Monday, December 13, 2021

Gaucho Hoops Season Update, by Gaucho Freg

Head Coach
Joe Pasternack is in his fifth season at the helm of the Gauchos, boasting a 93-36 record.  Pasternack has recruited extremely well, especially in the transfer market with at least one transfer making a major impact each season up until this year as his lone transfer, Zack Harvey from Cincinnati, is out for the year with injuries.
In year one, he led UCSB to its greatest turnaround season ever with 23 wins versus just 6 the year previous. Last year he led the Gauchos to their first NCAA tournament since 2011 where they narrowly lost to #5 seed Creighton 63-62 in the first round.  UCSB has won at least 20 games each of his seasons, albeit with soft OOC schedules.  Prior to UCSB he was the associate head coach under Sean Miller at Arizona.  He was also the head coach for the University of New Orleans in the post Katrina years.
I describe Coach Pasternack as not simply a basketball coach, he is a program builder.  In addition to their on-court success, he has spearheaded significant fundraising resulting in improvements to the Thunderdome including new locker rooms, new practice court, chair back seating, new court and video board.  He and his staff also lead efforts to get fans to the games.  One of the hardest working individuals in the sport at any level, UCSB is lucky to have him.
Pasternack has assembled a terrific staff, including Associate HC John Rillie, an Australian who played at Gonzaga in the 1990s and helped coached the Aussie team to a bronze medal in Tokyo.
Overview and Roster
The Gauchos are coming off a very successful season in which they lost in heartbreaking fashion in the first round of the NCAA tournament—Amadou Sow, the strongest finisher for UCSB, missed a layup with just ~2s left in the game which would have given them the lead.  UCSB was picked to win the Big West Conference again this year.   
UCSB is experienced and deep in the frontcourt but are tasked with replacing one of the best backcourts in school history including Jacquori McLaughlin now with the Dallas Mavericks on a Two-Way.  The team is definitely missing McLaughlin and his backcourt mate Devearl Ramsey, the pair started together for three seasons.  Despite some gaudy numbers due to a soft schedule, the Gauchos have been turnover prone and their defense has suffered significantly.   It’s been a sluggish start to the season for the Gauchos. They are 5-2 but they’ve played an extremely soft schedule, SOS rank of, which includes games vs. a D2 and a D3 program.  They were easily handled by the one good team they played in Washington State and also lost to previously winless UT Arlington. 
UCSB is anchored by1st Team All Big West Center Senior Amadou Sow.  The team returns two starters, Sow and HM All Big West PF Miles Norris plus reigning 6th Man of the Year, Junior Guard Ajare Sanni. Sow has played all of his years at UCSB while much of the roster began their careers at different schools.   While Sow starts at the 5, he often plays the 4 when center Robinson Idehen comes in off the bench.  Miles Norris last year was an effective stretch 5 but has struggled a bit this year as he’s tried to play a more traditional PF role.
Joining Sanni in the backcourt are Point Guard Ajay Mitchell, a true freshman out of Belgium, and Wing Josh Pierre Louis.   All three are new to starting roles and the offense & defense have been clunky & inconsistent at times.   This, combined with Miles Norris trying a new role, explain, at least in part, their struggles.  The Gauchos, like many teams at this time of year, are very much a work in progress.

Probable Starters
Point Guard Ajay Mitchell #13 Freshman 6’4” 180lb, 6.7 ppg, 5.3 apg, 3.1 ATO, 42% from deep.  26 mpg
Highly touted recruit out of Belgium who was rated a 4* prospect by 247 sports.  Took over the starting PG role two games ago.  Has impressive ball control stats, especially for a freshman, and has looked the part.  Has had one bad game, vs. UT Arlington which, not coincidentally was a loss, otherwise has been the most consistent player on the roster after Sow.
Guard Ajare Sanni #3   Junior, 6’3”, 180 lb    9 ppg, 2.6 rpg, 2.9 apg, 24 mpg
The Big West 6th Man of the Year last season, Sanni has had a bit of a rough start to the season, perhaps trying too hard to fill the shoes of McLaughlin.  An excellent shooter last year and his freshman year at UOP, Sanni has struggled with his shooting this season, only 29% from the field and 24% from three.  His defense, not a strong point to begin with, has also struggled.  Is third on the team in assists and likely just a matter of time before his game returns to form.  WCC fans may remember him from his freshman year at UOP two years ago.
Wing Josh-Pierre Louis  #2  Junior  6’4”, 185 lb,  10 ppg on 55% shooting, 5.7 rpg, 3.1 apg, 1.5 ATO, 26 mpg
One of the best athletes to ever put on a Gaucho uniform, his production has taken a jump in a starting role after coming off the bench last year. He plays great defense, brings high energy, and can absolutely ignite the fans and his teammates with his thunderous finishes at the rim.  His production  and decision making are inconsistent though and can have limited impact vs. higher level competition. Not a threat from deep.  He is second on the team in assists and sports a 1.5 ATO ratio, a big improvement over last year in both areas.
Forward Miles Norris  #5  Senior, 6’10”  220lb  9.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 23 mpg
All Big West HM last year, has added 15 pounds to his frame and is trying to put in some more work in the paint in addition to what he has proven as a stretch 4.  He is off to a slow start this year, bogged down by hesitancy to shoot the three when he does have an open look.  Started his career at Oregon, he is a terrific athlete, can elevate.  Similar to Sanni, a bit of difficulty in taking on a slightly different role and should improve as the season progresses.

Forward/Center Amadou Sow  #12   Senior, 6’9”, 235 lb   19.1 ppg on 67% shooting (also 67% from deep), 7.9 rbg, 1.2 bpg, 26 mpg. 
The Gaucho’s best and most consistent player, he earned 1st team All Big West his junior year.  A POY candidate in 2021/22.  Has shot extremely well from deep but just 6 attempts on the season.
Reserves (in order of PT)
Point Guard Calvin Wishart #10  Junior, 6’2” 180lb   9.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg, 2.1 apg,  2.1 TO pg, 1.7 spg, 24 mpg
Transfer from Georgia Southern in his first season on the floor with the Gauchos after sitting out last year due to injury.  Was the starter but has come off the bench the past two games and has thrived in that role, including a 23 point performance against Pepperdine.  He is the Gauchos top three point shooter, 1.4 makes per game with an impressive 59% rate.   Is turning the ball over too much but somewhat makes up for that with 1.7 steals per game.  He is physical, in his one year of HS football, he led the state of Minnesota in receiving.

Center Robinson Idehen  #35 Graduate, 6’10”, 230 lb   7.1 ppg, 4.7 rpg. 16 mpg   
UCSB is extremely lucky to have a player of Idehen’s caliber coming in off the bench.  A 5th year player that would start for most other mid-majors, his minutes, scoring and rebounding are all up significantly from last season.  Earlier in his career he was prone to foul trouble and has improved a lot in this area. 
Forward Jay Nagle  #1  Forward, Senior.  6’8”, 215 lb  2pg, 2.3 rpg,  2 apg, 11 mpg
His strength is that he knows the UCSB system well but he has lost confidence in his outside shot which which was a strength his first year.  He is shooting 33% from deep and overall this season after shooting 42% from deep his first year. An ongoing challenge for Nagle is his defense as he has always had trouble remaining in front of his opponent.  Has 14 assists vs. just 2 TOs.  He plays fewer minutes against better teams.
Guard/Wing Sekou Toure  #0  Senior, 6’5”, 185 lb   2.9 ppg, 3.4 rbg  0.7 ATO 11 mpg
A career reserve, he’s known for good defense and hustle.  He’s struggled a bit this year with turnovers.
Guard Cole Anderson #4 Freshman, 6’4”, 185 lb  4.5 ppg, 36% from deep, 8 mpg
Has seen his minutes increase over the season.   Excellent shooter; despite having two seasons impacted by Covid, the 6’4” guard still finished his career as the #3 all-time three point shooter in California high school history. 
Forward/Center Jakov Kukic  #14  RS Sophomore  6’10” 230 lb  3.5 ppg, 2 rpg, 6 mpg
Has played just four games, either in spot minutes or in mop-up duty.

Forward Ariel Bland  #23  Freshman  6’7”, 215 lb  4 ppg, 2 rpg, 5 mpg
Athletic, has played just two games (it was initially thought he would redshirt).  His upside may see him get more PT as the season progresses.
Guard Zach Harvey.  The transfer from Cincinnati is out for the season.

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