Friday, May 1, 2009

UCSB Basketball Banquet

According to the Santa Barbara News Press, by Mark Patton:

April 30, 2009 7:41 AM

Coach Bob Williams lined up his entire UCSB basketball team for next season, minus his two recruits, for everyone to see during Sunday's fete at the university's Corwin Pavilion.

"I've never done this in 11 years," Williams said, "and I'm only doing it now because of how excited I am about things."

And with Somogyi, there is a "We Are The World" kind of feel to this group.

The big Hungarian ranked last among UCSB's four freshmen in scoring average last year and third in rebounding . But Williams thinks the longest Gaucho may also have the longest career.

"He teased you guys all year long," he said. "He teased us. He teases everybody. But the light has gone on with him.

"The difference in him this spring has been huge in terms of his commitment to being great. His commitment to being in the weight room. His commitment to playing harder and fighting those demons that would keep him from being the best."

"When everything gets lined up, and he's stronger and 15-to-20 pounds heavier, we are all going to be asking him for tickets somewhere down the line," Williams continued. "He can play at that next level."

Other banquet observations by Williams:

On junior center Jesse Byrd, who'll be trying to keep Somogyi from shooing him out of next year's starting lineup: "When Mr. Byrd went down (with a knee injury), our season went down. And Mr. Byrd came back and played on one leg. He gave us all he had. He didn't come back healthy this year, but he is going to have a great senior year."

On junior point guard Justin Joyner, who missed the entire season as an injury redshirt: "He is going to play and be a warrior for us again next year with a broken bone in his wrist. It's held together with a screw, and he's going to compete. He doesn't want the surgery because he wants to play, heart and soul."

On Will Brew, who shared the Gauchos' most improved award with fellow freshman James Nunnally while sharing point-guard duties with "utility man" Paul Roemer: "He'd never played point guard in high school. That's like taking a guy who had never been a quarterback in football lining up behind the center. But we got better as Will got better."

On Nunnally, a 6-5 wingman who led the Gauchos in scoring in four of their last five games: "James Nunnally is all talent, and now the work ethic is starting to meet the talent. He's serious about getting better."

On his other freshman starter, 6-8 forward Jaime Serna: "He's physical, he's tough, he's quick off his feet. The reason Jaime doesn't get most improved? He came in this way."

On wing guard James Powell, who slumped badly as a junior after a record-setting sophomore season from the 3-point line: "He's going to bounce back and have a great senior year and contribute in a variety of ways for us."

On 6-9 sophomore Sam Phippen, who progressed much the way Williams hopes his Hungarian teammate will: "He was longer, bigger and stronger, and he played well during the season. It's a pivotal time for him, and he's going to step up."

On 6-5 sophomore transfer Orlando Johnson, who set several freshman records at Loyola Marymount: "Orlando is a beast. He has an NFL body in a basketball player. You're going to love Orlando. He's going to take the role that (team MVP) Chris Devine had: A guy who's going to be physically throwing his body around."

On 6-10 junior transfer Jon Pastorek, who played two seasons at San Diego State: "He came in here and his back was absolutely a mess. Now his back is healthy and he's moving and he can play. And he's very good. He might be as good a passer as anybody that we have in the program."

Next season will be decided by this off-season, Williams concluded.

It starts that early ó as early as 7:30 a.m., when the gym starts filling up with Gauchos shooting jump shots.

"I've been here for 11 years," he said, "and I can never remember having the attitudes where they are right now, the work ethic and commitment for where they are right now.

"The excitement ó you can taste it. I can taste it. And more important than that, they can taste it."

It was that kind of banquet.

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