October 19, 2005

Gauchos Open Practice in Preparation for Nov. 3 Exhibition Opener Against UC San Diego

Oct. 19, 2005

The Schedule
The UC Santa Barbara basketball team officially opened practice for the 2005-06 season on Friday Oct. 14. UCSB will open the exhibition season on Thursday, Nov. 3 with a 7:00 p.m. game against UC San Diego. The regular season will tip-off at the Thunderdome on Friday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. against San Francisco.

The Gaucho Record
UCSB finished the 2004-05 season with an overall record of 11-18 and a Big West record of 7-11. The Gauchos advanced to the quarterfinal round of the Big West Tournament, but their season ended with a loss to Cal State Fullerton.

A Quick Glance Back At An Injury-Marred Season
A quick glance is all last season derserves. UCSB suffered, and I mean suffered, through its most injury-plagued season since the dawn of time. In all, Gaucho players missed more than 140 games due to injury. Two key players, guard Cecil Brown and forward Chris Devine, missed all 29 regular season games and a third, forward Casey Cook, missed the final 19. On four occasions during the 2004-05 season, the Gauchos played a game with just seven players available, only one of which was a forward. In addition to the missed games, several UCSB players played injured for large portions of the 2004-05 campaign. By the end of last season, just one Santa Barbara player, Josh Davis, had started all 29 games and just five players had played in all 29 games.

Looking Forward
There is one positive aspect to the injury troubles that plagued UCSB last season. Several players who would normally have played few minutes were thrust into key roles and that experience could pay-off this season. The players returning from last season, along with the returning injured players and several newcomers, combine to give the Gauchos (cross your fingers) one of their deepest teams in recent memory.

Brown's Return A Key To UCSB Gaucho Fortunes
While UCSB lost several players for varying lengths of time in 2004-05, no player's absence was felt more than the absence of guard Cecil Brown. Brown was expected to assume a great deal of the scoring burden left by the graduation of a number of key players from the previous season as the starter at the off-guard position. Just as importantly, he was clearly the team's leader on and off the court. As a sophomore in 2003-04, Brown averaged 7.7 points and 1.8 rebounds per game. He made 11 starts that season, all of them early in the year, and ranked second on the team with 24 three-point baskets. In last season's exhibition opener against Cal State Los Angeles, Brown scored a game-high 15 points, but in practice prior to the second exhibition game he suffered a strained medial collateral ligament in his knee and he was sidelined for six weeks. The day before he was expected to return, Brown suffered an ankle injury in practice ending his season. Listed as a senior this year, Brown will undoubtedly be the starter at the off-guard spot and he should assume a good portion of the scoring load if he remains healthy. He also remains the Gauchos' team-leader.

No, Really, He Can Play
Sophomore forward Chris Devine really can play. His first year at UCSB, 2003-04, Devine suffered a hand injury and missed the entire year. Last year the native Alaskan had season-ending knee surgery prior to the start of practice. This year, he is as healthy as he has been since arriving in Santa Barbara and he is expected to start at the four spot. Arguably the toughest and most physical player on the team, Devine averaged 22.1 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.0 blocked shots per game as a senior at Chugiak High School in Eagle River, Alaska.

The Ironman
In a season when injuries were the norm, senior swingman Josh Davis was the exception to the rule. Davis was the only player on the roster to start all 29 games in 2004-05. He is the Gauchos' top returning scorer (10.1 points per game) and the 939 minutes he played are 185 more than the next closest returnee. Davis also averaged 4.7 rebounds per game and had 42 steals, the second highest total on the team. This year, if he can continue to develop, he could become one of the top all-around players in the Big West. Because of circumstances last season, Davis was forced to log some playing time at four different positions, including significant time at the four spot and a brief interlude at the point. With healthy teammates around him, Davis should have a more defined role. He is still one of UCSB's best defensive players and the offensive progress he made last season bodes well for his senior campaign.

The Bob Williams File
Bob Williams is entering his eighth season as the head coach at UC Santa Barbara. Last year his team struggled with injuries and finished 11-18 overall and 7-11 in the Big West Conference. It marked the first time that a Williams-coached UCSB team finished below the .500 mark in league play. During the 2004-05 season, however, Williams became the fifth UCSB coach to record 100 wins. Prior to last season, he had guided the Gauchos to three straight winning seasons, the first time the program accomplished the feat since 1987-88 through 1989-90. In 2002-03, Williams' Gauchos went 18-14 overall and 14-4 in league. The 2002-03 Big West mark earned Santa Barbara its first-ever Big West regular season championship along with a postseason trip to the National Invitation Tournament. Additionally, the success earned Williams his second Big West Coach of the Year award, his first coming after an impressive 1999 campaign. In 2001-02, Williams guided UCSB to its first Big West Conference Tournament Championship ever and first NCAA Tournament appearance in 12 years. Williams' UCSB teams have posted a 107-97 (.525) overall record and a 73-47 (.608) record in Big West games. Prior to his arrival at UCSB, he spent eight years at UC Davis and in those eight years, his teams recorded 20 or more wins five times and a 158-76 record. In Williams' final season, the Aggies went 31-2, won the NCAA Division II National Championship and he was named NABC Division II Coach of the Year. Including two seasons at Menlo College, Williams has a record of 296-197 (.601) at four-year schools.

On Guard For Gaucho Depth
Assuming most of its members remain relatively healthy, and you know what happens when you assume, the UCSB backcourt should be the team's strength in 2005-06. Not only should the backcourt be deep, it could be one of the most talented in Bob Williams' tenure at Santa Barbara. In addition to seniors Cecil Brown and Josh Davis, the Gauchos have four returnees who saw a great deal of playing time in 2004-05. Seniors Joe See and Michael Chambers, and sophomores Alex Harris and Derek Rasp will each get an opportunity to contribute in a big way. After a very slow start in 2004-05, See, who made seven starts, averaged 8.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game. He tied for the most three-point baskets with 43 and his two-year total of 87 is just three shy of moving him into the school's all-time top-ten. Harris, a Big West All-Freshman Team member last season, started 24 games, many at the point guard position, and averaged 7.4 points , 2.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals per game. He also made 21 three-point baskets, fifth on the team. Rasp was one of the most pleasant surprises in 2004-05. A walk-on, he wound-up playing in 24 games, missing five due to injury, and he started 13 times. Rasp averaged 6.1 points and 2.5 rebounds per game. He was third on the team with 30 three-point baskets, the second most ever by a UCSB freshman, and he made 40.5% from beyond the three-point arc, freshman record. He can also move into the frontcourt to play the four-spot if needed. Chambers averaged 4.0 points and made 16 three-pointers. While streaky, he can be a dead-eye shooter when he is hot.

Fresh Faces Add To The Depth
UCSB has a great deal of experience returning in the backcourt, but the experienced players may be hard pressed to hold the freshmen at bay. The Gauchos add 6-foot-2 guard James Powell (Glendora HS/Pomona, Calif.) and 6-foot-3 guard Lance Hurdle (Helix HS/San Diego, Calif.) to the mix in 2005-06. Powell, a point guard as a high school player, is considered one of the team's best playmakers. As a senior at Glendora High School, he averaged 20.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game. He also has the potential to be an outstanding outside shooter. In one game last year, Powell scored 53 points, making 12 three-point baskets in the process. Hurdle is already considered one of the best athletes in the program, but if early indications are accurate, he could also be one of the best players. As a high school senior, he helped lead Helix High School to the San Diego area Division I Championship and he was named the San Diego co-Player of the Year and the CIF San Diego Section Division I Player of the Year. In 2004-05, Hurdle averaged 24.1 points, 7.1 rebounds and 4.8 assists per outing.

Forward Thinking
Sophomore Chris Devine is expected to get the nod at the power forward position. Expected to back-up Devine is 6-foot-8 freshman Tom Garlepp (Australian Institute of Sports/Perth, Australia). Garlepp is a very good rebounder and shot-blocker and early-on he has shown the ability to rebound, bring the ball up the court and start the break. He is also a good shooter from about 16-feet in and he is improving as a three-point shooter. In a pinch, Garlepp could also shift to the five spot, allowing UCSB to play with both he and Devine in the lineup at the same time. Sophomore Derek Rasp could also see some time at the power forward position, creating a mismatch on both ends of the court.

The Center Of Things
In the words of head coach Bob Williams, the Gauchos will go with a 'three-headed monster` in the post in 2005-06. Two of the candidates to play the position are returnees and the other is a newcomer. Junior Glenn Turner made 21 starts in 2004-05, averaging 4.1 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. He also led the Big West Conference with 42 blocked shots, including a school-record six in a game at Idaho and 11 in consecutive games at Idaho and Utah State. While he had an up-and-down season, he was more up than down in the later part of the season despite playing the final six games with a fractured finger on his shooting hand. Senior Cameron Goettsche missed 11 full games and parts of three others due to a myriad of injuries in 2004-05. In his 18 appearances, however, he averaged 7.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. His 6.6 rebounds were a team-high and he added 24 blocked shots. A healthy Goettsche could also log some time at the power forward position and either way he is a key to UCSB success. The third head of the monster is a bit of a mystery. Sophomore Chidi Ajufo (Pensacola Community College/Lagos, Nigeria) was added to the roster during the summer. At 6-foot-6 he is the shortest of the options in the post, but he is extremely strong and has the highest vertical leap in the program. Ajufo will not be expected to step-out and shoot jumpers, but in time, he should become effective around the basket. A possible fourth head to the monster is sophomore Chris Moore. Moore will not be eligible until the end of the Fall Quarter at UCSB. He will miss the first six regular season games.

A Schedule To Write Home About
Last season, UCSB played a total of just 12 home games, nine conference games and three non-conference games. The non-conference home games included a Saturday afternoon affair against San Diego State, a mid-December game against Montana and a game against future Big West opponent UC Davis. This year the home schedule is more attractive. The Gauchos will play six non-conference home games and for the first time since the 2001-02 season and only the second time during Bob Williams' head coaching tenure, they will open the regular season at home. UCSB will host the University of San Francisco on Friday, Nov. 18 at 7:00 p.m. In fact, the Gauchos' second game of the year is also at home, Monday, Nov. 21 at 7:00 p.m. against the University of San Diego. This will mark the first time UCSB has opened with consecutive home games since the 1994-95 season. Santa Barbara will also play home games against Pepperdine (Dec. 17), Sonoma State (Dec. 20), Portland (Dec. 28) and UC Davis (Feb. 2).

Is That THE North Carolina?
UCSB's first road game in 2005-06 will be a doozy. The Gauchos will board an airplane the day before Thanksgiving and play their first road game on Friday, Nov. 25 at defending National Champion North Carolina. Although the Tar Heels have no starters returning from their title team of last season, they will still represent one of the road schedule's highlights. On the way back from Tobacco Road UCSB will stop in Tempe, Ariz., to play a Monday, Nov. 28 game at Arizona State of the Pac Ten. The Gauchos will also play non-conference road games at Loyola Marymount (Dec. 3), San Diego State (Dec. 17), Fresno State (Dec. 23) and UC Davis (Jan. 15). Overall the schedule is probably the best in several seasons for the Gauchos. UCSB will also open Big West play on the road at UC Riverside on Jan. 2 and at Cal State Fullerton on Jan. 4.