Defying Convention, Men's Basketball Returns Six Starters As Exhibition Schedule Tips Off Thursday

Oct. 31, 2001

The Schedule
Exhibition Game No. 1
Thursday, November 1, 2001, at 7:00 p.m.

UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Korabel (Ukraine)
at UCSB's Thunderdome

Exhibition Game No. 2
Tuesday, November 6, 2001, at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. EA Sports All-Stars
at UCSB's Thunderdome

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara finished the 2000-01 season with a 13-15 overall record, and a 9-7 mark in the Big West. The 9-7 mark in league was good enough for fourth place. UCSB did, however, get knocked out of the Big West Tournament in a first-round overtime thriller by Pacific.

UCSB Fares Well In Preseason Publications
UCSB fares quite well in the predictions made in the myriad of college basketball preseason publications. We will start from the bottom up. Basketball News picks the Gauchos fifth, and they have Mark Hull as a first-team all-league choice. Athlon has picked UCSB to finish third, with Hull earning first-team all-league, and Adama Ndiaye selected as the Big West's Defensive Player of the Year. Lindy's selects UCSB second. Street & Smith's has the Gauchos pegged to win the Big West, as does The Sporting News. The Sporting News also has Ndiaye as a first-team all-leaguer, and Branduinn Fullove as a second-team

2001-02 Schedule
Nov. 1 - +Korabel (Ukraine) - 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 6 - +EA Sports All-Stars - 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 17 - Westmont College - 2:00 p.m.
Nov. 24 - at USF - 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 26 - at USC - 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 28 - BYU - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 1 - St. Mary's - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 5 - at Loyola Marymount - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 8 - Pepperdine - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 20 - *at UC Riverside - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 22 - *at Cal State Fulleron - 7:00 p.m.
Dec. 28 - #vs. Detroit Mercy - 8:00 p.m.
Dec. 29 - # vs. Santa Clara/Maryland Balt. County - TBA
Jan. 3 - *Idaho - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 5 - *Utah State - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 10 - *at Cal State Northridge - 5:30 p.m.
Jan. 12 - *at Pacific - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 19 - *at Cal Poly - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 24 - *UC Irvine - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 26 - *Long Beach State - 7:00 p.m.
Jan. 31 - *at Utah State - 6:00 p.m.
Feb. 3 - *at Idaho - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 7 - *Pacific - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 9 - *Cal State Northridge - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 16 - *Cal Poly - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 21 - *at Long Beach State - 7:35 p.m.
Feb. 23 - *at UC Irvine - 7:00 p.m.
Feb. 28 - *Cal State Fullerton - 7:00 p.m.
Mar. 2 - *UC Riverside - 7:00 p.m.
Mar. 7-9 - Big West Tournament
+Indicates exhibition game.
*Indicates Big West Conference game.
#Indicates Cable Car Classic in Santa Clara.

The Gauchos On The Radio
All UC Santa Barbara basketball games are broadcast live on KEYT radio, 1250 AM in Santa Barbara. Randy Lee is in his fifth season as the play-by-play announcer and Don Ford is in his sixth year as the primary color announcer.

Now, The Good News
A first round overtime loss in the Big West Tournament was a difficult way to end a season, but upon reflection, there was some reason for optimism. The five players who started in that game, and in fact who started the second half of the season, are all returning in 2001-02. Two of the players, senior forward Mike Vukovich, and junior swingman Mark Hull, earned Second Team All-Big West honors, and a third, sophomore guard Branduinn Fullove, was honorable mention All-Big West. In addition, the Gauchos return sophomore off-guard Nick Jones, a Big West All-Freshman Team member, and sophomore point guard Jacoby Atako, who started every game during the conference schedule.

The Wild Card: Adama Ndiaye
A sixth player could also be considered a returning starter. Senior center Adama Ndiaye, who started during the 1999-2000 season, also returns. Three days before last year's season opener, Ndiaye fractured the ring finger on his left hand, and was forced to the sidelines for the season. After redshirting last year, Ndiaye returns. At 6-foot-9, 245 pounds, he is bigger and stronger than the last time he was in uniform. Most importantly, he could give UCSB a defensive presence in the paint, an element that that lacked last season. As a junior, Ndiaye averaged 9.3 points, and 7.5 rebounds per game. He led the team in blocked shots in both his sophomore and junior seasons. Paired with Mike Vukovich, he should give the Gauchos a fairly formidable one-two punch on the low blocks in 2001-02.

What About Bob?
Bob Williams is entering his fourth season as head coach at UCSB. Last year he guided the Gauchos to a 13-15 overall record and a solid 9-7 mark in Big West play. In his first three seasons, Williams has led the team to a 42-42 record. The 42 victories are the most by any UCSB coach in his first three campaigns. In addition, the 42 wins are 12 more than the team had in the three seasons prior to his arrival. Each season under Williams, the Gauchos have progressively gotten better and better, playing their best basketball late in the season. In fact, in three years under his guidance, UCSB has logged a 31-17 record in Big West games, a winning percentage of .646, and among the top three in league over that span. In his first season, Williams guided UCSB to the Big West's Western Division championship, a 15-13 record overall and a 12-4 record in league. He was named Big West Coach of the Year in 1999. Two years ago, they went 14-14 overall, and 10-6 in league. In his career at four-year schools, which includes stops at UC Davis and Menlo College, he now has a 231-142 record, good for a winning percentage of .616.

Five Starting Spots, Six Returning Starters
Rarely does a head coach have the luxury, or dilema, of returning six starters to fill five starting spots. Bob Williams has that dilema/luxury as he prepares to enter the 2001-02 season. In addition to the return of last season's starters, Mark Hull, Mike Vukovich, Branduinn Fullove, Nick Jones, and Jacoby Atako, he has Adama Ndiaye, a starter at the five spot two seasons ago. Last year, Ndiaye fractured the ring finger on his left hand and redshirted the season, now he is the sixth returning starter.

On The Mark
Junior Mark Hull is set to enter his third year as a Gaucho starter. Due to a variety of injuries, in his two seasons, Hull has started primarily at the power forward position, this year he expects to spend more time at the small forward spot. Hull, a Second Team All-Big West selection last year, and a Big West All-Freshmen Team member in 1999-2000, averaged a team-leading 13.9 points per game in 2000-01. He also chipped in 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game. More than statistics, however, Hull has proven to be the team's ironman in his two campaigns. The 6-foot-7 native of Glendale is the only UCSB player to start all 56 games over last two years, and last season, he easily led the team in minutes played with 937, 169 more than Branduinn Fullove, his next closest teammate. Two years ago, Hull became the first freshman in school history to lead the team in minutes with 800. While Williams would like to see his minutes drop by two or three per game this season, it is a safe bet that, barring injury, Hull will be on court as much as anyone else on the roster. He returned for 2001-02 season at 210 pounds, an increase of about ten over last year, he should once more be one of the top players in the Big West Conference, and on the West Coast.

Ndiaye: The Sixth Dimension
As mentioned above, if you indulged, Adama Ndiaye gives UCSB a sixth returning starter. The finger injury that kept him sideline all of last season is completely healed, and he is bigger than ever, at 6-foot-9, 245 pounds. Ndiaye is expected to give the Gauchos a presence that they did not have last season. He is quick, strong, has long arms, and can jump out of the gym. In each of his two seasons of activity, 1998-99 and 1999-2000, Ndiaye led UCSB in blocked shots with 25 and 48. In fact, with 73 blocked shots in his career, he ranks fifth all-time. Defense is just one aspect of Ndiaye's game. The improvement he showed between his sophomore and junior seasons was immense. As a sophomore, he averaged just 3.3 points per game, shooting 37.3% from the field. As a junior, he averaged 9.3 points per game, and despite a slow start, he completed the season by shooting 49.7%. If he can show even minor improvement this season, he will be one of the top players in the Big West Conference. Another area of significant change in Ndiaye between his first season and his second season was his durability. As a sophomore, he played in 23 games, missing some due to injury, and totaled just 350 minutes. In his junior season, he played in all 28 games, starting 27, and logged 755 minutes. Not only did he increase his total minutes played by 405, he increased his average per game from 15.2 to 27.0. Whether he plays the four or the five position, and whether he is paired with Mike Vukovich, or Mark Hull, Ndiaye is a welcome re-addition to the team.

Step Up To The Mike
Senior Mike Vukovich returns as one of the top frontcourt players in the Big West Conference. Entering last season, before the injury to Ndiaye, the preceeding sentence was one that was not even a remote possibility. After a slow start, however, Vukovich seized his opportunity, averaging 11.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 blocked shots per game, and earning Second Team All-Big West honors. In the process, Vukovich shot 57.4% from the field, the seventh best mark in school history, and in one game, a win at Pacific, he made a school-record 12-for-12 from the field. In all, it was quite a breakout year. Now, Vukovich is a fifth-year senior, and along with Ndiaye, gives the Gauchos one of the most formidable one-two punches in the league, if not the West Coast.

Fullove Will Again Have A Full Plate
As a freshman, Branduinn Fullove did everything for the Gauchos. He was second on the team in scoring at 12.2 points per game, he was second on the team in rebounds at 5.0 per game, and he paced the team in assist average at 3.2 per game. Not only was he selected to the Big West All-Freshman team, but he was one of two freshmen to earn honorable mention All-Big West honors. This year, Fullove's role certainly will not decrease. Williams has alluded to the fact that he could become an option at the point guard position, in addition to his time at the three and the four. There is little question that Fullove has just about as good a feel for the game as any player on UCSB's roster. He is the best passer on the squad, and one of the best three-point shooters. Last season, he was able to post his guaudy numbers despite missing three game with an ankle sprain that hampered Fullove all year. If he can avoid injuries in 2001-02, he is expected to become an even more important part of the Gaucho attack.

The Nick Of Time
Sophomore Nick Jones, a member of last year's Big West All-Freshman Team, could find himself in either of two situations this season. He could be in the starting lineup, as he was for 19 of the 28 games last season, or he could find himself as the sparkplug off the bench, as he was for nine of 29 games last season. Either way, Jones will almost undoubtedly play just as significant a role as he did last season when he averaged 9.8 points and 4.2 rebounds per game. Jones truly emerged at midseason last year. In 18 Big West games, he averaged 11.6 points, and 4.9 rebounds per game, while shooting 49.3% from the field. Whatever role Jones winds up playing, he will once again surely be one of the team's best all-around players. Williams believes that he may be the most improved defensive player on the roster, an honor not bestowed lightly by Bob Williams.

Making A Point
Either one of UCSB's returning point guards could be considered a returning starter. Jacoby Atako started 20 of the 28 games last season, and B.J. Ward started the other eight. As a pair, it was tough to distinguish between them in terms of statistics. Atako averaged 4.7 points, 2.96 assists, 2.3 rebounds, and 23.3 minutes per game. Ward averaged 4.5 points, 2.86 assists, 3.0 rebounds, and 22.2 minutes per outing

Casey At The Bat
In the first couple weeks of practice, Casey Cook seems to have shown the most improvement of any Gaucho. He is stronger, and he is showing a far better understanding of the system. Cook, in fact, was practicing his way into more playing time until he sprained his right thumb on Wednesday. Last year, he came off the bench in all 28 games, averaging 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.

The Life Of Bryan
Sophomore forward Bryan Whitehead will probably be the only newcomer to join the rotation this season. A 6-foot-8 transfer from Washington State, Whitehead can play either the four or the five spot. At 245 pounds, he is very strong, has a nice shooting touch from 15-feet in, and he is an aggressive rebounder. As a freshman at Washington State in 1999-2000, he averaged 1.2 points, and 1.0 rebounds in 21 games. He made 13-of-22 shots from the field (59.1%). Whitehead suffered a knee injury in January of 2000 that cost him six full games, and limited his effectiveness after that. Last year, he was at Butte Junior College, but he did not play basketball.

Injury Update
Cook will probably be out for another ten days with a sprained right thumb. J.J. Todd herniated a disk in his back and will probably be out until sometime after the first of the year. Freshman guard Cecil Brown (Canoga Park HS), who averaged 34 points per game as a senior, has herniated disks in his back and is expected to redshirt the 2001-02 campaign.