Freshmen Guards Give Men's Basketball A Look Into The Future

By Mark Patton - Senior Writer - Santa Barbara News-Press

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - They are listed first in UCSB's basketball program. Cecil Brown is No. 1 and Josh Davis is No. 2.

They very well could become the top two Gauchos someday. But for now, they must take a number.

And that's all right with both of these highly recruited freshmen, who will play supporting roles tonight at 7 when UCSB plays host to Utah State in a Big West Conference showdown.

"I have two great players starting in my position, in Nick Jones and Branduinn Fullove," said Brown, a 6-foot-4 wing guard. "I'm learning a lot from them.

"I think it's better for them to be here than for me to just come here and be the star right away, because that would probably hamper my development. I wouldn't really learn as much if they weren't here."

Brown averaged 34.5 points, 13.3 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game at Canoga Park High School before sitting out last season as a redshirt.

Davis, a 6-5 swingman, also posted some glittery high school numbers -- 23 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists -- which drew the attention of such Pac-10 powers as Cal and Oregon.

"I'm excited about the prospect of coaching them for the next four years," said UCSB coach Bob Williams. "They're going to be the mainstays in the program -- the Mark Hulls and Branduinn Fulloves and Nick Joneses of the future.

"You talk about the Big 3 or the Big 2 down the road? That would be Josh and Cecil."

Davis learned some Gaucho history when he asked for jersey No. 22.

"I was told that it had been retired," he said.

It had been worn by Brian Shaw, an NBA veteran who led UCSB to the 1988 NCAA Tournament. Gaucho recruiters had seen some Brian Shaw in Josh Davis while recruiting him last year out of Sacramento's Elk Grove High School: A big, versatile floor general.

Davis relishes the compliment.

"He's such a good leader for the Lakers, and knows his stuff about basketball," he said. "As of right now, I'm learning from a great leader on this team, with captain Mark Hull. Maybe one day I'll be a captain on this team."

Fullove and Hull both approach milestones tonight as they lead UCSB (9-10, 6-3 in the Big West Conference) against the league-leading Aggies (16-4, 7-2). Fullove, a junior guard, needs just two points to become the 19th Gaucho to reach 1,000 for a career. Hull, a senior forward, has 1,420 career points and is just 14 short of Doug Rex for second place on UCSB's all-time scoring list.

But both players had already scored big points with Brown and Davis.

"I was surprised, because these guys know they're the stars of the team, and yet they don't act like the typical stars," said Brown. "You don't get, ‘Don't talk to me, you're just a freshman.' They don't act like that.

"If I make a mistake, they come tell me what I did. And if I do something good, they acknowledge that you're doing something right. They actually do that with everybody, because they know it's going to take the whole team for us to be successful."

Davis, who had expected to play entirely on the perimeter in his first Gaucho season, also became Hull's understudy at power forward when Bray Skultety suffered a season-ending knee injury during fall drills.

"Mark has been a great leader in helping me play the 4-spot, because it's all new to me at this level," said Davis. "Sometimes he'll come over and put his arm around me and say, 'You need to do this,' or 'watch out for this situation on the court.'

"And the next time, the situation becomes a lot more clear for me."

Brown had a clouded basketball future a year ago after herniating three discs in his back before school even started. The pain made him consider quitting altogether.

"I wasn't really sure if I was going to recover from my back injury, because I was in pain for so long," he said. "For a time, people didn't know what was wrong with me."

But he was quickly reassured by another Gaucho veteran, center Adama Ndiaye, who had missed the previous season with an injury. Ndiaye told him that the redshirt season had been a blessing for his own development.

To this day, Brown says the high point of his collegiate career was "seeing Adama score 30 points against Cal Poly last year, because Adama was the closest person to me on the team."

In fact, Brown charged out of the stands at Long Beach State's Pyramid last year when Ndiaye was knocked down by the 49ers' Travis Reed.

"I really care a lot about my teammates, especially Adama, because he helped me a lot to deal with my situation last year," he said. "When I saw they were going after Adama, I just had to jump over the rails and over the benches and onto the court."

Although Brown (5.4) and Davis (3.4) rank just fifth and seventh on the team in scoring this year, they have both had big moments.

Brown has hit for eight or more points in seven of UCSB's games. Davis had a 14-point game against UC Riverside.

The two freshmen have had a more visible impact on defense for the Gauchos, who lead the Big West in field-goal percentage defense at .416.

"They're high-energy guys who make us more athletic when they're in the game," said Williams. "They're good pressure guys who can turn the heat up on someone. We're a little different when they're in the game."

Davis puts it this way: "On offense, you're going to make and miss shots, but on the other end, you can bring it every night."

And for UCSB, plenty more nights lie ahead for Cecil Brown and Josh Davis.