Tuesday, November 22, 2016

UCSB Gauchos vs. SMU Mustangs Game Preview, by Gaucho Dan

UCSB Gauchos vs. SMU Mustangs Men's Basketball Game Preview, by Gaucho Dan
Game Time:  Tuesday, November 22, 2016, 8 pm (Central time)
Moody Coliseum, Dallas, TX

SMU has a 3-1 record, winning home games vs. Gardner-Webb (72-44) and Eastern Michigan (91-64), and splitting two at Madison Square Garden (defeating Pittsburgh 76-67 and losing to Michigan (76-54).  SMU is ranked 30th in the DCI , 66th in the DC2 and has an RPI of 52.

The team is making 46% of its shots, including 37% from 3-point range (they attempt 19 per game).  They make 67% of their free throws, getting to the line 20.5 times per game vs. allowing 18 FT's per contest.  Opponents are shooting 40% from the field and 31% from three-point range.  The Mustangs are dominating the boards, grabbing 14.5 more rebounds per game than their opponents. 

SMU is led by Head Coach Tim Jankovich in the wake of another Larry Brown resignation. The Mustangs were banned from the NCAA tournament last season, but are eligible this season and figure to be in line for at least an at-large bid, considering the American Athletic Conference coaches picked them to finish 3rd.

6'7" junior forward Semi Ojeleye is leading the Mustangs in scoring, averaging 20.3 points per game and adding in 9 rebounds per game.  Ojeleye can hit the three-point shot (8-of-18) and gets to the free throw line and makes them (19-of-25).

6'5" sophomore guard Shake Milton was expected to be SMU's top returning player, and is contributing 12 points per game.  He likes to take the three-point shot (5 attempts per game, but has hit only 30% from downtown.  He has an excellent 3.6-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

6'6" senior guard Sterling Brown started the first three games and came off the bench for 32 minutes vs. Michigan.  Brown had 8 assists in the season opener and only 5 assists since, but he's averaging 10.5 points per game and has hit 5-of-10 three-pointers.

Friday, November 18, 2016

CSUB Roadrunners vs. UCSB Gauchos Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

Game 3, CSU-Bakersfield Roadrunners vs. UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos
Saturday, November 19, 2016, 7 pm (Pacific time)
Men's Basketball game at Icardo Center

Game Preview

It will be strength vs. strength in the first matchup ever between the two schools.  Bakersfield returns last season's Second Team All-WAC senior guard Dedrick Basile and this season's leading scorer in senior guard Jaylin Airington in their backcourt.  They will be matched up with Santa Barbara's strength in senior point guard Eric Childress and junior shooting guard Gabe Vincent, both Honorable Mention All-BWC selections last season.  The team who wins this match up could very well come away with a victory.


CSU-Bakersfield, the reigning Western Athletic Conference champions, are a legitimate threat to repeat.  Basile returns, and will be looked upon to produce even more following the graduation of Aly Ahmed and Kevin Mays, the team’s top two scorers and rebounders last season.  The 5'10" Basile sent the Roadrunners to the NCAA Tournament with the game-winning bucket in the WAC tournament.  He will be the focal point of the offense this season, a year removed from averaging 12.0 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game.  The cabinet is far from bare for Rod Barnes, the head coach of the Roadrunners. Jaylin Airington and Brett Wrapp are two other starting returnees.  Airington in particular has flourished early this season, scoring a career-high 31 points in a 78-66 loss to powerhouse Arizona.  Damiyne Durham averaged 11.7 points per game off the bench last season, and made 89 3-point shots.  Matt Smith provides a presence on defense and on the glass.

The Gauchos will need to capitalize on their strength in the interior on offense, with Jalen Canty and backup Ami Lakoju manning the center spot.  Alex Hart and the committee at the power forward position will have to step up on converting on layups and cleaning the glass.  Vincent and Childress will need to knock down perimeter shots and create scoring opportunities for teammates with dribble penetration.  On defense, the 3-2 zone defense will need to close out on perimeter shooters quicker, while minimizing Bakersfield's slashers into the lane, where the defense can break down.

Game preview by Gaucho Freg

Monday, November 14, 2016

USF Dons vs. UCSB Gauchos Game Preview, by Gaucho Freg

Game 2, University of San Francisco Dons vs. UCSB Gauchos
Wednesday, November 16, 2016, 7 pm (Pacific time)
Men's Basketball game at The Thunderdome

Game Preview

After years of turnover and turmoil under Rex Walters, USF tries for a fresh start with former Columbia coach Kyle Smith.  He inherits a team whose cupboard is pretty bare after its two best returning players -- Devin Watson and Uche Ofoegbu -- opted to transfer.  The roster is filled with ten freshmen and sophomores.  Their ESPN Basketball Power Index (BPI) rating has the program down in the 300 range, worse than any Big West school, and the Dons are picked last in the West Coast Conference.  They played four games on a 10-day European summer tour which took the team to Germany, Belgium and France in early August, and won all four games against various club teams.  So they will have had a bit more opportunity to meld as a team compared to UCSB.

In their opener, the Dons defeated a University of Illinois-Chicago team 82-80 that is coming off a 5-win season.   The Dons led by as much as 17 but let UIC come all the way back to tie it at 80-all, before finishing the Flames off with a pair of free-throws freshman by Remu Raitanen.  Senior guard Ronnie Boyce led the way with 28 points and sophomore Chase Foster led with 11 rebounds. 


Boyce is the team’s leading returning scorer (11.1 ppg) and it looks like he might lead the team in that department this season.  He made three 3-pointers in the game against UIC. Sophomore Nate Renfro, a slight 6’7” wing, will also shoulder much of the scoring load and was elected team captain.  He had 12 points against UIC.

According to Coach Smith, the team doesn’t have the size to match up with the big dogs in conference but a look at their roster shows six players at 6’7” or taller, so the size is there, but perhaps not the talent.  According to the Dons message board, these younger players have looked good in the preseason:  Guards Jordan Ratinho (who was recruited by UCSB), Marquil Smith, and Charles Minland.   They are especially high on forward Matt McCarthy.  Reserve guard Mladen Djordjevic, hurt UCSB with 8 points off the bench in the Gauchos' game against the Dons last year.  Junior Chase Foster, who nabbed 11 boards against UIC, started 13 games last season and averaged 4.4 points and 1.7 rebounds


UCSB has advantages throughout the lineup but especially in size in the frontcourt.  Jalen Canty should have plenty of opportunities against his old neighbors by the Golden Gate. Ami Lakoju should also flourish in the paint.  UCSB will need to do a much better job than they did against Omaha on stopping guard penetration.  They will need to keep Boyce at bay.    Omaha is not considered a great 3-point shooting team, but they hurt UCSB from the perimeter in the season opener.  The Gaucho zone defense needs to rotate better to make sure Boyce and Renfro don’t have career games.   Shutting down Renfro on the wing will be a primary goal, and it will be interesting to see JD Slajchert and Christian Terrell take on that task.   On offense, Gabe Vincent will have to be more of a factor from the perimeter and driving the lanes.  It is a major rebuilding year for the Dons and UCSB has more pieces and continuity, which should enable the Gauchos to emerge victorious, albeit in likely another ugly early season game.

Prediction:  UCSB 68 - USF 62

Message Board:  http://donscentral.com/board/2/hilltop-hoops

Game Preview by Gaucho Freg

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

UNO vs. UCSB Men's Basketball Game Preview, by GauchoFreg

Game 1, Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks vs. UCSB Gauchos
Saturday, November 12, 2016, 2 pm (Pacific time)
Men's Basketball game at The Thunderdome

Game Preview

The Gauchos open their season with a return match against Nebraska Omaha whom they defeated with an Eric Childress buzzer-beating layup in the season opener in Nebraska last year.   That season was the first year UNO was a full-fledged D1 member eligible for all post-season tournaments and they did very well as a first year program, finishing in third place in the Summit League with an overall record of 18-14.  They played in the CBI, losing in the first round to Duquesne.  The Summit was the 11th ranked conference in RPI, just ahead of the Mountain West. For reference, the Big West was 15th.  For the 2016-17 season, the Mavericks are picked to finish 4th in the Summit.

This year’s team is headed by 12th year coach Darrin Hansen. UNO returns nine letter winners from the 2015-16 squad so has experience but did graduate their two top scorers. They are led by pre-season Summit First Teamer Senior PG Tra Deon Hollins who boasted a stat line of 12.5 points per game, 4.8 rebounds per game, 6.1 assists per game and 4 steals per game.  Yes, 4 steals per game, the highest theft rate in 16 years according to his coach.  He takes about three 3-pointers a game but only makes 28.6 percent of them.  He brings some size to the point guard position standing 6’2”, 195 lb.  At the other guard position returns 5th-year senior, two-year starter, Marcus Tyus.  Tyus averaged 13 ppg as a junior before tearing his ACL late in the season and missed all of last season while recovering from knee surgery. UNO missed his touch from long range. While the 6-foot-1 guard hit 44 % of his 3-point shots as a junior, the Mavs shot only 34 % from beyond the arc last season. 

The Mavericks return their leading rebounder, pre-season Summit honorable-mention junior PF Tre Shawn Thurman who is also the team’s leading returning scorer, averaging 13.9 ppg last year. Thurman is efficient, shooting at a 53.6% clip last year.  At 6’7”, 235lb, he’ll be a much greater physical challenge for Jalen Canty and Ami Lakoju compared to what the two faced from Fresno Pacific.   At the other forward position is 6’8”, 210lb Sophomore Mitchel Hahn who transferred in from Holy Cross. Coach Hansen is high on Hahn and expects significant contribution on the offense from him.

The Mavs have terrific depth at the guard and wing position.  In addition to Hollins and Tyus, they have a pair of 6’3” guards in JT Gibson, a freshman coming off a medical redshirt year, and Daniel Norl from Eastern Kentucky.   Two returnees, guards Zach Jackson and Kyler Erickson both have some starting experience.

Additional notes about the Mavericks:
  • UNO was 4th in the nation in both offense (ppg) and steals
  • 10th for steals and 12th for turnovers forced
  • UNO returns 45 percent of its offensive production from last season. The returners are also credited for 51 percent (581) of last season’s 1,132 rebounds.
Matchups and Prediction  It will be strength-on-strength in the backcourt with UCSB’s two Honorable Mention All-Big West players Childress and Gabe Vincent up against Hollins and Tyus.  UNO does have a significant advantage in terms of depth at the guard/wing positions and we may see a lot of turnovers by the Gauchos when Childress is on the bench.

UCSB counters with much more size and depth in the frontcourt.  If the Gauchos can get Thurman into foul trouble the Mavericks won’t be able to answer the Gauchos down low. 
It will most likely be an ugly game as many first games are.  It should be tightly contested initially, with UNO possibly getting a lead when Childress or Vincent takes a breather early on.   Gaucho depth in the front court should pay off, and they overcome a deficit to pull off a 65-61 foul-plagued, turnover-filled affair.


UNO Season Previews 

Game preview by GauchoFreg, with contributions by GauchoDan

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Omaha Picked Fourth in Preseason League Poll

The UCSB Gauchos men's basketball team plays next Saturday at the Thunderdome against the University of Nebraska-Omaha.  The Mavericks are predicted to finish fourth in the Summit League.


Four Players Hit Double-Digits as Gauchos Handle CSLA 90-53 in Season-Opening Exhibition


Gauchos Roll Past Fresno Pacific in Exhibition Game, 82-62


Box Score


UCSB vs. Fresno Pacific Game Preview

UCSB vs. Fresno Pacific Game Preview, by GauchoFreg

Exhibition Game, Sunday, November 6, 2016, 1 pm (Pacific time), The Thunderdome
Opponent:  Fresno Pacific University Sunbirds (Division 2)

The UCSB men's basketball season kicks off tomorrow!

The Gauchos start things off with an exhibition against Fresno Pacific of the Pacific West Conference.  The Sunbirds last season sported an overall record of 14-13 and a 9thplace finish in conference.

A longtime NAIA program, they moved to D2 in 2012.  The Sunbirds will have a new coach and a roster heavy with upperclassmen and transfers, returning just two of their five starters.

Their leading returner is 6’5” redshirt senior guard Spencer Krannitz.  Krannitz let the team in rebounding, steals and minutes played; was second in scoring and three-pointers last season (a .410 clip) and third in assists.

Point guard TJ Vinney started about half the games last season, stands at just 5’9” and led the team in assists while adding 6 points per game (ppg).

The other point guard, senior Suhail Mohammadi, also logged a lot of minutes last season and will likely be on the court a fair bit.

At center, senior Oliver Herting who averaged about 6 ppg and 3 rebounds per game in 12 minutes of play.  At 6’7” and 235 pounds, he is the biggest player on the roster.

Like many D2 programs, Fresno Pacific is relies heavily on transfers.

For UCSB, a most interesting aspect will be how JD Slajchert and Christian Terrell handle the toughest defensive assignment on Krannitz, although we may see Gabe Vincent guard him as well.

The Sunbirds are undersized, so Jalen Canty and the rest of UCSB's front court should have advantages down low.

It’s an exhibition so UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams will be experimenting with lineups, and the result and margin are meaningless.  UCSB’s starters should have clear advantages at four of the five positions.  Krannitz’s experience as a 5th year senior may give him an advantage over the UCSB wings.

The Sunbirds will also play UCR, another Big West Conference rival.

According to GauchoDan, Fresno Pacific is picked to finish 11th in the Pacific West this season.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Alan Williams, Orlando Johnson Give UCSB NBA Presence


Gaucho Hoops All Access - UCSB Men's Basketball Practice

October 22, 2016
UCSB Men's basketball practice at the Thunderdome

Eric Childress fully participated in this practice, unlike the last one I attended.  Max Heidegger did not practice again, but he's no longer wearing the boot.

After a shoot around, practice started with a 3-man weave vs. 2 defenders, and would end in the other direction with a 2-on-1 fast break drill.

They changed up the 3-man weave drills to develop new skills.  For instance, passing would be incorporated into the drill instead of dribbling.

The players looked much sharper than the practice I attended a couple weeks ago.  Their cuts were crisp, and they hustled to the next drill.

Clifton Powell is playing better.  His footwork has improved.

They practiced the 4-out offense, where the 4 player trails.

They were sluggish in Thursday's scrimmage, but looked much better today after Coach Williams dug into them.  A bright spot in Thursday's scrimmage was that Ami Lakoju finished everything down low.  His jump hook has improved immensely.  You could count on him to be athletic, defend, block shots, rebound, be strong, and take up space underneath.  It looks like he has added offense to his game.

In the inside-out game, after the post player passes it back out, he comes out and sets the pick for the player with the ball (the recipient of the pass), i.e. he "follows the ball."

They worked on finishing drills for the post players, with the defender using pads to push the finisher out.  A point of emphasis was to finish with two hands, not just a one-handed layup, which players tend to do when anticipating contact.  Coach Kevin Bromley worked with the big men on this drill.  Later on, the drill was done with the defender not using pads.  There was a lot of contact.  See video below.

The wings also performed shooting drills.

Later on, they worked on out of bounds plays.  Things got more physical as scores were being kept with the Blue teams vs. the White teams.

Jalen Canty just blew up Sam Wolters with a huge screen.  Ouch.

Gabriel Vincent is not just shooting outsider jumpers.  He is driving more to the rim.

Coach Matt Stock was emphasizing the use of the forearm when defending against the out of bounds play.

Tyler Jackson was fully participating in 4-man weave drills, so that's encouraging.

The missed 4-man weave layups and missed free throws were tallied up.  That resulted in more wind sprints for all the players as punishment.  As fast as we know Jalen Canty is (see Youtube videos of him out-running opponents' linebackers and defensive backs in high school football highlights), he finished last among the big men in sprints.  That is encouraging.  That means, not only are our post players big and beefy, but they can also run.

They then ran the Kentucky drill.

Ami appears to have a decent jumper from the elbow (high post).

Coach Williams and Coach Stock mentioned the flathead and switching.  I have no idea what that means.

But the coaches were telling the players to move while the ball is in the air.

What I noticed with all the coaches were they coach all the players individually as well as collectively.  The walk-ons received just as much attention as stalwarts Gabe Vincent and Eric Childress.  The coaches were constantly grabbing teaching moments, whether the players were starters or walk-ons.

Christian Terrell is a natural passer.  He sees the court better than most freshmen.

At one point, Coach Williams yelled "WTF are you running?" after players got lost on offense.  lol

There is room for improvising on offense.  If a cutter recognizes a mismatch in the post, he can halt and reverse, letting the passer hit the post.  But the passer has to also see the mismatch, and not just drift outside, posing no threat.

Wow, our interior defense has the potential to be real tough.  There's a lot of length and beef in the lane.  And depth.  Penetrators not coming in strong will get rejected.

Coach was adamant with the 3-2 zone defense that the ball does not go into the high post.  "This is where we lose games, when the ball gets into the HOUSE (high post)." Because once the ball gets to the high post, the passer can pass it down low or to the weak side for an open perimeter shot.  Defending the house meant the weak side wing or defender at the top of the zone had to prevent the entry pass.  Communication is key.

With the 3-2 zone defense, the wing defender should be positioned and square to steer the ball into the trap up top.  The bigger you are, the better the communication has to be if there is a deficiency in quickness.  With Alex Hart up top, Christian Terrell and Jarriese Blackmon at the wings, the top part of the 3-2 zone defense is very long and intimidating.  I saw a lot of deflected passes.

With the help defense, due to the rotation of the ball, the weak side defender cannot be in help position, but he has to be able to get to help position quickly.  A lot of real estate has to be covered when the ball swings weak side and the defender must close out on the shooter.

When the ball goes to the corner, it is essential to prevent the entry pass into the high post.  If the weak side defender cheats to the perimeter shooter, the top of the circle defender has to defend the high post.

In our zone offense, the ball goes from corner to corner, with the three guards twisting, or circling.  The two post players must always be opposite-diagonal across the lane from each other.  There's always the high-low pass option.

In the offense against the man-to-man defense (Big West schools play more man than zone defense), then the two post players may sometimes end up both in the high post.

JD Slajchert may be a walk-on player, but he might be one of the leaders on the team.  He's always encouraging his teammates, and communicates loudly.  So even if you may not see his name in the box score, he's got to be one of the more valuable bench players with his presence and knowledge.

With practicing closing, Coach Williams reminded the players to eat right and have the discipline to get to bed early (it was a Saturday).  He said it was important for each player to transition from role to role, whether as a passer, a screener, a dribbler, a shooter, a defender, or a rebounder.

After practice, a few players worked on their perimeter shot, including Sam Walters, Alex Hart, and Felix White.  The first two are natural catch-and-shooters, shooting in rhythm.  White has a good stroke, but needs to work on his footwork and squaring up.   The placement of his right foot isn't consistent.

Here is video of the practice session.


Gaucho Hoops All-Access - UCSB Women's Basketball Practice

November 22, 2016
UCSB Women's basketball practice at the Thunderdome

Coach Bonnie Henrickson and her staff put the team through some shooting drills, before running the St. Joe's drill.  It's a transition offense drill, and forces the players to play through fatigue.

The drill starts with a 2-on-1 fast break, and then moves in the opposite direction with a 3-on-2, and then reverses again with a 4-on-3, incrementally adding one player in the opposite direction, until it ends up being a 5-on-5 drill.  The goal is to pass and move, and not stand around.

It looks like the Gauchos run the motion offense.  It requires a high basketball IQ, and the ability to recognize how defenses are playing.  The goal is to take what the defense gives you, and if they cheat in one area, then take advantage and go the other direction.  It requires constant motion and recognition.

The point guard is key to this offense.  Coach Henrickson was urging her point guards "To be a point guard," and to not give up their dribble prematurely.

Other points of emphasis were the player with the ball to wait for the screen, and not just run at it (presumably to avoid a moving pick foul).  The person with the ball can be late, but not early in waiting for the screen.

The Lady Gauchos will run more this year, and try to push it and get "numbers" (having the offense beat the opponent's defense down the court) if it's there.  If the numbers advantage isn't there, then it's up to the point guard to pull it back and start the halfcourt offense.  But the point guard shouldn't call the offense until she crosses the halfcourt line.

Coach Henrickson also emphasized the point guards to lead with a calm voice, and to sometimes slow down so her teammates can catch up to her.  In other words, the point guard can get upcourt fast, but that doesn't help if her teammates haven't caught up to run the offense.

Tal Sahar really stood out as an overall player:  she's athletic, aggressive, and a good perimeter shooter with range.  She will redshirt this year after transferring in from Seattle.

The frontcourt looks much taller this year also.

The point guard must also recognize who the halfbacks and fullbacks are in the offense.

It's also harder for the point guard to make the entry pass from the top of the key, as the angle isn't there.  They must also recognize which teammate is hot, and feed her.

On defense, staying in front of the opponent is key and the bias is to steer them to the sideline.

They practiced the Stanford out of bounds play, where the ball goes to the corner off the double pick.

More Coach Henrickson tidbits:  "Don't jog!  If you're not open, cut!"

They then practiced end of quarter scenarios, where they would execute 2 possessions for 1.

She urged the players to play to their strengths.  For example, if finishing with the left hand is a problem, drive and finish to the right.

Practice ended with the 3-woman weave drill.  Here is video of the drill.


Monday, October 17, 2016

Interview with UCSB Women's Basketball Head Coach Bonnie Henrickson

Gaucho Hoops ("GH"):  Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Henrickson.  First off, I wanted to mention that I was in attendance for last season's finale, the heart-breaking 71-67 loss to eventual Big West Conference Tournament runner-up, UC-Davis.   It looked like the Gauchos were about to get blown out by the Aggies, but the Lady Gauchos battled back and briefly took the lead before succumbing in the end.  It was one of the scrappiest efforts I've ever seen, and the team appeared so focused, determined, and fundamentally disciplined. 

Coach Bonnie Henrickson ("BH"):  Thanks for that.  Yes, in the beginning of the year, the team was content with close losses.  We turned that complacency around and played not just to compete, but to win games.  The team really thought they could win that game. 

GH:  With most teams, leaders emerge.  Who are the leaders on this team? 

BH:  We have four captains which were voted in by the team:  two seniors and two juniors.  Mi'Chael Wright is a senior forward, Onome Jemerigbe is a senior point guard.  Drew Edelman is a redshirt junior forward, who transferred in from USC, and Chaya Durr is also a junior.  All four are very positive, and it's their responsibility to make sure each teammate is accountable.  They make sure we all check ourselves.  The captains are pretty vocal, and they also lead by example. 

GH:  At Kansas, your recruiting base was nationwide.  How is recruiting different at UCSB? 

BH:  Fortunately, the west coast has a deep talent pool, especially in California.  At KU, half of the time, we were recruiting in California, so our staff had previously established relationships with high school and club coaches.  That was a tremendous advantage.  UCSB has high academics, so we recruit smart players both on and off the court.  And yes, the location is nice and an easy sell, but the players who want to come to UCSB are also very competitive student-athletes.  That's why they come here. 

GH:  I noticed that in the several players' bio's.  Several won academic honors in addition to their athletic achievements. 

BH:  Yes, California is a #1 recruiting priority.  Even our out-of-state transfers are from California. 

GH:  Let's cover the roster. 

BH:  Onome has started at point guard for three years.  She is being pushed by Drea Toler, who redshirted last season after transferring from Oregon.  Onome is a real good on-ball defender, and can drive and kick it out.  She is working on her shot to keep opposing defenders honest.

Drea is a capable 3-point shooter,  and is very fast.  Her challenge is trying to slow things down.  She's a good on-ball defender, is good in transition, and incredibly unselfish. 

GH:  That's an interesting point.  Coach Williams [men's basketball head coach] said the same thing about his incoming players.  They try to do too much too quickly, resulting in turnovers.  Slowing things down lets their athleticism take over. 

BH:  Makala Roper, was an honorable mention all-Big West performer last season.  She shoots a high percentage from the the floor, and is our biggest 3-point threat.  She's often a catch-and-shoot 3-point shooter.  She is working on putting the ball on the floor, so she can get to the free throw line more often.

Coco Miller was consistent last year, which is remarkable for a freshman.  Sometimes, it's not about making a brilliant play, but more about not making bad plays.  She's smart, and plays within herself. She works hard, is a good defender, and understands positioning within our team defense.

Sarah Porter is a big  guard, who shoots the 3-point shot well.  We need her size on the glass.  She's the best kid in the weight room,  We're also working with her on putting the ball on the floor.

Aliceah Hernandez' ability to shoot the 3 point shot allows us to stretch the defense.  We also ask her to put the ball on the floor.  She's a smart kid.  We need her to defend and handle the ball better.

Tal Sahar will redshirt this season and will become eligible in 2017 after transferring in from Seattle.  She is a big guard with great length.  She can shoot it from deep, also.

Chaya Durr started all last year at the 4 position.  She is the most competitive player on the court, and gets the 50/50 balls.  She's a great defender and takes great shots--she shot 45% from the floor.  She's really athletic and finishes well.

Taylor Farris will only play the 4 this year.  She is a capable 3-point shooter.  She's long and lanky, and can dunk a tennis ball.  She can be a good defender, and has good foot work and good bounce.

Drew Edelman is physical and finishes well.  She's a great communicator, and was voted team captain in August, which shows you her leadership abilities.  She runs the floor well.

Je Zhe Newton is a former juco player who keeps getting better  She brings size to the position and finishes well around the rim.  She's been out for a week due to injury.

Natalia Bruening is a freshman who played both club volleyball and club basketball in high school.  Now that she is only focusing on basketball, she has really improved. She has a high ceiling.

Mi'Chael Wright is injured and may be out for the year.

Melissa Maragnes is coming back from an ACL and should return after the first of the year. 

GH:  Overall, how would you characterize this year's team? 

BH:  We're bigger inside this year.  We're playing well in practice.  Our depth has improved, so we are more competitive in practice this year.  

GH:  Let's cover some questions from Gaucho Soul, a fan..
1) How was the transition from a bigger women's basketball program like Kansas to UCSB?  What was the most difficult and the best part of the move? 

BH: Historically, UCSB women's basketball has been a successful program. It's a priority here. So it matters to me that they care about winning. We had to build trust in the players. As I said, while at KU, we were already recruiting California players, so that helped the transition.  With the storied history, and high academics at UCSB, we've been able to attract competitors on the court and in the classroom. 

2)  What is the ultimate goal for UCSB and how high can this program go nationally? 

BH:   Our goal is to win the Big West Conference regular season and Tournament championships.  Once in the NCAA playoffs, it's about match ups.  Our nonconference schedule is good preparation for league play.  The league is good.  Our goal is to go to the NCAA's and advance. 

3)  UCSB's WBB program was once a dominant program under HC Mark French but struggled after his retirement.  How difficult was it to change the mentality of the players and how did you go about changing a program that went 2-27 before you were hired? 

BH:  It's about winning, not just competing.  I got livid after we lost by a couple possessions earlier in the season because some players were satisfied that it was a close game even though we lost.  The players' mentality was that it was an improvement over the season before.  I had to instill the mentality that competing was not enough.  We were able to establish a winning culture.  We had to embrace playing the right way. 

4)  How talented is the 2016-2017 team and will they contend for the BW title and possibly more? 

BH:   We need to get better and stay healthy.  We have to rebound better, and play better defense, and score more in transition.  We need to shoot the 3-point shot better.  We are hungrier this year, and the conversation is different, as expectations are higher.  Practices are much more competitive.

5)  More and more the WBB programs from the bigger conference are dominating the games and during March Madness with less and less upsets.  Do you feel that SB and other smaller program can catch up and what is the best path to accomplish that goal? 

BH:  The power conferences have bigger, stronger, faster athletes.  The advent of the 3-point shot can neutralize size, athleticism, and speed. UCSB has a history of a Sweet 16 under Coach Mark French. 

GH:  Thanks for sharing your team, Coach Henrickson.  Good luck this year, and see you at the games. 

BH:  Sure.  Come on down.  It should be an exciting year.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Gaucho Hoops All-Access at a Practice

Notes from UCSB men's basketball practice on 10/7/2016


One of the first drills was practicing the hand off.  The post player executes a jump stop, pivots, and hands off the ball to a curling perimeter player.  The ball should not be tossed up, but handed off to avoid turnovers.

The next drill was executing and defending the entry pass into the low block.  The post players would practice establishing position and defending the position.  Simultaneously, the perimeter players were making and defending the entry pass, so all four players were getting coached up on offense and defense.  The perimeter defender is supposed to open up his hips and then defend the cutting offensive player (the give-and-go).  The post player on offense needed to chop his steps and shield the defender to maintain balance before receiving the entry pass.

In the high post offense, a wrinkle was added to include a backdoor cut and feed.

The next drills incorporated the previous drills to run the transition offense, without and then against a defense.

Note:  Clifton Powell has an uncanny fade away jumper over his right shoulder (he's right handed).  He just gets so much lift that it is hard for the defender to get a hand in his face.  When he received a pass down low after a cut, he would use that move to get separation from his defender, and rise to release a feathery turnaround jumper.

Powell and athletic power forward Felix White have major hops.  White blocked several shots from out of nowhere.  He is a very gifted athlete.  He may be "raw" and played against weak competition in high school, but I think the high-major schools missed on him.  He is going to be a good player.  Coach Bromley stayed after practice to help him practice finishing post moves with his back to the basket.

Coach Williams strongly urged the players to "Catch the ball, and only dribble it if you are going somewhere.  If you dribble the ball without purpose and pick it up, we are ****ed!"

Other tidbits:
"If I'm up top, and the wings are covered, bigs--you come up."

Direct, hard cuts to the basket were demanded instead of rounding off cuts.

The bigs were coached to hold the ball high when switching sides, consistent with how UNC post players are coached.  This highlights the passing option.  I mentioned that Fresno City College players switch ball sides by swinging their arms low.  But Coach Williams said Fresno City College has a dribble-penetration first offense, while the Gaucho offense is a pass-first offense.

The next drill was an out of bounds play along the baseline.  Included was the UCLA out of bounds play.

Note:  Jarriese Blackmon's 3 point shot looks more solid this season.

Next came a defensive rotation drill.  The goal is to close out on the right shooters when the ball is reversed.  It's not a trapping defense, but a baseline drive will attract two defenders to stop dribble-penetration.  Everybody else has to rotate to the right perimeter shooter.  Communication is key in this drill.

Coach Williams mentioned he can field a big lineup without sacrificing much quickness.    An intriguing lineup in one of the drills had Gabriel Vincent, Christian Terrell, Maxwell Kupchak, Alex Hart, and Ami Lakoju.

When players were talking out of turn and not paying attention to the coaches, all players had to run wind sprints across the Thunderdome floor as punishment.  "Don't listen = run wind sprints."

Note:  Terrell resembles former Gaucho Michael Bryson, but he is bigger.  Clifton Powell resembles former Gaucho Chris Brew, but Powell is also bigger.

Another coaching nugget yelled by Coach Williams:  "Don't stand around looking for the ball.  Go backdoor!"  "Post players don't stand around in the corner!  Move toward the basket when the ball is reversed."

Next was a 5-4 with a twist transition offense.  I believe this is the offense they will run against a zone defense.  Pass and cut into a 2-man twist.

Note:  during drills, Canty wasn't engaged.  But once the drills were put together in full court drills, he woke up.  He's a good passer.

Coach Williams:  "The best 3 point shot is after an offensive rebound, or when the ball goes inside-out."

They then ran a 45-second 3-man weave drill.  The goal was to complete 8 layups full court in under 45 seconds.  Only two players managed to beat the clock, while the goal was to incrementally increase that number daily.  Overall, this team is speedier than previous teams, especially the post players.

They finished off with free throws while fatigued, and players who committed turnovers during the drills had to stay extra to work on their shot.

Coach Williams finished practice reminding them to eat a good breakfast and lunch every day.  Listening to the coaches instructions was emphasized.

UCSB Men's Basketball Coach Robert Williams Interview on the 2016-2017 Team

Gaucho Hoops ("GH"):  Thanks for taking this interview, Coach Williams. 
In the Santa Barbara News Press article, you mentioned you sat between George Karl and Mitch Kupcak (father of UCSB sophomore forward Maxwell Kupchak).  Did you pick up any particular insights you'd like to share from them? 

Robert Williams ("RW"):  I had the privilege of spending a couple days with Coach Karl.  He shared a ton of basketball knowledge, most of which I can't share here.  But he is a very knowledgeable basketball coach and he's super smart.  He spent a lot of time going over how to defend hand-offs, for both perimeter and post defenders.  He also covered one of the toughest plays to defend, the back screens.  What was particularly interesting was his opinion of coaching post players.  He said foot work is overrated.  What's more important is how post players catch and finish. 

GH:  This is one of your youngest teams, and they will require a lot of teaching.  Based on the few practices so far, what are the most pressing areas of coaching that the players need?  What are they good at already? 

RW:  We're running very few isolates right now, because they need to take better care of the ball.  They don't value possessions.  They don't make good risk vs. reward decisions on passes.  They don't maintain good balance.  They don't make good decisions on driving or passing.  They need to learn to slow down, because they are trying to do too many things quickly.  Slowing down lets their athleticism take over.    This team is athletic.  When a player is off-balance, he gets exposed.

GH:  Christian Terrell seems to be one of your tallest combo guards in a while.  As a pass-first point guard, how is his perimeter shot?  Can he penetrate the lane against smaller, quicker defenders?  Does his size make him disruptive as a defender? 

RW:  Christian is a really good athlete.  He has a good perimeter shot; his shot is much improved.  He has good range.  He runs well, and is a dynamic athlete in transition. 

GH:  What about Clifton Powell?  How is his game? 

RWClifton is a really good athlete and very springy.  He also shoots and runs well.  He just needs to get stronger.  Both Christian and Clifton have good upside defensively. 

GH:  What about Max Heidegger--we know he can shoot.  Can he penetrate the lane against the trees inside?  Is durability a concern given his history?  What's the status of his foot injury?  How's his defense? 

RW:  Max is very skilled on offensive.  He can create his own shot, and he's a good passer.  His defense needs work.  He's wearing a boot right now, but he should be good to go in two weeks. 

GH:  Eric Childress and Gabe Vincent are the obvious leaders of this group.  How are their personalities as leaders?  How have they stepped up this year? 

RW:  Both are vocal leaders now, but with Gabe, he was already naturally vocal.  He just chose to let the seniors lead last season.  As a junior this year, he is stepping up.  Eric developed into a more vocal leader, but he was naturally quiet as a freshman.  Both have improved in every aspect of their games.  Gabe really stepped up his defense last season.  He went from being a good defender to being a great defender. 

GH:  What makes a better defender? 

RW:  Commitment.  Gabe committed to becoming a great defender last year.  

GH:  Let's talk about the bigs. 
RW:  We have some serious beef on the glass.  Probably the biggest we've had since I've been coaching UCSB.  Jalen weights 276 pounds, X 230, Felix 240, Ami 270, and Tyler 290.  We have five post players who are all good rebounders.  We have enough depth at the 5 spot to possibly play two on the floor at the same time.  It would be similar to having Jaime Serna and Big Al [Alan Williams] both on the court.  We have strength and athleticism in the post. 

GH:  How is X [Alex Hart] playing right now? 

RW:  X is more aggressive this year.  He's rebounding better and shooting with more confidence. 

GH:  What improvements have you noticed with the other returnees? 

RW:  Maxwell [Kupchak] and Jarriesse [Blackmon] have been working on their perimeter game.  The key to improvement over the summer is not just working, but working on the right stuff.  Max playing some at the 3 position is partially due to necessity as we have depth at the 4 and 5 positions. 

GH:  You mentioned Jalen Canty had a similar build as Big Al [former center Alan Williams].  Where does he fit in? 

RW:  Jalen needs to increase his conditioning.  We're confident our preseason practices will improve the team's conditioning, in addition to the weight room.  Jalen is a natural rebounder.  We will have to see how he responds to adrenaline.  Big Al stepped up the most of any player I've coached.  He was much better during games than in practice.  He was best at stepping up his game when the lights were on.  We hope Jalen can give us 20-25 minutes a game, that he is fit enough to play more minutes.  Big Al was a fouler.  Jalen is not. 

GH:  What about Ami Lakoju? 

RW:  Ami is also a good rebounder, and big.  He has improved his conditioning, runs well, and has improved his finishing. 

GH:  And Tyler Jackson? 

RW:  Tyler is rebounding better and may get minutes this season.  He needs to continue improving is mobility. 

GH:  What about Felix White gets you excited? 

RW:  Felix is improving every week.  He picks things up quickly.  He's strong, fast, and aggressive.  He is a potential impact player.  Despite our depth in the post, he will not redshirt.  He's too good to redshirt. 

GH:  Do you anticipate Clifton redshirting? 

RW:  No, we don't have enough depth among the wings.  He's too good to redshirt.  We have six guards for 3 positions.  At the 1, we've got Tide Osifeso backing up Eric.  Max Heidegger is a combo guard.  He's out two weeks, and Eric is out today with a hamstring.  Now we only have 4 players playing 3 positions. 

GH:  Every year, the team's make up and personality are different.  OJ and Nunn's teams seemed to be very serious and focused.  Bryson was more laid back, less vocal, but led by example.  How would you characterize this team so far? 

RW:  This team is unknown.  The strength is in the backcourt.  But we have surprisingly good rebounders at the 4/5 positions, probably the best since the Jaime/Big Al team. 

GH:  How long do you intend on coaching the Gauchos?

RW:  A couple more years, but when I do, it's important that I leave this program in good shape. 

GH:  It sounds like you really enjoy the teaching aspect of coaching.  What else makes it fun for you, and keeps you coming back? 

RW:  What's fun is the interaction with the kids, and the practices.  What is unexpected is the older I get, the harder it is when we lose.  I thought losing games would become easier over time.  When I was younger, and we lost a game, I was bouncing right back up the following morning.  The longer I've been in coaching, the harder it is to take game losses. 

GH:  Let's answer some questions from Gaucho hoops fans: 
From GauchoFreg:
"Who will be the top teams in the conference this year?" 

RW:  Long Beach State. 

GH:  Yes, they lost Nick Faust to graduation, but they bring in and bring back some great athletes.  Which other teams? 

RW:  CSUN.  They are very athletic.  We'll see how their non-conference season plays out. 

GH:  From GauchoFreg:
"After your coaching career, what do you see yourself doing?" 

RW:  I'm not sure.  Maybe broadcasting, consulting...I enjoy lakes. 

GH:  From GauchoFreg:
"Name your all time UCSB starting 5, only players you coached." 

RW:  That's a great question.
1) Big Al--he was our most productive player of all-time.
2) Orlando Johnson--the only question is at what position?
3) Mark Hull--he was just so good.
4) if I go with a big lineup, BJ Bunton at power forward.
5) Al Harris, at the 2 in a big line up.
Off the bench, James Nunnally, Branduin Fullove, and Michael Bryson.  I would add Jacoby Atako--he was good.  So was Zalmico Harmon. 

GH:  From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"What kind of defense do you expect we will play this year: mostly man or zone?" 

RW:  Zone defense.  Because we are big and we can clog up the inside.  Our length at the top of the zone will help. 

GH:  From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"Do you expect Gabe Vincent will shoulder an even bigger scoring load?" 

RW:  Yes. 

GH:  From Charlie Hill Cannot Score:
"What improvements are you looking for in Eric Childress his final season?" 

RW:  His ability to communicate with the coaches.  Understanding the flow and pace of the game. 

GH:  Thank for the great interview, Coach! 

RWMy pleasure.  See you at practice.