Sunday, October 1, 2023

UCSB Men's Basketball Practice, 9-27-23

It was a short practice, but highly intense, more fast-paced than I've ever seen a Gauchos team practice.  Not only were the drills intense, but transitioning from drill to drill was very quick.

Ajay looks like a grown man, jacked and with a beard.  Heard from a booster he weighs 205 now, and full of muscle.  He's more vocal now, and even his voice seems deeper. lol
Fontenot is even more muscular, gaining over 10 pounds when I first saw him a couple months ago.  The Gauchos are hitting the weights hard.

The team looks scary good, as in we should dominate teams.  Of course, we won't every game, but I'll give you some context.  That same booster predicted 26 wins last year, and everybody thought he was polyannish, including Pimm.  Well, we got to 27 wins.  This year, he is predicting 30 wins, which is significant given our schedule will be tougher.  I'm not saying we will win 30 games, but I'm also not betting against it either.  Of course, injuries can also play a role, so predictions are inherently dangerous.  But the donor did say this is the best team the Gauchos have assembled.  Some fans may point to the great teams Pimm had in the late 80's, and the much more potent BW conference.  We will see.

The consensus is KKT will take a medical redshirt, with one dissenter.  I'll leave that up to you to figure out who that person is.  lol

I won't comment on other rumors of injuries, but we should have a strong squad with depth, regardless.

Our bigs (Traore, Belic, Kipruto and Oakman) are all fast, and are athletic, with Traore immovable in the post.  Belic looks much more confident and composed, as his Euro experience this summer has obviously paid off.   Our perimeter players are experienced, and a year stronger and better.  JPL and Ajay really worked on their jumpshots,  releasing the ball without using the pinky finger.  My guess is that they verticalized their shooting elbow too.  Both jumpers looked more efficient with fewer moving parts.  Also starting higher in the cocked position rather than starting below was an emphasis.

We are better at every position except at the 4, and that's only because Miles is an NBA talent.  Having said that, Belic will be one of the most improved players.  Every other player in the starting lineup is either a year better or they are new (Traore).  Starting lineup right now looks like Ajay, Traore, JPL, Cole, and Belic.  Here's the thing:  Fontenot is already Div 1 ready.  He can drive, shoot, rebound and defend.  Expect 20 mpg if he continues to develop.

All the players are high character kids, including those further away from home, including JPL.

One thing I noticed--these kids are courageous.  I don't know who has more fortitude, the walk ons who were beat up, or the rotation players being the aggressors.  Unlike previous practices, the first and second teams did not take mercy on the scout teams.  They all get along on and off the court, but my god, there was no letting up on defense, if you were on-ball or denying the pass.  As much as us fans like to see buckets, watching this team defend will be a treat.  Defending was not just a slogan, our wings were very aggressive, and so was Ajay.  I guess JPL is rubbing off on all his teammates.  I've watched more than a few practices over the years, and this team is different.  There's a certain vibe about them, like they are carnivorous.  I don't know, I guess we will see.

Jazzman came in as the biggest kid on the block, but in his brief time here, he is acclimating to the culture of stepping up, no matter what physical presence you have.  If he bulks up, he will be a monster, cuz he already runs like a deer  Traore--he's already a monster.  Like I said last time, if he gets the ball in the post, it's an automatic bucket and/or free throws.

Anyway, I have a feeling LB fans feel the same way about their frontcourt, as they will also be improved from last year.  UCI keeps getting raw post players who develop into solid BW stars, and lately, their backcourt players are also good.  If I were to guess, I could see 26 games again, but against tougher competition, and hopefully, a win in the big dance.  We had a shot at Baylor, and look at what SDSU and FAU did last season.  One can dream, right?

I also chatted briefly with Coach Howland.  The guy is a gym rat, very focused while watching the practice.  He's very high on Traore and Fontenot also.  So there you have it, coming from someone who kinda knows the game.  lol  Also had a great chat with Gerry Fall.  He will be doing the play by play for MBB again.  I hope to interview him next week.

UCSB Women's Basketball Practice Notes, 9-27-23

Overall, the losses of Ila and Alexis Tucker to Cal and FSU, respectively, will hurt the post positions.  We will definitely be more perimeter-oriented, driving and dishing to the open 3 either strong side or weak side.  Just from observing, Alexis Whitfield, has a ton of upside, as she's the fastest player among the bigs by far, and she's got a mean crossover.  Just overall, super athletic and explosive, yet her numbers so far haven't indicated that potential.  She's a senior this year, and with the other two post players gone, this could be her breakout season, as long as she remains focused and consistent.

Jessica Grant is firing on all cylinders again with the 3 point shot, and her team won 90% of the shooting competitions.  Kanani Coon also has a sweet jumper, but I'm not sure if she is in the rotation.  Marin, Burke, Grant could be the starters on the perimeter, which means we will be small.  Anya Choice just seems too athletic to not start, so I'm not sure what the starting backcourt will look like.  The frontcourt is not fixed either, altho the experienced players will probably have a leg up with the system.

The perimeter game will be much more emphasized, but the Gaucho ladies still need to finish inside and defend the paint.  Coach Bonnie Hendrickson will earn her stripes this season.