Tuesday, November 12, 2002 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Team Ezybonds (Melbourne, Australia)
at UCSB's Thunderdome
UCSB Selected To Win Big West By Coaches & Media
For the first time ever, the UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team was selected to win the Big West Conference by both the Media and Coaches. In the Coaches Poll, the Gauchos received six of a possible ten first-place votes and tallied 77 points. Utah State received three first-place votes and a total of 73, and UC Irvine had one first-place vote and 69 total points. In the Media Poll, UCSB received 14 first-place votes and a total of 246 points, Utah State received nine first-place votes and 231 points and UC Irvine received three first-place votes and a total of 217 points.
Hull & Fullove Selected Preseason All-Big West
Senior forward Mark Hull and junior guard Branduinn Fullove were each selected to the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team. In additioin to Hull and Fullove, the six-member team also included Adam Parada (UC Irvine), Desmond Penigar (Utah State), Pape Sow (Cal State Fullerton) and Varnie Dennis (Cal Poly).
The UC Santa Barbara basketball team opens its 2002-03 season tonight with a 7:00 p.m. exhibition game against Team Ezybonds, a club team from Melbourne, Australia. The Gauchos are coming off of their best season in several years. Last season, UCSB won the its first Big West Tournament ever and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years. The Gauchos finished the year at 20-11, their first 20 win season since 1991-92.
Probable Starters - Notes
G - Jacoby Atako - Closed the 2001-02 campaign on fire and has started 51 straight games.
G - Nick Jones - Big West Tournament MVP opens season in the starting lineup for the first time.
G - Cecil Brown - Redshirt freshman averaged 34.5 ppg as a senior at Canoga Park HS.
F - Mark Hull - Returning First Team All-Big West selection has started 87 games in a row.
F - Bryan Whitehead - Has been the most improved player in early practices.
Probable Reserves - Notes
G - Branduinn Fullove - Strained left knee will sideline All-Big West guard for the exhibition.
G - Josh Davis - Freshman guard has stomach flu and will not play aganst Team Ezybonds.
G - B.J. Ward - Senior opens the season as point guard back-up.
G - Chrimen Oliver - Surprised everyone late last season. This year he won't be a surprise.
F - Casey Cook - Redshirt sophomore will play a key role on the front line this year.
F - Scott Rainey - Redshirt freshman will be forced into a more important role.
F - Bray Skultety - Torn left ACL will sideline him for the season.
F - Glenn Turner - Injured back will sideline him indefinitely.
F - Derek Wheeler - Redshirt freshman walk-on will add depth.
The Sick Bay
The Gauchos open the 2002-03 season a bit depleted. In addition to the season-ending knee injury suffered by senior forward Bray Skultety, UCSB will open the exhibition season without the services of Second Team All-Big West guard Branduinn Fullove and freshman guard Josh Davis. Fullove is nursing a strained left knee, suffered just over a week ago in practice. Davis is suffering from a stomach flu. Freshman forward Glenn Turner, a strong candidate to redshirt the year anyway, has a strained lower back and is also sidelined.
Returnees Lead The Charge
Not all of the the Gauchos' returnees are on the sidelines. In fact, some pretty key players will be in the lineup tonight. Mark Hull, a First Team All-Big West selection last year, will start at the four spot. As a junior, Hull averaged 15.2 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. He made a league-leading 78 three-point baskets, the second highest total in school history. Hull, an ironman, has started all 87 games that UCSB has played since he arrived in 1999. He also enters the campaign with 1,150 career points, ranking him 12th on the all-time list. Junior guards Nick Jones (9.9 ppg and 3.8 rpg) and Jacoby Atako (5.4 ppg and 4.1 apg) will also be in the starting lineup tonight. Jones, the Big West Tournament MVP last year, has opened each of his campaigns as a reserve, but not so this year. Atako's emergence in the second half last year was a major factor in the Gaucho surge. He finished with a team-best ratio of 126 assists and just 61 turnovers.
The Redshirts Are Coming!
With apologies to Paul Revere, the Gaucho redshirts are coming. One of the redshirts, sophomore forward Casey Cook, actually played as a freshman but sat-out last season after partially tearing the ligaments in his left thumb. Cook will see action at both the four spot and the five spot. He was slated to play exclusively at the four, until the Skultety injury so he will be forced to play at both spots. As a freshman in 1999-2000, he have averaged 4.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. Guard Cecil Brown and forward Scott Rainey are both incoming freshman redshirts. Brown will be in the starting lineup for the exhibition game and should be a major contributor. As a senior at Canoga Park High School, he averaged 34.5 points per game. Rainey, expected to shoulder a limited role prior to Skultety's injury, will probably be forced to become a regular.
Whitehead Steps Into A Major Role
Junior forward Bryan Whitehead played in 29 games last year, starting 11. The 6-foot-8 native of Mount Vernon, Washington had varying levels of success as a sophomore, but he will inherit a starting spot this season. To this point, which includes exactly zero games, but plenty of practice, Whitehead has been very good. In fact, it is safe to say he has been the surprisve of the early-going.
Head North Young Men, Way, Way, Way North
Following the exhibition game, the Gauchos will be off until they travel to Fairbanks, Alaska for The BP Top of the World Classic. UCSB opens the tournament on Friday, November 22 when they take on Weber State. The Gauchos and Wildcats are in the same bracket as Ball State and Jacksonville State, so the winners and losers will meet in the second round. The other bracket includes Nebraska, Wisconsin-Green Bay, Centenary and the host, Alaska-Fairbanks.