Sunday, December 23, 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012

UCSB 70 - SDSU 84, 12-6-12

Boswell Has Career Night as Gauchos Lose 84-70 Decision at No. 17 San Diego State

Box Score

Moral Victory

Moral victory--the very mention of it normally conjures up feelings of resignation...and defeat.  After all, no competitor aims to finish 2nd--or to lose a match going into a competition.  But in rare cases, the phrase is more than appropriate.  That occurred Thursday in Viejas Arena on San Diego State's campus.

The game in question was the UCSB Gauchos' tussle against the nationally-ranked and heavily favored Aztecs.  The Show, as Aztec fans dub it, usually consists of a massacre by the home team against a hapless visiting team.  On paper, the status quo was supposed to happen with the Gauchos.  They were heavy underdogs, with the betting spread in the mid teens.

In the first half, and for most of the second half, the predictable was materializing.  The Aztecs were bigger at each position, were more athletic at almost every position, and even more experienced at almost every position.  In other words, the deck was stacked against the youthful Gauchos, and they played like it for most of the game.

It wasn't due to lack of effort, but every time a Gaucho player would try their go-to move, an Aztec defender (or two in Alan Williams' case), was already in front of the Gaucho in question, cutting off penetration lanes.  And on the other end, Chase Tapley appeared so relaxed in knocking down his 3-points with such regularity, a close glimpse would reveal that he was literally dancing to his own tune after each made 3.  This was just a regular Saturday morning pick up game, and the world was Tapley's oyster--at least that's how it appeared from the sidelines.

After a predictable first half, where the Aztecs merely toyed with the Gauchos, letting the visiting team score a few buckets, only to squash any hopes of an upset with a barrage of perimeter jumpers and a few dunks sprinkled in between--just to let the sold out crowd know who was boss--something happened in the second half.

That something emerged from left field.  Yes, the Gauchos were playing hard in the first half--and at the start of the second half, but each previous attempt at a comeback was thwarted by what should have been a demoralizing response by the Aztecs.  The Gauchos never let the seemingly insurmountable leads get to their heads.  The Gauchos kept at it, unfazed by the uphill battle.

Kyle Boswell kept bombing in 3-point jumpers.  Taran Brown kept attacking the basket with quiet determination--as well as hitting the perimeter jumper when it was open.  In fact, the Gauchos kept passing the rock around the horn until a teammate was open for a jumper.  And Nate Garth kept penetrating, and finding an open teammate for an easy bucket.  And on one defensive possession, Brown swatted away an Aztec would-be layup with alarming ferocity.

The statement was the powerful Aztecs would perhaps win the game, but the Gauchos weren't going to let the game out of control, and they weren't going to take defeat lying down.  The Aztecs had better keep bringing it, because the upstart Gauchos weren't going to go down without a fight.

Down by almost 30 points at one time, the Gauchos continued to chip away at the monstrous lead, and would eventually make the margin respectable.  The Gauchos outplayed and outscored the Aztecs in the latter portion of the game.  The Gauchos kept playing--and playing hard.  And they found out that if they executed their offense, retained composure, and took the open shot when it presented itself, good things would happen.

And on defense, if they communicated and continued to apply pressure defense, good things will happen.  Fans know the final score:  84 - 70 bad guys.  And they know Boswell hit numerous contested jumpers.  And they know once Brown stopped hesitating, he was knocking down his jumpers as well.  But what they may have missed is what was going on in the trenches.

Winston Shepard III was everybody's high school all-American last year, and Coach Steve Fisher's 2012 prized Aztec recruit.  Duke DaRe, UCSB's undersized walk-on, didn't care.  Despite giving up 8 inches in height and an even large deficit in wingspan, he still harassed Shepard, poking the ball out of Shepard's possession. Sam Beeler, UCSB's freshman center from San Diego, displayed none of the deer-in-the-headlights look playing before the home town.  He calmly received passes in the paint and finished, even getting a put back against the vaunted Aztec front court.

Alan Williams muscled in his usual garbage buckets,  inducing a few contusions along the way.  The Aztecs did not want to have anything to do with Big Al. But he was also able to step back and hit the mid-range jumper.  12,000 fans were silenced by them.  Mr. Williams did not have that in his bag of tricks last year.  Like everybody in Viejas, I was speechless.  Well, almost everybody.  A few SDSU hecklers would comment, but the Gaucho bench must have seen this in practice a few times, because they were nodding with confirmation.

In fact, despite being down by a country mile at times, the Gaucho bench kept encouraging the players on the court.  There was no sense of discord or desperation.  Just run the offense.  Yes, a few plays were head-scratchers, but there weren't that many.  San Diego State players were just that good.  When focused, very few teams in the country can beat the Aztecs.  Seriously.  They have Final Four talent, and if they don't reach the Sweet 16, it will be a major upset.  These guys are for real, with at least a few NBA prospects:  Tapley, Shepard, Jamaal Franklin just to name a few.

But that didn't stop Garth from throwing caution to the wind--and yet remaining disciplined.  I saw Garth explode into the lane with conviction that I haven't seen from him.  Aztec guards are elite athletically, but Garth blew by them in the second half like he was in the high occupancy vehicle lane on I-5 looking for a party in Tijuana.  Nate even finished a drive.  But more often than not (9 assists--really?), he found an open teammate for an easy layup or wide-open jumper, leaving Aztec defenders flat-footed.

The pessimists would point out that the Aztecs probably let their foot off the pedal with the outcome determined.  But the glass-half-full crowd would realize that while the Aztecs may have called it in, the GAUCHOS DID NOT.  There was no quit in the Gauchos.  I'm confident this is a good omen for the team, because they banded together when they could have easily chalked it up as another blowout defeat.  Instead, they were able to make the Aztec fan base a little more uncomfortable near the end of the game, and Coach Fisher pull out a few more hairs.

While UCSB head coach Bob Williams can't be all too happy with the outcome, he at least knows what he has to work with, that his kids have heart, and that paying attention to the little details does bear fruit.  That was one of the finest examples of the Gauchos making adjustments at halftime I've seen, which also reflects on the coaching staff.  These young Gauchos are ready and willing to be coached up, so Coach Williams can take some comfort in knowing his young pups are coachable.

Do I like moral victories?  In one word--Hell-No!  But if there was ever an example of one I could live with, I witnessed it Thursday night.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Breaking News: Dalante Dunklin has transferred out of UCSB

Dalante Dunklin has decided to transfer out of UCSB.  His tweets indicate the Gauchos' offensive system didn't suit his game.  He loves his teammates and coaches, but wants to keep the promises he made to his mom since age 5.

Gaucho Hoops fans will miss him and wish him the best of luck--wherever he ends up.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

A Tale of Two Cities

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times..."  That's according to Charles Dickens who authored "A Tale of Two Cities."

And it will apply to the 2012 - 2013 version of the UCSB Gauchos men's basketball team.  Fresh off three consecutive  post-season tournaments, including two NCAA championship playoff appearances in 2010 and 2011, the program is clearly on the rise.  But college basketball is not like the NBA, where teams remain championship contenders by signing their franchise players to long-term contracts.  By contrast, college players graduate, lose their eligibility, or transfer out with regularity.  Some even redshirt or get injured.  Maintaining a program's stability is difficult--especially for mid-major programs who don't have the recruiting budgets of the Duke's and Kentucky's of the world.

And so it is that the Gauchos enter the 2012 - 2013 season with more questions than answers.  For the previous three seasons, head coach Bob Williams had answers:  three of them, in fact.  The undersized, but rugged center Jaime Serna anchored the post.  James Nunnally ended up the fourth most prolific scorer in Gaucho history.  And of course, Orlando Johnson won multiple conference and All-American awards during his three-year Gaucho career.  All three were talented, and are playing pro basketball somewhere, with Johnson landing in the NBA with the Indiana Pacers, after ending his career as the all-time leading scorer in Gauchos history...not bad for 3 years of playing ball.

Surrounding the Big 3 were solid role players, including designated perimeter shooter Kyle Boswell, and Greg Somogyi, the UCSB's second all-time shot-blocker.  Freshman Big Alan Williams emerged as an offensive rebounding nightmare for opponents, as well as a shot-blocking machine to complement Somogyi's prowess as an eraser.  The rest of the squad knew their roles and contributed by either feeding the Big 3, or helping Big Al clear the boards.

But here's the bad news:  the Big 3 are gone, and so is Somogyi (in stature, the biggest of them all at 7'3").  Now what?  What's the best-case scenario, and what is the worst-case scenario?  Let's delve into it.

The Best of Times

1) As mentioned earlier, the Gauchos return two known quantities:  sharpshooter Boswell and rebounder extraordinaire Alan Williams.  As long as Boswell can continue to knock down approximately 45% of his 3-point shots, he should average at least double digits in points, as he will be asked to take on a bigger role on offense.  Or more accurately, Coach Williams will insist Boswell takes more shots.  Yes, he can dribble, and yes, he is a good passer, but those skills take away from what he does best, and that is rain in 3-point shots.

2) Big Al will continue to post impressive rebounding and scoring numbers as he did last year in limited minutes--only this season, he will be asked to carry the load even more.  As long as his production and efficiency remain elevated, more minutes should translate to bigger scoring and rebounding numbers.  He's also a proven passer, but that skill will be tested as he will experience more double teams.  And he has also developed more post moves, as well as a nifty turn around jumper.  His improvement in conditioning should also enable him to play more minutes, and stay out of foul trouble.

3) With two part-time starters in Nate Garth and TJ Taylor returning--and a year behind them in adjusting to what is expected of Gaucho point guards, that position should be improved.  Taylor has upped his defensive pressure, and Garth has reportedly improved his shooting stroke.

4) Now here come the unknowns with upside.  Taran Brown is reportedly the most athletic player Coach Williams has ever had as a head coach on any level.  He also has a good perimeter jump shot.  While raw on offense, his defense is already at an elite level.  With more minutes to go around this year, the redshirt freshman should be able to develop enough to allow his offense to catch up with his stellar defense.

5) Incoming true freshman Gaucho guards Michael Bryson and Dalante Dunklin should be able to contribute right away--and perhaps even start.  That's how good they can be.  Bryson has a deadly stroke from the perimeter, while Dunklin is a point guard with the toughness of a linebacker.  Bryson will have to adjust to defending at this level, but Dunklin is already a menace on defense, and his offense isn't bad either, as he makes good decisions with the ball, and possesses a decent shot himself.

6) A healthy Keegan Hornbuckle will do wonders for the Gaucho lineup, as his versatility presents match up problems for opponents at the forward position.  Hornbuckle can pop the 3, but he can also take his man off the dribble and finish.  Hopefully, with his injuries behind him, he can develop into a highly productive player, if not a bonafide star in this conference.

7) A healthy Lewis Thomas means he gets more minutes, and grabs more rebounds in the post.  Thomas can also step out and knock down the 3-point shot, so he is another player who can add an inside-outside dimension.

8) Speaking of post players, the Gauchos add two promising forwards in true freshmen Sam Beeler and Mitch Brewe.  Beeler is a string bean, but he is tough mentally, has quick feet for a big man, and is bouncy.  As he gains muscle via the weight room, he will become an even bigger presence in the paint.  Brewe comes in with size and strength, and has a nice mid-range stroke.  He also already does the dirty work required underneath, including setting solid picks, blocking out, and otherwise, just eats up space.  Word has it that he not only is ready to contribute immediately, but may even start.  That's a lot of pressure to put on a freshman, but it also means the freshmen have a ton of upside.

9) Don't overlook walk-ons.  Coach Williams has a history of developing former walk-ons into impact players.  Chrisman Oliver, Bray Skultety, Paul Roemer, and Jordan Weiner come to mind.  Duke DaRe has the best chance of being that guy this season.  Yes, the position is crowded, but it will be difficult to keep DaRe out of the lineup, as Coach Williams puts a premium on point guards who defend.  Shawn Moore, a small forward who can also shoot, will also have one year under his belt to adjust to the speed of Div. 1 play, so he should be in a better position to contribute this year.

10) Added together, the new Gauchos of 2012 - 2013 should be more athletic, quicker, and more willing to apply defensive pressure.  This should result in more transition baskets on offense.  Because of their youth, they should also deliver more improvement over the course of the season.  Despite lowered expectations, a best-case scenario has the Gauchos again contending for a Big West championship, sneaking up on the favorites--Long Beach State and Cal. State-Fullerton.

The Worst of Times

1) Yes, the two known quantities of Boswell and Williams are returning, but their roles will be expanded, and the transition will be difficult, as opponents can apply more focus on mitigating their tendencies.  With more scrutiny on Williams inside, he will surely attract more double teams.  How will he react to them?  Will he lose his composure and become a turnover machine?  Will he be able to pass out of the double teams?  Or will he try to force his way into a scoring position, and commit too many offensive fouls?  Will he stay out of foul trouble on defense?  Will he get frustrated by the increased scrutiny?  Will he experience the sophomore slump?  How he answers these questions,will determine how successful the Gauchos will be this year.

2) Similar questions apply to Boswell's fate.  Can he get open with defenders denying him the ball?  Can he knock down perimeter jumpers with high accuracy against heightened defensive pressure?  How will he adapt to increased attention from opposing defenders?  Will he be able to maintain his offensive production if he is expected to exert more energy guarding opponents?

3) Garth and Taylor had good assist-to-turnover ratios last season, as they weren't asked to do too much on offense, other than to feed the Big 3.  But with most of that offensive firepower gone, the scoring slack has to be made up somewhere.  Yes, Coach Williams' system doesn't require point guards to do a lot of scoring, but it helps if he can knock down outside shots, as it forces opponents to defend the perimeter, thereby opening up penetration and passing lanes.  And at the risk of being redundant, point guards have to be tough defenders.  That was not a strength last year, and will have to be rectified this year.

4) While Taran Brown is the most athletic player under Coach Williams' tutelage since Doug Christie played at Pepperdine, he is still very raw on offense.  In between displays of stunning athleticism are bouts of freshman mistakes.  His inconsistency and limited basketball knowledge may constrain his minutes, and result in a downward spiral of reduced skills development.  Brown will need to up his basketball knowledge in his first season of live play.

5) While Bryson and Dunklin bring in highly-desired skills as true freshmen--they are exactly that, freshmen.  As Coach Bobby Knight often quipped:  the best thing about freshmen is eventually they become sophomores. Will Bryson be able to knock down 3-point shots with regularity against bigger, faster, quicker, stronger, and more athletic defenders?  Will Dunklin be able to impose his strength and tenacity against more athletic opponents?  Can he adjust his game to avoid cheap fouls in the back court?  Can he knock down the perimeter jumper to keep defenses honest?  Fullerton and Long Beach bring in extremely talented and athletic guards--how will our true freshman guards hold up against defensive and offensive pressure?  Fullerton alone has 3 NBA prospects in their backcourt, according to Coach Williams.

6) Hornbuckle has a history of injuries--at Colorado and at UCSB.  In fact, he's still recovering from an ankle injury incurred in July.  Because his skill set is so valuable, not having him at 100% will be a detriment to the season's success.  Part of the slow start to last season was attributed to his injuries, and it was a major contributor to the Gauchos second-half collapse against Long Beach in the Big West Tourney final.  No one player solely determine's a team's success, but Hornbuckle is certainly a big part of this year's plans.

7) Thomas is also versatile, and a good rebounder, but he tailed off last season.  He somehow lost his intensity on the boards as the season progressed.  Will he be able to retain that intensity this year?  He is also nursing a minor leg injury currently. Will he hold up for a full season as he gains more minutes of playing time? 

8) Will Beeler be able to compete against bulkier post players?  He may have a competitive fire, but if he can be pushed around easily, no amount of fight will allow him to clean the glass effectively. Can he set solid picks for his cutting teammates?  Because of the physicality of the game, can he avoid foul trouble?  In other words, can he bang down low?  Heck, will he even redshirt?  Brewe may have fewer questions on strength, and he may have a solid jumper, but can he get separation to shoot it against quicker defenders?  Will he be able to get positioning against equally strong opponents?  Does he have the lateral foot speed to guard opponents' power forwards who favor the perimeter?  Has he developed post moves, instead of relying on a mid-range jump shot?

9) DaRe may be a tough-minded guard, but will his body hold up when he throws himself into the mix?  He may be a good defender, but is he a liability on offense?  Can he knock down the jumper, or create for his teammates?

10) In a worst-case scenario, if the veterans can't adapt to increased roles and the extra scrutiny that accompanies them, the Gauchos will struggle, especially on offense.  There are no proven go-to scorers yet.  They deferred to the Big 3 last year.  Big Al will face more double teams.  How he develops court vision and creates for his teammates will be key.  How the freshmen backcourt and post players develop will ultimately decide the Gauchos' fate this year.  If they are unable to adjust to the faster speed and increased athleticism at the Div. 1 level, they will struggle.

I believe this transitional year will a volatile one, with many ups and downs.  The growing pains will be inevitable, and the youngsters will have issues keeping up with the elite teams.  As long as they focus on continuously learning--and improving, they should be able to compete once the conference season starts.  However, in order to compete, they have to realize that the opponents at this level are ruthless, and the more experienced teams will be lethal at the smell of blood.  Nothing will be given to these Gauchos, and every inch will need to be earned.  If indeed this is a rebuilding year, the Gauchos will still probably stay out of the cellar, but getting into the top half of the conference will be a big challenge.

There are many questions yet to be answered--more questions than any Gaucho team in recent memory.  But that's why they roll the ball out on the court, and why Gaucho fans are full of hope every preseason.  The wait is finally over.  Charles Dickens can now rest easy again--at least until next year.  Let the Gaucho games begin!

Friday, October 26, 2012

UCSB men's basketball practice, 10-25-12

UCSB Gaucho Hoops practice notes

I got a bit of an inside look at a practice yesterday at the Thunderdome:

First, the disclaimers.  The videos and this report won't have much substance for obvious reasons, as the Gauchos ran plays in addition to individual and team drills.

Some of what I am posting is based on running commentary by the coaches, but most of it is my paraphrasing, so my interpretations may not be accurate.  Plus, I wasn't taking notes, and my memory isn't great, so I apologize in advance for my stream of consciousness rambling.  I'm just a fan, like the rest of you.  Here are my impressions overall:

1) The squad is a full one, with 18 players on the floor, 19 if you include the injured John Green, who is still on crutches, and most likely out for the season.

2) This allowed 3 teams of 6 players each to rotate in on drills on offense, defense, out of bounds plays (both base line and side line).

3) It is obvious that with emphasis on pressure defense, if players aren't physical on defense--and taking away what the offense wants to do, then they won't get much playing time.  This year's defense will HAVE to be more aggressive.  The good news is there is overall team depth, so players will be able to go hard and substitution patterns will be more frequent.  Last year's team wasn't able to do that due to a shorter bench (injuries to Green and Hornbuckle), and lack of team speed.  Plus, there is no way a player can go this hard on defense AND play 34 minutes AND be productive on offense also.  So expect frequent substitutions.

4) All 3 teams (blue, black, grey) were split up and evenly matched.  What many fans consider potential starters didn't necessarily outperform the others.  Unlike teams over the last 3 years, there is no "star" system, and no one stood out over the others--all positions are up for grabs (with perhaps the exception of Big Al), and as a spectator, it was hard for me to differentiate who would start and who was playing the best, and that includes walk-ons.  One team did do well in drills today, and with each drill, scores are kept.  Guys who consistently do well in the drills eventually bubble up to the top.  It is no surprise that toughness is a beneficial trait (hat tip to Dalante and Duke).

5) Because the 3 teams were split up talent-wise, team chemistry was great, with teammates encouraging each other on, irrespective of scholarship status, with playing time up for grabs.

6) Coach Williams does 80% of the coaching on the team drills, barking out instructions, making corrections, and sparing no players criticism, veterans or freshmen walk-ons--he's alternately teaching individual fundamental skills, as well as coaching strategy and philosophy.  A thick skin is required, but I will say I've heard much stronger language from other coaches.  After many years of doing this, Coach knows when praise is needed, and when criticism is required.  There are no egos, and the players were eager to learn, and the veterans directed traffic when needed.  What I liked was the freshmen were vocal in encouragement also.  The phrase "team-bonding" is overused, but I believe vocal communication really helps build trust among teammates.  If a player gets beat, there has to be mutual trust that other teammates have his back.  That's an obvious comment, but when you see the players run at top speed, there can be no hesitation and when quick reactions are needed.

7) Because they will get up in opposing offensive players' grills, help defense is important as our on-ball defenders will get beat sometimes.  And when opponents without the ball cut to the basket, our defenders won't be turning their backs on the ball (and switching arm denial).  Instead, they will open up, facing the ball, and covering their man as well as potentially helping out if another defender is broken down.  In other words, peripheral vision will allow the defender to see the ball and their man in a triangle, with their back to the basket.  It's basic help defense positioning.

8) In the half-court match up zone, weak side wings have to shift and cover the lane--and it has to be second nature.  The goal is to prevent the entry pass into the middle of the zone, which is normally the "hole" that exposes weakness.  In fact, a lot of these drills are meant to drill fundamentals into the players until it's second nature.  Overall, Coach may say memorizing plays is "simple," but it was complicated to me because I don't know the jargon.  You cannot be a dumbass to play the game at this level--your head will spin on a swivel and you'll get left behind at every turn.  Coaching really isn't just rolling the ball on the court and just letting them play; it's a lot more complicated than that, and the players have to react instinctively in order to succeed.  And every player is accountable--4 players can be following their assignments, but if one player breaks down, the whole offense and defense breaks down.  That's obvious on defense, but on offense, if a player is out of position, it could eliminate an easy scoring opportunity.  That's why spacing is crucial.

9) The nuances of defending against the pick and roll are intricate.  The defender has to body up his guy setting the pick, so he can't set the pick where he wants to.  It's called a hammer, and involves a folded forearm (vs. an extended one which will elicit a called foul).  Brewe is good at this because he is so strong.  Al has to watch extending his forearm or the refs will call cheap fouls on him.

10) There are 3 foundational defenses (with variations), and the Gauchos will disguise them all season.  Generally, in a man-to-man defense, when the ball is on the wing, the on-ball defender will steer the offensive player a certain direction, but when the ball is in the backcourt, they will steer the ball towards help (sorry for being vague, but I don't think I should be revealing the defensive philosophy).  Ironically, we were good at breaking down this defense last year because Nunally and OJ were good at breaking it down with dribble penetration, and we ended up with a lot of lob dunks.  Hint:  think the curl on the pick and roll. Our defense is meant to prevent this, because when a player of Nunn's capability can execute it right, he can pull up for a mid-range jumper, dump it off to the roller, dribble all the way to the basket, throw a skip pass cross court for an open 3 point shot (if the defender is sagging on help defense), or to the weak side post player cutting to the basket for a dunk.  That's 5 scenarios which can lead to a made basket.  This is based on my observations--so I could be off-base, but I do recall some pretty spectacular lob dunks last year.

11) Closing out with HANDS UP was majorly emphasized, and when a defender didn't do it in drills, their whole team was penalized.

12) When a team won a drill, the other two teams had to run sprints.

13) On defense, there is the match up zone, a man to man, and sometimes players would switch, sometimes only 4 would switch, and sometimes they wouldn't switch, depending on the defensive call.

14) On offense, competing for space in the lane was emphasized, if the defender for some reason doesn't make contact in the lane in post defense (while in help position, for instance), our offensive player should immediately fight for that position in the lane.  The paint is considered valuable real estate.

15) When a cutting player is open, most fans only follow the passer and the recipient.  But the most important part of the play is usually the teammate setting a solid pick--at the right time, in the right place, picking off the defender.

16) Players are practicing harder this season, as they will be expected to go harder on defense, with frequent spells.  They will play hard in the preseason, but may not learn how to be competitive in game situations until January, because they are so young.

17) Coach Stock and Madry like to run camp-like drills, where basic defensive fundamentals like help defense, switching, and hands up are emphasized.  On offense, players either pass and screen away, or if a player dribbles towards a teammate, the teammate cuts away.  Sometimes, no screens are set, sometimes only one screen is set in the post.  No on-ball screens were set in these drills.  But it was defense that was emphasized.  They are popular drills run at most basketball camps.  It was familiar to me because it helps players develop a sense of spacing, even though the drills were geared toward defensive principles.

18) Coach Williams emphasizes LOUD communication on defense, and even insists team managers be louder in their communication.  There is no room for introverts among players, coaches, and staff.

19) Big Al has a bigger repertoire of shots, but NOTHING was given to him in practice.  He will be dominant in league play, but he wasn't dominating against his own teammates.  That's encouraging because we have some beef and length inside in Brewe and Beeler.  Brewe is a bruiser, but has a surprisingly sweet mid-range jumper, while Beeler has good feet, and is very tough inside.  Yes, he needs to bulk up, but he doesn't back down, which was unexpected of him coming in.  At first glance, he likes like a suburban player, but he has some "street" in his game.

20) Our returning perimeter shooters have more solid shots, but then again, this was in practice and  not under the lights of game conditions.  Bos doesn't miss from the 3 range, as long as he takes good open shots, and is squared up.  That's all he took against scrambling defenses, so I was highly encouraged.  You can tell UCSB takes their academics seriously, as he was scheduling all his labs and classes he will miss for the rest of the quarter with Coach Campbell after practice to prepare for their road games.

21) Our guards were hitting many of their 3 point shots, including Nate, Duke, Taran, TJ, Aamahd, and Michael--even when they were running defensive as well as offensive drills.  When I mean solid shots, I mean their feet and shoulders were squared, they got lift vertically instead of being off-balance, and they were open.

22) Big Al and Dalante made some impressive runners off the back board.

23) After practice, they were off to the weight room.  They were doing weights 4 times a week in summer conditioning, 3 times during this preseason, but will taper off to twice a week during the season.

24) Big Al will shoot a higher percentage on his free throws.  His shooting form is light years better this season.

I also got a little scoop on some of our out of conference and Big West opponents, but my lips are sealed.

On behalf of all Gaucho hoops fans, I want to thank all the coaches for making this happen, especially Coach Williams.

Young, Talented Gauchos Prepare for Nov. 1 Thunderdome Debut

Meet the Gauchos: Men's Basketball

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

10 Potential Impact Players in the Big West Conference
Alan Williams - UCSB, So.: He has easily been the most hyped player in the Big West this off-season; and for good reason. Averaging 6.9 PPG and 6.5 RPG in a little over 17 MPG shows great potential. Throw in the fact that he is only a sophomore this year, and you have yourself one nearly-guaranteed, impact player in the making. The problem is that this is all potential speculation; a sophomore slump is very possible. For this to be avoided, Williams has to stay focused.

Former Gaucho James Nunnally playing in Greece

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Exclusive Interview with Coach Bob Williams

Gaucho Hoops (“GH”): Thanks for taking time out for this interview, Coach Williams.  Let’s get started.  First off, I have to ask.  What is the status of John Green?

Bob Williams (“BW”):  Unfortunately, John broke the 5th metatarsal on his foot—the same injury he suffered last season.  It’s primarily due to the impact and how he lands on his feet.  We will try the most aggressive, state of the art solutions for him, to give him the best chance of playing again.  However, the last thing we want to do is have him re-injure his feet, and have a long-term problem down the road, a la Bill Walton or Sam Bowie, where basically things are all fused together.  We’re looking out for John’s best long-term interests health-wise—as a person first.

GH:  John’s a great kid—it’s sad to see that he has been injured for so long, but hopefully, he can literally get back on his feet, and perhaps play again somewhere down the road.  The Gaucho community is rooting for him.

Let’s talk about your personnel this season.

BW:  Our biggest task is to replace last year’s senior class and their production, which includes their points, rebounds, and size.  This year’s team is composed of very talented sophomore and freshman classes.  Obviously, we’ll be very young, but we’ll also have more possibilities.  Because we are more athletic, more of our offense should be created off of our defense.  We’ll be more similar to the team 3 years ago, when we led the Big West in steals.  We had Orlando Johnson, James Nunnally, Justin Joyner, Jordan Weiner, and Paul Roemer on that team.  Because of our defenders, we were able to apply more guard pressure that year.  I expect this team to apply guard pressure at least one-third of possessions.

GH:  It sounds like this will be an exciting brand of basketball—perhaps more uptempo?

BW:  This team will have to work harder, play faster, and play shorter minutes, as we are athletic and have team depth.  We’ll trap more, and defend “into the ball”, closing any gaps between the ball and the defender.  We’ll control and contest on the perimeter.

GH:  Does this mean we should expect to see more man-to-man defense?

BW:  Actually, we will be applying even more guard pressure with our zone defense.

GH:  One of the things I noticed about your match up zone defenses is the ability to disguise it.  I recall at the University of Oregon tournament in Eugene a couple seasons ago, I had no idea what defense the Gauchos were playing.  I wasn’t the only one, as the players and coaches on Oregon’s bench weren’t even sure.  Is it tough to disguise your defenses against Big West opponents who have your teams well-scouted over the years?

BW: We did a very good job of disguising our defense a few years ago.  We will continue to do that this season.  We’ll also run the floor harder…and as I said, our defense will create more offense.

GH:  The infamous “jail break” offense?

BW:  Yes, and other schemes.  Last year, we ran many iso’s [isolations] for OJ and Nunn, because they were so good at knocking down their jumpers and turnarounds.  This year, we’ll move more…

GH:  Will you be running the motion offense?

BW:  We’ll run some elements of it.  When I say we’ll move more, I mean we’ll have more ball movement, passing and cutting.  We have some outstanding shooters in Kyle Boswell, Michael Bryson, Nate Garth, Taran Brown, and Keegan Hornbuckle.

GH:  Taran Brown?

BW:  Yes, Taran can knock down 3 point shots, has a mid-range jumper, and can create off the bounce.

GH:  What about the post players?

BW:  Big Al Williams has improved his game, his conditioning, and strength.  He has added some post moves, and can step out and hit the jumper.  Freshman Sam Beeler is more ready to contribute than we originally thought.  He’s long, runs well, and jumps well.  The other freshman, Mitch Brewe is already physically ready, and the strongest on the team.  He’s 6’7”, and all of 245.

GH:  What about the wings?

BW:  John Green will redshirt.  Freshman Aamahd Walker will likely redshirt.  He’s talented, but not quite ready to execute at this level yet.  His high school team played  mostly a zone defense, so he’ll have to adjust to the increased intensity.

Freshmen Michael Bryson and Dalante Dunklin will definitely play and will contribute immediately.

GH:  So besides Walker, no freshmen will redshirt?

BW:  Correct, we don’t anticipate anymore redshirts.  Green being out means we won’t have that luxury, as we normally would like to.  Because of the way we will play this season, we need three point guards and three 5’s [centers].  We’d like to get 26 – 27 minutes out of Big Al, but things may come up.  Foul trouble, an injury here or there, and all of a sudden, your depth is wiped out.

GH:  Back to Big Al, he was usually the 4th scoring option last season.  With his production, he will undoubtedly draw more attention from opponents this season.  How has his game improved?

BW:  Yes, Big Al will draw more focus from opposing defenses.  He has added post moves, he can step away and knock down the jumper out to 13 feet, and he’s developed a nice spin fadeaway.  He’s making better decisions and he’s committed to defending.

GH:  What about the other freshman—point guard Dalante Dunklin?

BW:  Dalante will be a crowd favorite.

GH:  How so?

BW:  Defending is his #1 priority.  He’s very similar to Derrick Allen and Larry Bell in that aspect.  Most of my point guards in the past fit that mold.  They were tough—and they defended.  They may not have been the best shooters—it’s important for them to be able to knock down the outside jumper, because it keeps the defenses honest, and opens up scoring opportunities for teammates.  But my point guards have traditionally defended well.

GH:  What about the returnees?  Will Lewis Thomas redshirt?

BW:  No, Lewis will play at the 4 [forward].  He’s a good rebounder, and he started off last season well, but he tailed off a bit.  We need him to be a fierce rebounder again.  He has improved his shot, his bounce off the dribble, he’s stronger, and a better rebounder this year.  He’s long, runs well, and gives effort.

GH:  Why is Lewis a good rebounder?  Is it because he has good technique blocking out?

BW:  Lewis has decent technique.  But the key to his rebounding is being fierce on the boards.  He has to give maximum effort consistently.

GH:  What about Keegan?  How is his summer going?

BW:  Keegan had a good summer and was playing well through July until suffering a bad ankle sprain.  We need him to play at least 20 minutes at the 4.  He’ll be ready before October.

GH:  And Kyle?  Will he start, after coming off the bench as the designated shooter last season?

BW:  Boswell is a phenomenal shooter; he’s Mr. Instant Offense off the bench.  I want to keep him in that role, as he gives us a lift off the bench.  But will I be able to do that?  That’s something I have to wrestle with.

GH:  Any other comments about the Gauchos overall?

BW:  This team will have interchangeable parts at the 2, 3, and 4 positions.  We’ll have ideal size and versatility at these positions.  I’ve always wanted a team of interchangeable parts, as it gives me many options.  Nunnally and Orlando played multiple positions, which also required them to defend multiple positions.

Taran is a special talent.  He can shoot, he runs well, and has natural gifts we haven’t had here in a while.  He needs to increase his basketball knowledge, but his ability to play above the rim is special.  He can also defend the 1 through 4 positions, and can create off the drive.

Duke Da Re will also get a look.  He’s a physical point guard, and defends well also.

GH:  So you’ll possibly have 4 point guards in the mix.

BW: Yes, we should be deep at the 1.  We have two former starters returning at point guard in TJ Taylor and Nate Garth, so we should show vast improvement at that position.  Shawn Moore is also solid, and a good shooter at the 3, 4.  If he increases his competitiveness, he will contribute.

GH:  What about Drew Dickey?  Why did you invite him to walk-on?

BW:  When a guy is 6’8”, can shoot, and displays good basketball knowledge, you take him.

GH:  I actually saw him play in the CCS playoffs, and he’s also an underrated passer.  He found his open teammates on numerous occasions when double-teamed, and he also had some nice spin moves in the post.  He’s also a good shooter out to the elbow.  He’s got a high basketball IQ.

BW:  He’s big, and we like him as a developing player.

GH:  Is there any news on the recruiting front?

BW:  We only have one to give, so we are looking at a few players.  We expect to sign one in November.

GH:  That’s great to hear.  That pretty much wraps it up.  Thanks again for the interview, Coach, and good luck this season.  We’ll see you at the games.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why Wyoming may be the worst state to live for basketball prospects chasing scholarships

Interview with UCSB Women's Volleyball Head Coach Kathy Gregory

With the school year yet to start, several UCSB intercollegiate sports teams have already had their season openers, including the Gauchos Women's Volleyball team.  Gaucho Hoops sat down with Head Coach Kathy Gregory to get an exclusive interview and preview of the season's prospects.

Gaucho Hoops ("GH"): Thanks for taking time out for this interview, Coach Gregory.  Let's jump right into it.  The program lost a few prominent seniors, but welcome in a celebrated freshman class.  Can you tell us more about them?

Kathy Gregory ("KG"):  The freshman recruits arrived on campus around June 20 - 22.  It's important they arrive early so they can adjust to the highest competitive level of volleyball, as well as the academic rigors of attending classes.  Physically, they also hit the weights and get the opportunity to bond together as a team.

GH:  What kind of conditioning program do the players undergo?

KG:  In addition to hitting the weights, some of the players get training from Marcus Elliott over at P3 Peak Performance Project, where they receive 1-on-1 undivided attention.  (editor's note:  several pro athletes also attend P3, including UCSB Men's Basketball player Orlando Johnson, recently drafted by the NBA's Indiana Pacers).  The conditioning and training program focuses on injury prevention, promoting fast twitch muscle quickness, quick jumping strength, and faster arm swing, all necessary to excel above the 7'4" net, along the boundaries of a 30 x 60 foot volleyball court.

GH: What specific individual drills do the players perform?

KG:  The skills we focus on involve precision, reach, jumping, and approach jumping.  The team should have improved jumpers.  Last year we had 3 players who could touch 10 feet--this year 4 players can reach that height.

GH: Describe how you plan on replacing last year's seniors.

KG:  We lost 3 seniors from last year's roster, 2 of them All-Americans [Stacey Schmidt and Chelsey Lowe], and a key 4-year player [Lily Lopez].  We have 4 high-impact freshman coming in.

Taylor Formica is a 5'7" Libero.  Britton Taylor is a 6'3" Middle Blocker.  She may back up junior Katey Thompson, who has a great arm swing, but has been slowed by injuries in the past.  Jaylen Villanueva is a 5'9" setter.  Alex Barbeau is a 6'1" outsider hitter with great arm swing.

GH: Can you tell us about the other players on the roster?

KG:  Ali Santi is a 5'10" setter, sophomore transfer from Georgia Tech.  Jenna Wilson is a 6'1" junior middle blocker who has really improved.  Erica Lau is our senior captain, and a 5'10" backcourt specialist.  Also returning are junior outside hitters 6'0" Kara Sherrard and 5'11" Leah Sully, who is also a good passer and server.

GH:  What schemes will you be running this season?

KG:  We've traditionally run a 5-1 offense, but this year, we will also run a 6-2 offense, with 3 hitters and setters from the back.

GH: What are the biggest challenges for this group?

KG:  The biggest question is leadership.  With the departure of last year's seniors, who will emerge as this team's leaders?  This year's team tends to be shy, so the leaders will have to emerge and be more vocal, outgoing, and competitive.

GH:  What are your assessments for the other Big West squads?

KG: UH [University of Hawaii] will be tough, and all 10 teams present challenges, so we don't anticipate any redshirts.  We will need all the depth we can get because we play back-to-back matches on Fridays and Saturdays.  It's conducive for academics and reduces time away from classes.

GH: What are the team goals?

KG:  We are capable of winning the Big West so that is one of our goals.  We have 6 incoming freshmen, and they give a lot of energy.  Long Beach St. and UH should be the favorites coming into the season, with CSUN picked to be 3rd.

Our defense should be good, and we will have a balanced attack on offense.  We play an early tournament in August, and will also host 3 other teams in our own UCSB Invitational, of which the top-ranked UCLA Bruins will be one.  This should provide a good test for the Gauchos on where the team is at.

GH: What kind of players do you recruit?

KG: High academics is a high priority.  We have a 100% graduation rate over my 37-year career.  The girls have to be able to handle the class load over 4 years while also being competitive in practice and in matches.

They have to be easy to coach.  What does that mean?  That means they want to improve, they're willing to work hard to become better, and want to be pushed to reach their potential.

What I try to instill in my players is how special this campus is.  Not just the weather being good, but also how special the community is, the education, the location, and the experience they will have at UCSB.  It's the whole package, and they should not take it for granted.

GH:  Coach Gregory, I recall when I took your beach volleyball class years ago, you were once the #1 ranked beach volleyball player in the world--remarkably at the age of 42.  What have you learned from that experience, and what message have you given your players over the years as their coach?

KG:  What I have tried to instill in my players is that competitive fire and will to win.  I have a competitive nature, and that's what has kept me going over the years.  I'll keep coaching until I lose that fire.  After 38 years of coaching, I still get up every morning ready to charge ahead.

I urge my players to give their best health-wise.  Don't take for granted this opportunity to play competitive volleyball at the highest levels, and show gratitude and appreciation.  Enjoy the journey, and give back to the sport.  Be tough to be able to withstand the challenges standing in your way.  Build a foundation for life after volleyball.  And have a sense of humor to get through the rough edges.

GH:  Those are great life lessons and advice, Coach Gregory.  Thanks again and good luck this season.

KG:  Thank you and come out and support our Lady Gauchos!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Gauchos in the Olympics: The Professor

Here is another non-basketball clip about a former Gaucho Olympic gold medalist:

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ranking the Unranked
10. Alan Williams, UC Santa Barbara (LM+)
Per-possession, Williams' performance ranks with anyone on this list, but he only played 17 minutes a game for a team that lost in the first round of the CIT. Even so, he led the nation in offensive rebounding percentage (23) and ranked in the top 200 in defensive rebounding rate (21 percent). Williams also finished in the top 50 in turnover rate (10 percent, 20 total on the year) and just missed in block percentage (8). He is a big to keep an eye on. The Gauchos are rebuilding after losing star Orlando Johnson and second banana James Nunnally (among others) to graduation, so Williams will definitely get his chance. My expectations are high.

UCSB's Alan Williams: From 6th Man to Star

Save the Date! Men's Basketball Golf Tourney Set for October 22

Basketball Season Tickets on Sale! Buy Early and Save!

Great Gaucho Moments in Olympic History: Jason Lezak

Sorry, this has nothing to do with UCSB basketball, but it captured such a great moment for Gaucho fans, that I had to post it.  Gauchos forever!

Orlando Johnson at Knox Indy Pro Am

Saturday, July 21, 2012

SPDL Game Mix (Sac League) UCSB Bound Michael Bryson goes for 41!!!

Here are some extremely encouraging highlights of future Gaucho Michael Bryson and former Gaucho James Nunnally.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Orlando Summer League 2012: Rookies Sure to Make Huge Impressions

Orlando Johnson 
The Indiana Pacers made one of the more underrated steals of the draft when they traded for UC Santa Barbara guard Orlando Johnson on draft night after he was chosen in the second round with the 36th overall pick by the Sacramento Kings. Johnson is 23 years old and already much more experienced than most of the rookies entering the league this summer, giving him a slight edge over most. 
The 6'5" shooting guard averaged 18, 21.1 and 19.7 points per game in his sophomore, junior and senior season at UC Santa Barbara. During those three seasons, Johnson was also hitting at least 40 percent of his shots from beyond the arc. We have seen scorers take over NBA Summer Leagues in the past, so expect Johnson to make a huge impression in Orlando this July. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

NBA releases Chicago draft combine list

2012 Mock Draft

By 2012, cream cheese may no longer be an NCAA violation

This is how decrepit the NCAA has become.  A school giving a student-athlete a bagel is kosher (OK).  However, a school giving  a student-athlete a bagel with the following spreads: "butter, peanut butter, jelly and cream cheese" makes it no longer a snack, but a meal.  Therefore, the school just committed an NCAA violation.,wp4181

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mens 800 - Final - Big West Championships 2012

Congratulations to All-American Ryan Martin for finishing 2nd in the Big West 800 meters.

Men's Basketball Adds Hart, Pastorek to Staff
Additionally, Wilson announced that recent UC Santa Barbara graduate and basketball player Jon Pastorek will fill the role of graduate assistant/video coordinator next season.
Pastorek will fill the role vacated by Matt Levy, who spent two years with the Waves while he worked on a master's degree. In addition to his basketball duties, Pastorek will be pursuing a master's in American studies.

Pastorek graduated from UC Santa Barbara in 2011 with a degree in business economics. He played two seasons for the Gauchos, both of which resulted in Big West Conference titles and trips to the NCAA Tournament. He was team captain as a senior.
Pastorek started his college career at San Diego State, and he played two seasons of basketball there (the Aztecs went to the NIT in 2007 and 2008) before transferring to UCSB.
Since graduating, Pastorek has been a substitute teacher in the Orange Unified School District and the head junior varsity volleyball coach and assistant varsity basketball coach at his alma mater, Canyon High School in Anaheim, Calif.
"Jon brings a variety of qualities to our staff as a former player," Wilson said. "He is a hard worker, very smart and is a dedicated student of the game who is highly motivated to learn and grow in the business. Jon was a really good player and will be able to give some insight to our players based on his basketball experiences at this level."

Congratulations Jon!