Wednesday, July 5, 2023

June 29 Practice Notes


The day camp for kids was finishing up before the 4 newcomers started a quick practice session.  The returnees have a break until July 10.  They will travel to Vancouver later this summer to play exhibitions and will get 10 extra days of practice for team-bonding, etc.

My non-expert observations which hopefully don't reveal any "trade secrets":

Oakman can shoot, which was a nice surprise, as he has a reputation for being a defensive stopper in the lane, with limited offense.  One insider said he made 15 consecutive free throws the day before.  His form is good.  The consensus among observers was he is much better than expected.  He is 7'0" and 225 lbs, so he will need to gain 20 lbs of muscle to compete at the Div. 1 level.  This will add toughness to his game.  He's got good footwork and has soft hands, so he can be coached up.  Needs to keep the ball higher to take advantage of his length.  But for a 7 footer, he runs like a deer.

Traore is a beast.  In full court 1 on 1 drills, he just uses his body and leverage to get the ball in the paint and will abuse his defender with his length and strength.  He stays low to keep his defender behind him to receive the interior pass.  I predict many And-1's for him.  He also has a 3 point shot, and can hit them when he stays low and uses his legs to catch and shoot.  If he's too upright, he tends to miss them short, a common fault with many shooters.  Coach Joe really coached him up on that.  He has good footwork and good touch around the rim.  He will be one of the more physical and athletic post players in the Big West.  

Shtolzberg obviously has  a smooth 3 point shot, but he has a really soft touch in the mid range, even the fade aways when he's just shooting around.  He's definitely Div. 1 ready physically, and skills-wise.

Fontenot's 3 point shot was surprisingly accurate and he had good form.  At one point, he made 9 of 10 3's from the left 45 degree spot.  His shot is better than Ajay's shot when he was a true freshman (altho Ajay has elite drives and finishes).  Physically, Fontenot looks like a right handed Ajay, but their games are different.  Fontenot is skinnier, about the same size when Ajay was a freshman.  Fontenot needs to bulk up also, but his skills set suggests he will play this year.

As a bonus, Devearl and Max attended the practice, as did Pimm and Gary Cunningham.  One recruit was there, but no news on him.  The coaches are recruiting to fill out the final one or two slots.  Joe is a relentless recruiter.  Kelly Barsky also showed up to greet donors and the former players.

Interview with Coach Joe Pasternack, June 28, 2023

Gaucho Hoops ("GH"):  Can you talk about the the new players, incoming transfers as well as freshmen players?

Joe Pasternack ("JP"):  Yes.

GH: And then we can cover the returnees and how they're developing.

JP: Really excited about this upcoming season. All of our players are now back home. They have a break; we don't start up until July 10th. Our new guys are coming in this week, so Yohan Traore, Ben Shtolzberg, Jason Fontenet, and Mezziah Oakman--they're all here this week to get into summer school to get their physicals, and they get a two week head start on the returners. What we're doing now is their physicals, and they start lifting weights, they learn our shooting drills, kind of the details of our system. They're getting acclimated to a college campus. And I'm really, really excited about these 4 new guys that we have coming in so far.

GH: Awesome. Can you break down the freshman first, Fontenet, and his game.

JP: Jason Fontenet is an incredible, young man. He's a 4.0 student from Phoenix, AZ. He went to Bella Vista Prep School. His dad played basketball at Oregon State. He's got great genes. He's about 6'5", really strong college-ready body. Comes from a great, great family. Lives with his mom. He can really shoot the basketball but what I love about him is he's the total package: academics, he fits in at UC Santa Barbara, perfect student athlete. Highest character young man you can meet. That's number two. Number three, he's driven to be a pro, loves the game of basketball, and he's just such a perfect fit for our basketball program, and I expect him to be able to help us this year. He can play multiple positions on the perimeter as a guard.

GH: So 1,2, and 3 basically.

JP: Yep.

GH: So he's a good shooter. How about his defense? Does he use his length at all? Or is that something he has to develop, as most freshmen do?

JP: Yes, he is going to learn all that. He's just learning the details of our system right now.

GH: Let's talk about Ben. He's from southern California originally? He played at Creighton, right?

JP: Yes, Ben Shtolzberg is a young man we recruited out of high school. He chose Creighton. He's a 6'4" guard who plays multiple positions, which I like. He can really score the ball, shoot the ball, make plays off ball screens, has an incredible attitude, loves the game just wants to get better, coachable, from probably an hour and a half from here, in the Valley, and comes from a great family. High character, great student, so really excited about him.

GH: Was he on the team 2 years ago when you played them in the NCAA's?

JP: No. He's a sophomore. He has 3 years to play. Jason has 4 years to play.

GH: And then there's Mezziah Oakman.

JP: Yeah. Mezziah Oakman is a junior college player, and he's got two years left. Played at San Francisco City Junior [City] College where Jalen Canty and Miles Norris went. He's 7'0", 225 pounds, he's an incredible physical specimen, comes from an amazing Junior College. Justin Labagh is the head coach, he's the all-time winningest junior college coach in the state of California over Jerry Tarkanian. He's tied with JerryTarkanian for the most state championships in the history of the state of California. So Mezziah comes from a great, great coach, and so I'm really excited about Mezziah. I think with any new guy, and I just named the three, they have a long, long time...It takes time to get adjusted to college basketball in our system, so we're being very patient with them, but demanding and holding them accountable, and one of the big things we're doing because we have so many new guys. with Andrew Kelly, Miles Norris, Calvin Wishart, and Ajare Sanni gone, is we're going to take our team to Vancouver. It's the first time in six years. We've never gone on a foreign tour, so by going to Vancouver, we get 10 extra real days of practice--unlimited time to practice. To be able to practice those 10 days to be able to get ready to play college basketball games in Vancouver, to be able to install our system to teach these guys, and try to get them up to speed.

GH: Do you have the teams in Vancouver you will be playing?

JP: There will be some teams in Vancouver who we will play.

GH: Exhibition, preseason type games.

JP: Yes.

GH: The next new incoming player is Yohan. How is he coming along?

JP: Yohan Traore is a young man we used to watch. He was on KK's AAU team Dream Vision. We know him very well out of high school. He went to Dream City in Arizona, and Prolific Prep. So we're very familiar with him. He's a transfer from Auburn. With shoes, he's about 6'11" with a 7'3" wingspan. Again, he's only a freshman, he'll be a sophomore next year, so he's got 3 years to play. He has tremendous, tremendous potential. He's from France. He's an incredible young man, who I'm really, really excited about developing him.

GH: So he's another bilingual guy. I think he's our first 5 star recruit at UCSB out of high school, as far as I know.

JP: Yeah, I'm not sure about that.

GH: I think he is, which is kind of amazing. Any news on returnees? I'm sure Ajay comes to mind first for all the fans.

JP: I think Ajay is really locked in to have an incredible season. He had a great spring, working on his body. Again, got a lot stronger, believe it or not. Worked really hard on his entire game, his outside shooting, he's really shooting the ball great in the spring and summer. He's really locked into having the best year he possibly can have. He's had a great, great 2 years, but he's not satisfied which is great. He's another young man who has incredible character, academically does incredible in school and we're really excited.

GH: So wait, he gained about 25 pounds of muscle last year. You're saying he's gotten even stronger this summer?

JP: Yeah, he's over 200 pounds now.

GH: Wow. What about Cole Anderson?

JP: Cole Anderson again, this is their break, they're all off campus. Everybody needs a mental and physical break. And it's great to get them out of here. Cole Anderson is in Fresno right now with family. He loves the game and he's working out and I think he's going to have a huge year, and we're really excited about him. I think if I could describe anything about this team, the character of the individuals are so high, they love the game, they're very driven and motivated to be pros, but also to get back to the NCAA's. They got a taste of it, but want to get back there. But it's a grind. It's not easy. The pressure, the process and honoring the process every single day. When you're a high character individual, you understand that and you honor our process and that's the key for us. We don't talk about championships, we talk about being a champion every single day, and that's why I feel so good about this team.

GH: Having Gabe Vincent as a model of honoring the process certainly helps.

JP: Absolutely, because nobody honored the process every day like he did, being a champion like he did, and bringing up his team is huge.

GH: Yep, that was great, as I was rooting for the Heat the whole playoffs. What about JPL?

JP: Josh Pierre-Louis, this will be the first spring and summer where he's been healthy. The last 3 springs and summers, when he got here, it was during COVID. He wasn't around here, so we didn't get to coach him that spring and summer. Then we played in the NCAA tournament, and he got hurt against Creighton. And he didn't work out in the spring or summer leading up to his junior year. Then in the Irvine game before the Long Beach game, he got hurt. And his hip was out, he was out for the whole spring and summer. And so this is the first spring he's had with our team to work on his game, shooting the basketball, and he's now home in New Jersey with his family, which is great. He's had a great, great spring. He's going to have a great summer. I think it'll be his best year, so I'm really excited about him.

Matija Belic, is on the under 20 Serbian team right now, and all the fans can look him up. He plays on July 8th is when it starts. I think he's going to have a huge year for us. I'm really excited about him.

Then Ariel Bland redshirted, so our fans weren't really able to see him going against Miles Norris every day in practice. A lot of days, he got the better of Miles. He's going to have a great motor, and I think he's going to be a great forward for us, really excited about Ariel.

GH: Real quickly, what are his strengths, because we haven't seen much of him. Defense, rebounding?

JP: Driver, DRIVER...rebound, motor, and really, really plays hard. I'm really excited about him.

And then there is Evans Kipruto. Evans Kipruto came on strong...we don't to the NCAA tournament without Evans and Matija. We got them late. Matija hit huge 3's against UCR. When Andre Kelly got into foul trouble, Evans Kipruto came in and again, another guy that just loves the game. High character, really excited about him.

GH: Yeah I noticed they didn't play much in the beginning and when they stepped in they were ready. They could have been stale, but instead, they came through in the clutch. They really honored the process. That's it for the players, but going forward, you really like the team's chemistry and make up.

JP: We're really excited to get them all together on July 10th, and being able to practice and getting ready for our Vancouver trip. I think it'll be great team building, to integrate the new guys with the returners, and it's all about our returners establishing our culture on a daily basis, and our coaching staff; everybody working together to establish our culture right now.

GH: The schedule is always a topic.

JP: We're working on the schedule right now.

GH: Who can you announce?

JP: It looks like the one game that we're going to play, we're going to the Pit to play New Mexico, which will be a very challenging game, but we're still working on all our schedule. We're playing LMU in the Phoenix Suns Arena. We did it last year. The Basketball Hall of Fame Jerry Colangelo Classic. To be able to play in an NBA arena is huge. And they came up with the opponent, Loyola Marymount. It's a shame we have to go to Phoenix to play LMU, but that's the way it works. To play neutral games, I think it prepares us for the conference tournament. So that's what I'm excited for.

GH: Awesome.

JP: When I was at Arizona, we had a saying to our players. "You don't get to choose the NBA. The NBA has to choose you." You can't just say "I want to go to the NBA." Its the same with scheduling. People want to know why can't we play certain teams. Gonzaga won't play us. UCLA won't play us. Not one PAC-12 team will play us. So I don't get to pick who UCSB plays. They have to want to play us.

When you get married, she has to want to marry you. Not one PAC-12 school will play us. Gonzaga won't play us. And so people say, "Why will they play such and such?" I don't know. But they won't play us, okay? So that's where we're at right now. We're working really hard to finish our schedule. We're going to do the best we can. We'd love to have a big name come into the Thunderdome. Unfortunately, the days of Cal and North Carolina coming to the Thunderdome are not going to happen anymore. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Ben Shtolzberg Signs NLI


Saturday, March 11, 2023

CSUF vs UCSB Big West Conference Championship Game Preview, by gauchodan

Game 34 (BWT Championship)
Cal State Fullerton (20-12) vs. UCSB (26-7)
Saturday, March 11, 2023, 6:30 pm PST
Henderson, Nev.
Quick Bite
So here we are.  Every school in the Big West points to this day in March.  They want to be playing on this day in March, because this is likely the game you have to win to make the NCAA Tournament.  And the Gauchos have made it to this day.  Even with a school-record 26 wins, they have to win on this day to make the NCAA Tournament.  The bracketologists have all swapped UC Irvine out of their brackets for UCSB: Joe Lunardi has the Gauchos as a 14 seed going to Denver to play Gonzaga.

The Gauchos had their typical slow start last night, with the usual wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Gaucho faithful.  But they recovered nicely, and only a buzzer-beating Flynn Cameron 3 prevented UCSB from entering halftime tied with the Highlanders.  The Gauchos took control early in the 2nd half and I don't think they gave up the lead thereafter.  Josh Pierre-Louis laid it all out last night.  He scored a season-high 20 points, many off of dart-quick drives to the basket.  He dished a couple of assists to Evans Kipruto and played incredible defense until he fouled out with under 4 minutes to play.  Ajay Mitchell was too much for Riverside, who tried putting Jamal Hartwell on him to no avail.  Mitchell pretty much had his way getting a little edge on his smaller defender and either getting a basket or getting fouled.  Even board favorites Kipruto and Belic chipped in, combining for 14 points off the bench. 

UCSB has won 6 straight games, and the most amazing stat to me?  Just 44 turnovers in those 6 games (7.3 per game).  Last night, UCSB committed just 5 turnovers and I think can remember every one of them...there's the 2 in-bounds play travels by Ajay Mitchell, JPL threw one over the Gaucho bench and JPL had a charge.  I give up, I can't remember the last one.

Yesterday morning, if I told you we would be playing Cal State Fullerton, just about everyone on this board would have taken that matchup.  After CSUF's win over the top-seeded Anteaters, everyone immediately flipped to "oh no, the Titans look too touch for us."  I understand.  The Titans are competing at a high level and are the hottest team in the Big West with an 8-game winning streak.  Their unheralded program is playing in the Big West Championship game for the 4th time in the last 6 seasons (5 events).  Latrell Wrightsell Jr. can do it all...he's their top scorer, top 3-point shooter and a great defensive player.  Troy San Antonio was the conference's Defensive Player of the Year but scored 15 first-half points yesterday.  Fullerton has a lot of interchangeable undersized but quick swingmen that will be a problem for Santa Barbara to handle.  CSUF usually initiates its offense from the top of the key with penetrating drives to the basket.  Therefore, they don't get a lot of assists.  This is where you break out the pack-line defense that Joe Pasternack has been willing to deploy in the past.

2023 Meetings
Dec. 29: UC Santa Barbara 66, Cal State Fullerton 58
FULLERTON, Calif. -- Ajay Mitchell scored 24 points and Josh Pierre-Louis added 17 as the Gauchos handed the Titans their first home loss.  Pierre-Louis hit four free throws and Mitchell added a leaning 3-pointer as the shot clock expired in a game-closing 11-2 run.  CSUF had a season-high 21 turnovers but out-rebounded UCSB 33-22.  Jalen Harris led Fullerton with 19 points and three rebounds.

Feb. 20: Cal State Fullerton 74, UC Santa Barbara 60
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The Titans (17-12, 11-6) used runs of 9-0 and 11-0 in the 1st half to run out to a double-digit lead and were never seriously threatened in a defeat of the reeling Gauchos (20-7, 11-5).  Max Jones scored 18 points and Latrell Wrightsell, Jr. and John Mikey Square each added 15 for Fullerton, which has won 5 straight games.  UCSB has lost 3 in a row to fall into a tie for 3rd place with Hawai'i.

Last UCSB game
March 10: (2) UC Santa Barbara 92, (3) UC Riverside 87
HENDERSON, Nev. -- Ajay Mitchell scored 28 points and handed out 7 assists and Josh Pierre-Louis added a season-high 20 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds to lead the Gauchos (26-7) to their second Big West Tournament Championship game in 3 seasons.  UCSB shot 57% from the field and received career-highs in points from Matija Belic and Evans Kipruto off the bench.  Flynn Cameron scored a career-high 31 points and Zyon Pullin added 24 for the Highlanders (22-12), who made 10-of-21 threes and out-rebounded the Gauchos 34-25.

Last Cal State Fullerton game
March 10: (4) Cal State Fullerton 83, (1) UC Irvine 80
HENDERSON, Nev. -- Latrell Wrightsell Jr. scored 22 points to lead five players in double figures as the defending-champion Titans (20-12) advanced to the Big West Tournament Championship game for the second straight season and fourth time in the last 5 Tournaments.  Cal State Fullerton made 7-of-8 free throw attempts down the stretch to hold off the top-seeded Anteaters.  Dawson Baker scored 22 points and DJ Davis added 20 for UC Irvine, which has an automatic bid to the NIT.

Cal State Fullerton Roster
Latrell Wrightsell #3 JR G, 6-3 189, Omaha, NE -- 16.4 Pts, 4.5 Reb, 2.4 Ast
Jalen Harris #0 SR G, 6-1 180, Los Angeles, CA -- 12.4 Pts, 2.4 Reb, 2.0 Ast
Max Jones #2 JR G, 6-5 206, Clearwater, FL -- 12.3 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 2.2 Ast
Tory San Antonio #23 SR G, 6-3 165, Moreno Valley, CA -- 7.6 Pts, 4.5 Reb, 1.4 Ast
Vincent Lee #13 SR F, 6-8 230, Midlothian, TX -- 7.6 Pts, 4.7 Reb, 0.6 Ast
Grayson Carper #21 SR G, 6-6 190, Fresno, CA -- 4.3 Pts, 2.8 Reb, 0.4 Ast
Garrison Wade #22 SR F, 6-6 200, Madison, MS -- 4.4 Pts, 3.3 Reb, 0.4 Ast
John Mikey Square #32 JR F, 6-6 210, North Bethesda, MD -- 3.1 Pts, 2.4 Reb, 0.3 Ast
Daeshawn Eaton #1 JR G, 6-2 160, Columbia, MD -- 2.6 Pts, 1.5 Reb, 0.9 Ast
Lathaniel Bastian #14 SO G, 6-8 225, Nassau, Bahamas -- 2.1 Pts, 2.6 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Victor Panov #5 FR F, 6-7 230, Saint Petersburg, Russia -- 1.4 Pts, 1.5 Reb, 0.4 Ast
Ibrahim Famouke Doumbia #10 SR F, 6-7 205, Bamako, Mali -- 3.3 Pts, 0.3 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Cameron Carter #35 SR G, 6-2 180, Reno, NV -- 1.3 Pts, 0.3 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Trey Blackmore #11 FR G, 6-2 165, San Antonio, TX - 0.8 Pts, 0.0 Reb, 0.5 Ast
Jayden White #12 FR F, 6-7 200, San Marcos, CA -- 0.0 Pts, 0.0 Reb, 1.0 Ast
Justin White #24 FR F, 6-5 205, San Marcos, CA -- 0.0 Pts, 0.0 Reb, 0.0 Ast

UCSB Roster
Ajay Mitchell #13 SO G, 6-4 180, Sainte Marie Namur (Belgium) -- 16.3 Pts, 2.7 Reb, 5.2 Ast
Miles Norris #5 SR F, 6-10 220, San Diego, CA -- 14.2 Pts, 6.2 Reb, 1.3 Ast
Andre Kelly #2 SR F, 6-8 255, Stockton, CA -- 9.5 Pts, 6.3 Reb, 0.9 Ast
Josh Pierre-Louis #1 SR G, 6-4 185, Plainfield, NJ -- 10.0 Pts, 4.1 Reb, 2.5 Ast
Cole Anderson #4 SO G, 6-4 185, Fresno, CA -- 7.3 Pts, 1.3 Reb, 0.6 Ast
Calvin Wishart #10 SR G, 6-1 180, Delano, MN -- 7.0 Pts, 2.8 Reb, 2.8 Ast
Ajare Sanni #3 SR G, 6-3 170, Houston, TX -- 6.5 Pts, 2.0 Reb, 1.0 Ast
Koat Keat Tong #00 FR F, 6-9 215, Bentiu, South Sudan -- 1.9 Pts, 3.9 Reb, 0.3 Ast
Jakov Kukic #14 JR F, 6-10 230, Split, Croatia -- 2.3 Pts, 2.1 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Matija Belic #32 FR G, 6-7 205, Belgrade, Serbia -- 1.3 Pts, 0.8 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Evans Kipruto #12 JR F, 6-8 250, Nairobi, Kenya -- 1.2 Pts, 0.8 Reb, 0.1 Ast
David Pickles #40 SO F, 6-10 235, Seattle, WA -- 1.0 Pts, 0.3 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Gage Gomez #50 JR G, 6-3 190, Arroyo Grande, CA -- 0.2 Pts, 0.2 Reb, 0.2 Ast
Ariel Bland #23 SO F, 6-7 215, Eden Prairie, MN -- 0.0 Pts, 1.5 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Henry Hartwell #51 FR G, 6-5 180, Oceanside, CA -- 0.0 Pts, 0.5 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Max Sheldon #53 SO G, 5-11 180, Santa Barbara, CA -- 0.0 Pts, 0.0 Reb, 0.0 Ast
Cal State Fullerton National Ranking Outliers

  • Assist/Turnover Ratio: 296 (0.89)
  • Assists per game: 334 (10.5)
  • Bench Points per game: 293 (14.81)
  • Field Goal pct Defense: 57 (.416)
  • Free Throw Attempts per game: 53 (20.7)
  • Free Throws Made per game: 77 (14.4)
  • Scoring Defense: 38 (64.9)
  • Three-Point percentage: 31 (.374)
  • Three-Point percentage Defense: 38 (.310)
  • Turnover Margin: 44 (2.5)
  • Turnovers Forced per game: 69 (14.31)


  • Latrell Wrightsell Jr. -- Double Doubles: 413 (2), Field Goal Attempts: 186 (389), Field Goal pct: 265 (.427), Field Goals: 252 (166), Minutes per game: 239 (33:17), Points: 246 (475), Points per game: 145 (16.4), Steals: 254 (43), Steals per game: 191 (1.48), Three Point Attempts: 215 (182), Three Pointers per game: 114 (2.45), Three Pointers: 167 (71)
  • Jalen Harris -- Field Goal Attempts: 272 (364), Free Throw Attempts: 261 (129), Free Throw pct: 335 (.736), Free Throws: 284 (95)
  • Max Jones -- Free Throw Attempts: 242 (131), Free Throw pct: 209 (.794), Free Throws: 201 (104)
  • Vincent Lee -- Rebounds (offensive) per game: 273 (2.03)

UCSB National Ranking Outliers

  • Assist/Turnover ratio: 61 (1.26)
  • Bench Points per game: 288 (14.91)
  • Effective FG pct: 28 (.547)
  • Field Goal pct: 7 (.496)
  • Rebounds (Offensive) per game: 303 (8.15)
  • Rebounds per game: 307 (32.03)
  • Scoring Defense: 56 (65.7)
  • Three Point Attempts per game: 341 (15.8)
  • Three Pointers per game: 329 (5.5)
  • Turnovers per game: 66 (11.4)
  • Winning percentage: 19 (.788)


  • Ajay Mitchell -- Assist/Turnover ratio: 52 (2.34), Assists: 20 (171), Assists per game: 35 (5.2), Double Doubles: 285 (3), Field Goal Attempts: 265 (365), Field Goal pct: 93 (.504), Field Goals: 136 (184), Free Throw attempts: 48 (184), Free Throw pct: 156 (.815), Free Throws: 33 (150), Minutes per game: 209 (33:32), Points: 106 (538), Points per game: 150 (16.3), Steals: 194 (46), Steals per game: 245 (1.39)
  • Calvin Wishart -- Assists: 344 (94)
  • Miles Norris -- Blocks: 272 (27), Blocks per game: 309 (0.82), Double Doubles: 203 (4), Field Goal pct: 106 (.494), Field Goals: 238 (168), Minutes per game: 195 (33:39), Points: 263 (469), Points per game: 332 (14.2), Rebounds: 207 (206), Rebounds (defensive) per game: 261 (4.52), Rebounds per game: 258 (6.2)
  • Andre Kelly -- Blocks: 344 (24), Double Doubles: 103 (7), Rebounds: 222 (203), Rebounds (defensive) per game: 150 (5.00), Rebounds per game: 241 (6.3)
  • Josh Pierre-Louis -- Steals per game: 341 (1.28)

Both of yesterday's semifinal contests went WAY over.  With a championship on the line, I think the scoring goes down.  It will be another close one, which is the type of contest we excel in.  UCSB 66, Cal State Fullerton 65.

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Men's Basketball Earns Spot In Big West Championship