and a nice floater (which is important as he will need to be more than just a shooter to excel at this level. His release could be raised a little bit to make it even quicker, but nobody in the Big Sky does player development like Weber State does, so I am sure any issues will be cleaned up. Richardson looks like he will be a big-time player in the Big Sky.

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Will Ferris Verbally Commits to Eastern Washington

PG Will Ferris from the class of 2014 has committed to Eastern Washington, per his twitter feed:

Ferris is a 6'1'' PG out of Bellevue, WA. He is either 6'3'' or 6'1'', depending on where you look! To be honest, that is all I can find about him. Anyone else know any more?

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Big Sky Schools Make Offers

Within the past few days, I have found a few offers made by Big Sky teams (including two Big Sky teams offering the same player). I'll just post the info:

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Sunday, August 4, 2013

Projecting Big Sky Starters, Pt 2

Last week, I posted a list of projected Big Sky starters, and got a lot of excellent feedback from people on the post and on twitter. Between that and talking to a couple of coaches, I have updated the listing. My guess is that this is a little bit more accurate, though certainly many things will change by the start of the season.

Eastern Washington
F Martin Seiferth, Jr.
F Venky Jois, Soph.
F Danny Powell, Fr.
G Tyler Harvey, Soph.
G Drew Brandon, Jr.

Idaho State
F Ajak Magot, Jr.
F Marcus Bradley, Jr.
F Justin Smith, Fr.
G Chris Hansen, Jr.
G Tomas Sanchez, Sr.

C Eric Hutchison, Sr.
F Chris Kemp, Jr.
F Kareem Jamar, Sr.
G Keron DeShields, Jr.
G Jordan Gregory, Jr.

Montana State
C Paul Egwuonwu, Sr.
F Flavien Davis, Sr.
F Terrell Brown, Jr.
G Antonio Biglow, Sr.
G Marcus Colbert, Soph.

North Dakota
F Brandon Brekke, Sr.
F Jaron Nash, Sr.
F Troy Huff, Sr.
G Aaron Anderson, Sr.
G Jamal Webb, Sr.

Northern Arizona
F Max Jacobsen, Sr.
F Gaellen Bewernick, Jr.
G Quinton Upshur, Jr.
G DeWayne Russell, Soph.
G Kris Yanku, Fr.

Northern Colorado
C Connor Osborne, Sr.
F Derrick Barden, Sr.
F Tim Huskisson, Jr.
G Tate Unruh, Sr.
G Tevin Svihovec, Jr.

Portland State
C Lamont Prosser, Sr.
F Aaron Moore, Sr.
G Dre Winston, Jr.
G Gary Winston, Jr.
G Tim Douglas, Jr.

Sacramento State
C Eric Stuteville, Fr.
F Alex Tiffin, Jr.
F Zach Mills, Jr.
G Mikh McKinney, Jr.
G Dylan Garrity, Jr.

Southern Utah
C Jayson Cheesman, Sr.
F Jaren Jeffery, Sr.
G AJ Hess, Soph.
G Trey Kennedy, Fr.
G Chris Nsenki, Soph.

Weber State
C Kyle Tresnak, Sr.
F Joel Bolomboy, Soph.
F Davion Berry, Sr.
G Gelaun Wheelwright, Jr.
G Jordan Richardson, Sr.


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Former Big Sky Assistants In Trouble

Well, these are never the stories you like to publish. Two former Big Sky assistants recently got in trouble. Per NBC Sports:

Just one day after it was reported that former Eastern Washington assistant Craig Ehlo was arrested on charges of domestic violence and reckless burning, former Midland (Texas) JC head coach and Northern Colorado assistant Christopher Craig is the focus of a bizarre (and potentially dangerous) investigation.

According to The Coloradoan, Craig has been referring to himself as an “Islamic jihadist and threatening the demise of Mormons and Catholics at sites across Arizona and Colorado.”
It's sad to see, and I will just leave it at that.

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Thursday, August 1, 2013

Zach Braxton Commits to Weber State

After this season, Weber State will lose big men Kyle Tresnak and Byron Fulton. So, it figured that they would target that area in recruiting, and that is what they have done, getting a commitment from Highlands Ranch 6'9'' forward Zach Braxton. Braxton announced it on his twitter feed.

Braxton had offeres from Denver, Green Bay, and Wyoming, with interest coming from the likes of Colorado, Montana, Montana State, Northwestern, Northern Colorado, and Stanford, per his Rivals profile.

Last year, he averaged 15.8 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game, leading his league in rebounds and blocked shots. He had impressed recently, and Northwestern seemed to be after him hard. He is described as a "two hand finisher in traffic and a solid presence in the paint."

He looks like a polished big man who could have an impact right away. Once again, Weber State shows that they are at a level in recruiting that nobody in the Big Sky is matching, at least not on a regular basis. Braxton is the beginning of another promising class for the Wildcats.

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