New Mexico State hoops

Loading...

Saturday, October 22, 2011

NMSU scrimmage

In case you forgot, or don't follow me on Twitter, NMSU had a closed scrimmage on Saturday against Utah Valley University, formally Utah Valley State. The Aggies have done this against Texas Tech the past two years. Here is Utah Valley's webpage. They didn't have an updated roster but their leading scorer Isiah Williams is back as a senior i belive after scoring 17 ppg last year.  They were 19-11 and 11-1 in the Great West

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Benson from Tuesday's WAC call

Probably the most intriguing piece to Tuesday's WAC call, regarding this year's WAC Tournament.



WAC Commissioner Karl Benson announced that the 2011-12 WAC Tournament will revert back to a traditional format after the loss of Boise State.
Last year’s tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas was the first time the tournament rewarded the top-two seeds with a bye into the semifinal round.
“It’s in the best interest to revert to a traditional 8-team bracket with four quarterfinal games,” Benson said. “This will be a one-year consideration and will re-evaluate it when we become a 10-team league (in 2012-13).”
Benson said the women’s quarterfinals will be played on Wednesday and the men’s quarterfinals will be played on Thursday.
Benson said he hopes to determine the site for the 2012-13 tournament sometime before this year’s tournament.
Obviously, the WAC wants to remain in Las Vegas.
Last year’s format certainly affected attendance at the Orleans Arena. The arena was virtually empty until the Utah State fanbase arrived for the semifinals.
The format change rewarded teams for a good regular season. 
“We made the decision to go to Las Vegas the year previous to accommodate the long time wishes of coaches (for a neutral site),” Benson said. “A year later, coaches came back with a new format. At the time, I wish I could have said that you can’t have both. It was a lesson learned. Going back to this format gives us the best possible chance to make Las Vegas successful so we can return to the site.”

Boyd de-commits

Guess those early verbals don't mean much. Too bad. NMSU was excited about him. Hopefully he still shows up.


http://www.arizonapreps.rivals.com/content.asp?CID=1280481

WAC ballots

Western Athletic Conference preseason ballots
Men’s basketball
Coaches poll
Team 1st place points
1. Nevada 5 46
2. NMSU 41
3. Utah St. 3 38
4. Hawaii 32
5. Idaho 24
6. Fresno State 18
7. San Jose St. 14
8. La. Tech 11

Media
1. Utah State 13 174
2. Nevada 5 162
3. NMSU 3 150
4. Hawaii 3 126
5. Idaho 89
6. San Jose St. 66
7. Fresno St. 59
8. La. Tech 38

Women’s basketball
Coaches
1. La. Tech 5 47
2. Utah St. 2 40
3. Fresno St. 1 36
4. Nevada 33
5. Hawaii 22
6. NMSU 18
7. Idaho 17
8. San Jose St. 11

Media
1. La Tech 13 144
2. Fresno St. 3 129
3. Utah St. 3 126
4. Nevada 80
5. Hawaii 72
6. NMSU 59
7. Idaho 52
8. San Jose St. 22

Preseason All-WAC 
Men’s basketball
Coaches
POY — Nevada sophomore Deonte Burton
First team
Deonte Burton, Nevada
Vander Joaquim, Hawaii
Zane Johnson, Hawaii
Wendell McKines, New Mexico State
Brockeith Pane, Utah State
Second team
Kyle Barone, Idaho
Dario Hunt, Nevada
Hernst Laroche, New Mexico State
Brady Jardine, Utah State
Malik Story, Nevada

Media
POY — Brockeith Pane, Utah State
Newcomer of the Year — Shaquille Stokes, Hawaii
First team
Deonte Burton, Nevada
Dario Hunt, Nevada
Zane Johnson, Hawaii
Wendell McKines, New Mexico State
Brockeith Pane, Utah State

Women’s basketball
Coaches
POY — Ashlee Brown, Utah State
First team
Jasmine Bendolph, La. Tech
Ashlee Brown, Utah State
Whitney Jones, La. Tech
Rosie Moult, Fresno State
Kayla Williams, Nevada
Second team
Devyn Christensen, Utah State
Kamilah Jackson, Hawaii
Shawna-Lei Kuehu, Hawaii
Taylor Thompson, Fresno State
Tabytha Wampler, New Mexico State

Media
POY — Ashlee Brown, Utah State
First team
Jasmine Bendolph, La. Tech
Ashlee Brown, Utah State
Kamilah Jackson, Hawaii
Rosie Moult, Fresno State
Tabytha Wampler, New Mexico State
Second team
Shantale Bramble-Donaldson, Louisiana Tech
Amanda Johnson, Nevada
Whitney Jones, La. Tech
Taylor Thompson, Fresno State
Kayla Williams, Nevada

Monday, October 17, 2011

Aggies notes and my WAC ballot

The WAC is holding its preseason conference call Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., releasing the coaches and media polls and their All-WAC selections. Following is the ballot I turned in.

An interesting side note on Tuesday is that I talked to Karl Benson on Monday, asking about the WAC Tournament format now that there are eight teams. Remember how the Top 2 teams got a bye into the semis last year. Dont know how much sense that makes for an 8 team league, plus I think it hurt the overall attendance for the tournament. Benson wouldn't tell me but there will be some news on the 8 team format on Tuesday.

My  predicted Order of finish
1. Nevada
2. New Mexico State
3. Utah State
4. Hawaii
5. Idaho
6. San Jose State
7. Fresno State
8. Louisiana Tech

WAC Player of the Year — Wendell McKines, NMSU
Newcomer of the Year — Kevin Foster, Fresno State

All WAC
McKines, NMSU
Dario Hunt, Nevada
Deonte Burton, Nevada
Malik Story, Nevada
Zane Johnson, Hawaii

I've written all about the top two teams. Utah State has the best coach and the best home court in the conference, although if they push for their fifth straight title, would it be Stew's best coaching job? I think so. Hawaii seems like the popular up and comer team. I like Hawaii. I like Gib Arnold. I love Vander Joaquim. But it's Hawaii. I remember San Jose State was the team two years ago. And Idaho had all of their players coming back after Don Verlin's first year only to fall flat. I think there is a reason bottom half teams finish in the bottom half. Nevada, NMSU and Utah State have done it over time. Until the other schools show me something in the tournament, I'm not buying the preseason hype.

Now for some Aggie notes. First here is a story I wrote on Tony Delk.

Here are some quotes from Delk:
On Marvin Menzies "It's been great being around him. He has a feel for this team and a passion for basketball overall. He is like a father figure to most of these guys. He wants to see this team be successful."

I asked him about the NBA potential of players. He said he encourages players to stay in the present and if the league is there, it will come. Delk said he has to be honest with players and that you have to outwork other players and separate yourself from other players in one thing. Here is what he said about Wendell McKines, whose rebounding prowess could provide his ticket.

"You want to see a guy like that succeed. He believes in himself. You have to have confidence in your ability. I think he will have a shot or an opportunity to maybe try out for a team. You can't teach his work ethic. It's remarkable for a kid to get hurt like that last year. He knows this is his last go-around in college basketball and he wants to make the most out of it."

NMSU players have soaked up everything Delk says because of his pro career. But he also won a national championship at Kentucky.

"Even at Kentucky, we told guys to unpack your bags and enjoy the college experience because once it's over, it's over. If it's there in the future, prepare for it in the present and then when you get to that point, you will be ready for it but you have to enjoy each practice and each game."

I also talked to junior wing Tyrone Watson. Watson has been working on his release, which has a noticeable hesitation at the top of his jump shot. Watson still hit a decent percentage, shooting 32 percent on 37 attempts.

"I'm just trying to get the shot off quicker and get the hitch out of it and not pause up in the air so long. The adjustment of my feet and just getting strength into the shot from the ground up."

Watson entered his sophomore season battling Bandja Sy for playing time. The injury to Wendell McKines and Watson's toughness made  him an easy decision for minutes and he wound up starting all 33 games.

"I didn't expect to start at all. It was a blessing to start and I took the opportunity. I don't expect to start just because I did last year. Everyone is battling for each other's position. At the end of the day, it's still a family."

On McKines' return
"My workload is not going to be so heavy because he's back. He's expecting big things for himself and we really want it for him because he had to sit and watch last year."

The Aggies' slow starts in recent years have killed attendance. But they also take a while to recover from a chemistry and continuity standpoint, hence their hovering around .500 all year last year. NMSU has an experienced group this year and some winnable games early with some tough ones as well.

"I think we are going to have a better start to the season than we have had in the past compared to where we have lost a bunch of games at the start and then try to build it back up. I think we are going to be more steady."




No. 1 — New Mexico State senior forward Wendell McKines

As a reporter in a market this size, you don't think players or coaches read things, but Wendell McKines has proven over time that he does. He reminded me of a blog entry I wrote his sophomore or junior season where I believed that he should come off the bench and provide an energy boost for the Aggies. That's not the reason I believe McKines to be the best player in the WAC this year, but I do have some concerns. The biggest is the simple fact that nobody has seen him play since March 19, 2010 in a NCAA Tournament loss to Michigan State. McKines told me the other day that he was disappointed with his individual performance in that game (1 for 8, 7 points, 7 rebounds) He worked over that summer getting ready to play on the perimeter last year along side Troy Gillenwater and Hamidu Rahman. We all know what happened. Now from what he tells me, he's moving back into the post, but he will likely still show an improved jumper and game off the dribble. As I thought about it though, what put him ahead of other players this year to me is that even if he is the same player we saw as a junior (10.7 ppg, 9.8 rpg), he's the best player in the league. He led the league with 9.8 boards per game in WAC play at a time the league had really good rebounders like Babbitt, Rolle, Oakes, Ashaolu and Okoye. From a local standpoint, is McKines the best pure athlete they've had here? He will likely leave NMSU No. 2 in rebounds behind Sam Lacy. Lacy is also the only Aggie to have 1000 points and 1000 rebounds, but all McKines has to do to join that company average 4 ppg and 8 rpg this season. What put McKines over Burton to me though was his unselfishness as a player. He averaged 3 assists per game as junior in 24 games. I wouldn't be surprised to see McKines record at least one triple double this season, which would make him the third to do so at NMSU and the first since William Benjamin had 15 pts, 11 rebounds and 10 assists in a 120-62 win at home against Cal State Northridge in 1990. The best player in the WAC should make players around him better, and McKines has certainly done that throughout his career.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

No. 2 — Nevada sophomore guard Deonte Burton

I know that Burton was the focus when the Aggies got ready to play Nevada. Nevada played a tough schedule with virtually no returning experience. In WAC play, they started to figure it out but went 8-8, looked great in the qtrs and not so great in the semis. Burton finished 10th in the WAC with 13.7 ppg, but he led Nevada and was fifth in the league in conference play at 15.8 ppg. Burton ranked seventh in WAC play with 3.4 apg. That's an area I would like to see him improve, even though he has to score as well. He played 30 minutes per game but had 113 assists for a team that likes to run. He finished fourth in the WAC in assists but consider the dropoff between him and the other top point guard. Anderson had 165 as a scorer at Boise St., Laroche had 152 and Graham had 141. 113 seems like a low number. Other numbers to consider, Burton had 1.3 steals per game, shot  42 percent from the floor because he's so good at getting to the basket and was a respectable 36 percent from 3-pt range. He was 46 percent in WAC play. I think Burton will be even better with a year under his belt.

No. 3 — Hawaii senior guard Zane Johnson
No. 4 — Nevada senior center Dario Hunt
No. 5 — Nevada junior guard Malik Story
No. 6 — Hawaii junior center Vander Joaquim
No. 7 — Nevada senior center forward Olek Czyz
No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche
No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Utah State senior point guard Brockeith Pane

Saturday, October 15, 2011

No. 3 — Hawaii senior guard Zane Johnson

There has to be space for the best returning 3-point shooter from last year. But the Arizona transfer is also the WAC's leading returning scorer and 3-point shooter from last year. Johnson's 15.8 ppg was fourth last year. His 41 percent shooting from 3 last year was fifth and his 3.2 made 3s per game led the league. Johnson probably isn't a complete offensive player but I don't think he's just a spot up shooter. He could also be more versatile with some better pieces around him but down the stretch of a close game or if Hawaii has to shoot itself back into a game, there isn't a better player in the WAC this year to do so.

No. 4 — Nevada senior center Dario Hunt
No. 5 — Nevada junior guard Malik Story
No. 6 — Hawaii junior center Vander Joaquim
No. 7 — Nevada senior center forward Olek Czyz
No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche
No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Brockeith Pane, Utah State senior point guard

Friday, October 14, 2011

NMSU hoops stories plus Wendell McKines

I'll have some blog entries up tomorrow on Friday's first practice. But here are a couple stories I've written the past couple days.

Here is today's story from practice. Without Troy Gillenwater or a dominant offensive player and with the return of Wendell McKines, I think the Aggies will seem like a different team identity wise. They have players like McKines and Tyrone Watson, who can help create a tough team, which wins games first and foremost, but also brings people to the arena with a style of play people can identify with. As I've written about my concern offensively with this team, NMSU has the potential to prove me wrong. They have more than one player who can score between 10 and 15 ppg, which makes them hard to guard collectively if everyone does their job. They just don't have a guy who can go out and score 20 every night.

Here is a column I wrote on 3 key storylines entering the season.

Last but not least, here's an interview with McKines. He talks about getting back  with his teammates after a year off, the rivalry games and other things.


Wednesday, October 12, 2011

No. 4 — Nevada senior center Dario Hunt

Hunt ran NMSU ragged in a 90-71 Nevada win in Reno. He was 6 for 9 from the field for 20 points and 12 rebounds. Hunt has always stood out as a shot blocker. He was second in WAC play last  year with 2.1 blocks per game but his 33 blocks were the most in the league. Nevada wasn't a very good defensive team, but having a player like Hunt on the floor is a nice luxury. Hunt was 12th in the WAC in scoring at 12.4 ppg and he led the league with 9.7 rpg. He led the WAC in league play with 9.4 per game. I think there are some good big men in the league this year and with the return of Wendell McKines, Hunt, Joaquim, Will Carter and maybe Brady Jardine could make for a good battle for the rebounding king. From Nevada's standpoint, I think guard Deonte Burton is their best player, but Hunt could be their most important player.

No. 5 — Nevada junior guard Malik Story
No. 6 — Hawaii junior center Vander Joaquim
No. 7 — Nevada senior forward Olek Czyz
No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche
No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Brockeith Pane, Utah State senior point guard

No. 5 — Nevada junior guard Malik Story

Story could be scary if he shows a little consistency in his second year at Nevada. Look at Nevada's WAC Tournament last year. He was 11 for 14, 6 for 6 from 3 for 34 points in a first round win over Fresno State. He was 9 for 16 and 3 for 9 for 22 points in the quarterfinal loss to New Mexico State. He seems like a volume shooter. His 400 field goal attempts last year were considerably more than anyone else on the team. Deonte Burton was second with 303. There wasn't as big a difference in conference play  but his 3-point attempts nearly doubled Burton and his percentage dipped from 39 percent to 30 percent. I think his role on this team is very clearly defined. He's not a good defender and when you have more turnovers than assists, I don't think it's a good sign. But I think he enters the season as the second best pure scorer behind Zane Johnson.

No. 6 — Hawaii junior center Vander Joaquim
No. 7 — Nevada senior forward Olek Czyz
No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche
No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Utah State senior point guard Brockeith Pane

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

No. 6 — Hawaii junior center Vander Joaquim

Joaquim at No. 6 is probably the biggest stretch so far. I don't know how I feel about two Hawaii players in the Top 6, but as far as big men in the WAC, Joaquim is only a junior so he should improve after an impressive and productive sophomore year. Does anyone think he's comparable to JaVale Mcgee??? Just wondering.

Joaquim was third in the league last year with 8.2 rpg. He was seventh in field goal percentage (52) and second in blocks with 1.3 per game. He increased his production in WAC play to  55 percent, 11.9 ppg and 9.1 rpg. Not bad for a sophomore playing under a first  year head coach and he wasn't even the main option in the post.

No. 7 — Nevada senior forward Olek Czyz
No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche
No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Utah State senior point guard Brockeith Pane

Monday, October 10, 2011

A pair of NMSU hoops stories

I talked to Wendell McKines for the first time on Monday. He talked about appreciating everything more this time around after being forced to watch everything from the sidelines last year. Also noticeable is the added muscle. He said he's up to 235. Anyway, here is the story on Wendell's thoughts as the men open practice on Friday. 

The NMSU women practice for the first time under Mark Trakh on Tuesday afternoon. Here is that story.

No. 7 — Nevada senior forward Olek Czyz

The Duke transfer is the first of four Nevada players in the Top 7.
Czyz missed nine games, but finished his first year at Nevada fourth on the team in scoring at 12.3 ppg and second in rebounding at 5.7 rpg. I liked his game because he didn't force or settle for the 3 but he was more than capable, shooting 45 percent (27 for 60) from 3-point range and shot 53 percent from the field. Czyz upped his scoring to 14 ppg in WAC play and shot 47 percent from 3. At 6-7, Czyz is a tough matchup on the offensive end, but didn't seem like much of a defender in games I watched him.  I expect his teammates Dario Hunt, Deonte Burton and Malik Story to all pick up their game this year. Czyz is kind of a wildcard for me. He was 11th in scoring and 14th in rebounding in the league. It seems like he could be better this year and elevate into the top 5 or 6 in both categories. If so, how much does Nevada's perceived lack of depth really hurt them?

No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche
No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Utah State senior point guard Brockeith Pane

Saturday, October 8, 2011

No. 8 — New Mexico State senior point guard Hernst Laroche

Laroche has started every game since coming to New Mexico State. That's 99 straight. Laroche enters his senior season No. 2 on the All-time assist list behind Sam Crawford. Laroche's 416 assist are 176 behind Crawford, meaning if Laroche wants to leave Las Cruces atop the list, he has to improve slightly on his WAC leading 5.1 assists per game. He had a career year in terms of total assists with 152 last year. He also
averaged a career best 11.5 ppg. Laroche is the Aggies' best returning shooter from long range after shooting 34 percent from 3 last year. He's always done a good job taking care of the ball, but last year's 2.7 turnovers per game was the highest of his career by one TO per game as he probably tried to press offensively. If Laroche can up his scoring slightly and remain a leader on both ends (62 steals led the Aggies and was third behind seniors Anderson and Graham last year) it shouldn't matter if he catches Crawford for individual records because that would likely put the Aggies back in the tournament his senior year.

No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone
No. 10 — Utah State senior guard Brockeith Pane

Friday, October 7, 2011

Pan American Center seating story

Here is my story on the new Pan American Center seating capacity. I talked and or emailed with several season ticket holders. I was expecting a mixed bag but nobody had anything negative regarding the atmosphere. I noticed that people also seem to be happy with the price ranges for season ticket sales.

No. 9 — Idaho junior center Kyle Barone

Not sure why Barone didn't start more than the nine games, although he did play 26 minutes per game.  The 6-10 sophomore was named to the WAC honorable mention team after averaging 10.5 ppg and 6 rpg.
Barone led the WAC in field goal percentage, shooting 61 percent from the floor. He shot 65 percent in the WAC and was 78 percent from the foul line. In the games I watched Barone in person, I didn't think anyone in the WAC could guard him in the post. Idaho is good at sharing the ball so a lot of different guys took shots and a good outside threat in Ledbetter. But now Barone is the best player on the team and I would like to see him on the court a little more this year.

No. 10 — Brockeith Pane, Utah State point guard.

No. 10 — Brockeith Pane, Utah State point guard

For the next 10 days, I'm going to list the Top 10 players  in the WAC regardless of position.

No. 10 is Utah State senior point guard Brockeith Pane.

Does anyone know how Pane ended up on the first team all WAC last year ahead of Nevada's Deonte Burton or even Hawaii's Zane Johnson? Well he will have to prove worthy this year.

Pane was probably the perfect guy for the perfect situation last year. He was surrounded by four starters, a deep bench a good coach on a good team. He played the role of point guard and defender. He was tied for third in WAC games with 4.4 assists per game. He was second on his team in scoring at 11.8 ppg and 12. 5 in WAC play but he was a pure penetrate guard. He got to the lane and he finished. He was the best shooting guard in the WAC with a 49 percent field goal percentage in WAC games and he was 12th in the league in free throw shooting (76 percent). You would think with less established weapons around him, teams will dare  him to shoot from long range where he shot 21 percent (16 of 76) last year. He's a capable player, but he will need to increase production across the board for Utah State to contend again.

——————————————

Here are some players on the outside looking in. All of them are players who can find their way into the Top 10 for sure.

In no particular order:
Louisiana Tech guards Brandon Gibson and Kenyon McNeaill

San Jose State guard Keith Shamburger. He hit six 3s to sink Idaho in the WAC Tourney and reach the semis but now he's the best guard on another rebuilding San Jose State team. San Jose State teammate Will Carter is probably No. 11. Carter was seventh in the WAC with 7 rpg to go with 9.8 ppg and he started all 33 games.

Fresno State guard Kevin Olekaibe. I like him. Anytime a freshman leads a team in scoring, he has to be considered a top player his sophomore year. Olekaibe and Shepp could be a good backcourt.


New Mexico State's Tshilidzi Nephawe could be a Top 3 center in the league. New Mexico State's Hamidu Rahman could be a Top 3 center in the league. One is a sophomore who could shoulder more responsibility, the other is a senior coming off an injury plagued year who was good as a sophomore. One will emerge, the other will back up. Christian Kabongo could also be in line for a big year, hopefully has developed some shooting touch to go with his ability to get to the paint.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

WAC sophs

I think the top four sophomores are all guards listed at 6-1 or below in Fresno's Kevin Olekaibe, La. Tech's Kenyon McNeaill, Nevada's Deonte Burton and San Jose's Keith Shamburger.


Fresno State:
Sophomore guard Kevin Olekaibe led the Bulldogs in scoring last year with 12 ppg, but he doesn't have a lot of experience around him like last year.His 183 3-pt attempts were the most on the team and he shot 33 percent from there. He also had 1.2 steals per game.

Louisiana Tech:
Guard Kenyon McNeaill started 30 games last year averaging 8.7 pggs and 2.4 apg. He also was a 34 percent 3-pt shooter.

Nevada:
Deonte Burton is a first-team player and the WAC Freshman of the year last year. Burton was fifth in the WAC in scoring at 15.8 per game, upping his season average of 13.7. Was seventh with 3.7 assists per game. He shot 49 percent from the floor as a guard, meaning he gets to the rim a lot but he still shot 36 percent from 3 point range.
Jerry Evans Jr. started 14 WAC games last year. Nevada's role players looked scared when they had the ball last year, but outside of their big 4, Evans had the most minutes at 18 minutes per game.

NMSU:
Whether or not Tshilidzi Nephawe starts for the Aggies at center is irrelevant because he will likely be finishing them. What stands out about Nephawe, other than his physique, is his shooting touch at the free throw line. Nephawe  was 76 percent from the foul line last year. He was 80 percent in WAC play, making 40 of his 50 attempts. If he improved his offensive game around the basket, as well as a rebounder (should do better than his 4.4 rpg), he could be a force in WAC play.
Christian Kabongo showed flashes of becoming a special talent last year, but his ability to slash into the lane where he dished out 82 assists was all but canceled out by his 82 turnovers. Clean that up and increase the 19 percent 3-point shooting effort, and he could finish emerge as a second or third scorer at NMSU.

San Jose State:
Shamburger had double digit scoring nights 20 times last year. He had a big 28 points in a WAC Tourney win over Idaho, but won't have either Adrian Oliver or Justin Graham around this year. Shamburger liked the 3 last year. He shot nine more than Oliver, finishing at 31 percent for the season

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Seeking input

Im looking for fans, including season ticket holders, interested in speaking about the new look at the Pan Am this year. Let me know with an email at jgroves@lcsun-news.com :



In order to create a more intimate and raucous environment, NM State has permanently closed the four upper corners of the arena, which will allow the fan base to sit closer together and give a true home court advantage.  For fans with season tickets in those seating sections, your seats will now be moved to a reserved seat, closer to the action, and priced in line with what you paid last year.  Those upper level seats had been priced at $120, but now will be just $69.

Top WAC Juniors

Fresno State: Fresno State has some transfers eligible this year so we can discuss those in a couple days.

Guard Garrett Johnson was Fresno's third best 3-point shooter in terms of percentage (32) and his 141 attempts were the second most on the team by far. Johnson started 11 WAC games last year. Not sure what new head coach Rodney Terry will do, but he has three good WAC guards in Johnson, Steven Shepp and Kevin Olekaibe.


Hawaii:
Forward Joston Thomas and center Vader Joaquim combined for 20 points and 13 rebounds last year. Joaquim averaged 9.5 ppg and 8.2 rpg last year and those numbers will likely increase. He was third in the league in rebounding last year with nine per game in WAC play while shooting 55 percent and blocking two shots per game.

Idaho:
Center Kyle Barone led the league in field goal percentage at 61 percent last year despite averging just 10.5 ppg. You would think that number would have to be more if the Vandals want to move into the top half. At 6-10, I think Barone is the top center in the WAC from an offensive skill standpoint, but his numbers don't back me up yet because he came off the bench last year, starting just nine games (4 WAC). Maybe this year.

Louisiana Tech:
Guard Brandon Gibson was limited to 15 games due to injury but was still the Bulldogs third-leading scorer with 9.2  per game. Gibson and Kenyon McNeaill form a decent backcourt but new coach Michael White also has a couple transfers that could cut into playing team.

Nevada:
Guard Malik Story is a Top 10 player in the league. He's a streaky player though and a volume shooter. His 400 field goal attempts last year were nearly 100 more shots than second place on the team and yet he ranked just seventh in the WAC with 1.9 made 3s per game. He attempted 102 3s in WAC play but his 30 percent didn't even rank him in the top 10. My personal opinion on Story is that he was still kind of figuring it out last year and he could have a huge season as a junior.

NMSU:
I think Tyrone Watson will increase his all-around game even more this year when he doesn't have to spend as much time playing power forward. He can play three positions and has guarded four positions for the Aggies. He's solid all around but he's a great passer (Third last year in assists) and probably one of the most underrated players in the WAC. BJ West is kind of caught up in a numbers game at center but is a good shot blocker and Bandja Sy is in the same boat on the wing

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

WAC seniors

I'm going to try to go through the top seniors, juniors, sophs and freshmen/transfers the next couple days, trying to get an idea the top players in the WAC and maybe you may get something out of it as well.

The senior class is probably the most known commodity so we will start there. I'm also going  to be counting down the top 10 players in the league starting tomorrow which should account why some of the bigger names are briefly touched upon here to avoid redundancy.

Fresno State:
Pt. guard Steven Shepp was a difference maker last year. Fresno went from a bad team without him in the lineup to an OK team when he returned. He was fifth in the WAC during conference play with 3.6 assists per game and as a senior is probably a Top 5 point guard in the league.

Fresno also has UNM transfer Jonathan Willis, who didn't play much of a factor for 6-10 team.

Hawaii:
Guard Zane Johnson is a likely first-team player and the WAC's top 3-point shooter in terms of makes (3.3 per game) while shooting 41 percent on the year. Johnson was fourth in WAC scoring at 15.9 per game. Hawaii seems like they are going to be solid all around which could open things up even more for Johnson.

5-9 point guard Jeremiah Ostrowski could be one of my favorite players in the league and provides instant energy once he joins the team after the football season ends. in 20 games last year, he averaged nearly 4 assists per game

Idaho:
Senior guards Landom Tatum and Deremy Geiger are the top returning seniors and two of the Vandals' top returning scorers. Tatum led the WAC in assist-to-turnover ratio last year (2.2) and led the team with 3 apg in a reserve role, playing 22 minutes per game. Geiger started all 32 games for Idaho last year. Seems like he's more of a driver and good in transition He was a 31 percent 3pt shooter but dropped to 25 percent in WAC games. He scored 8 ppg but had the luxury of kicking to Ledbetter or dumping it inside to Barone.

Nevada:
Nevada's two seniors are also Top 10 players in the WAC. Center Dario Hunt led the league in rebounding last year with 9.7 per game to go with 12.4 ppg and forward Olek Czyz is one of the better scoring forwards in the league at 12.3 ppg with 5.7 rpg. It's a good front line offensively and rebounding wise. Hunt is also a top defender and shot blocker, averaging 2 blocks per game last year.

New Mexico State:
This list starts with Wendell McKines, who has 27 double doubles in three years at NMSU. McKines' leadership and effort level night in and night out are perhaps even a greater asset to the Aggies, who missed that severely last season.  Point guard Hernst Laroche has started every game as an Aggie and that shouldn't change this year. His 416 career assists are second behind career leader Sam Crawford, who had 592 from 91-93. Senior center Hamidu Rahman will split time with sophomore Tshilidzi Nephawe. Rahman had an OK freshman year, a great sophomore year and a horrible junior year where he was injured and limited to 23 games. When healthy, he's a good rebounder and decent scorer in the paint.

San Jose State:
Senior forward Will Carter was probably one of the best/underrated big men in the conference last year, but he played alongside the best scorer in the league in Adrian Oliver on a 5-11 team. Carter is athletic at 6-8, was fifth in the league with 8 rpg. senior center Matt Ballard went from intramural superstar to starter last year who played 26 minutes per game.

Utah State:
Brockeith Payne is the last man left at Utah State as the UtAgs roster starts to turn over a little bit. Payne is a top 3 point guard in the WAC, but we shall see if he's among the league's elite without Tai Wesley, Pooh Williams, Newbold an Bendall around him. Was good at getting to the paint and creating, but not much of a shooter. It seems like he will have to improve on his 12 ppg from a year ago for Utah State to be competitive. Not sure about that.

Brady Jardine to me is the most overrated player in the WAC. He averaged 7 boards per game, which was seventh in the conference and there is no denying his athletic ability. But again, I'm not sure he has the skills required to be a go-to guy without the surrounding cast they have had the past few years.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Aggies vs. standout players

NMSU plays against one Wooden Award watch list player in UNM big man Drew Gordon twice and three others whom Andy Katz believes can end up on the list.