Oct. 16, 2008
Northridge, Calif. - Cal State Northridge men's basketball head coach Bobby Braswell knows that pre-season expectations mean very little. Despite all the positive attention that the 2008-09 Matadors basketball team is receiving, the veteran coach knows that no games are won on paper.
"We're very excited about the opportunity that the season may provide for us," said Braswell, "With the veteran players and the newcomers arriving, we think we have the opportunity to be successful. But we need to remind ourselves that hard work, attention to detail in practice, and continuing to getting stronger in the weight room will be needed to be successful."
Practice officially opens on Friday (Oct. 17).
In years past, Cal State Northridge has played the role of underdogs. This year the role has changed dramatically. Expectations are very high this year with the return of several all-league caliber veteran players, a talented cast of reserves, another group of talented newcomers, and several redshirts who eagerly learned the Northridge system last year. In 2007-08, Cal State Northridge fooled the experts by earning a share of the Big West regular season title (12-4) and a 20-10 overall record. The team had been predicted to finish sixth in league play. The lack of respect in the pre-season magazines fueled a season-long focus to compete for the league title.
Braswell has always preached that tough defense and having the ability to rebound the basketball wins games. The Matadors had both ingredients last year in chalking up 20 wins, and those ingredients are again a major strength on this year's varsity. Last season, the Matadors held the opposition to only a .419 shooting percentage (#1 in the Big West), a league leading .307 defensive three-point shooting percentage, forced the opposition in 557 turnovers in 30 games, collected a league leading 274 steals and led the Big West Conference in rebounding (37.1 rpg) and blocked shots (97, 3.23 bpg). Tremaine Townsend (6-9, 215, Senior, Forward, Phoenix, Az) led the Big West in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and blocked shots (1.28 bpg, school record) while Josh Jenkins (5-10, 180, Senior, Guard, Albuquerque, NM) finished third in the Big West in steals (49, 1.63 spg).
"Defense is something we talk about and work on from day one of practice," said Braswell. "You're not going to win a lot of games if you're not defending or rebounding the basketball. We have a saying that has been used before `no rebounds, no rings.' We have been able to mix our defenses up, pressure people and keep people off balance. We don't want to allow our opponents any sense of comfort or ease on what they are trying to do.
"We have done a good job of recruiting players who have a certain attitude about rebounding and have toughness to them. I think it takes tough players but also players who are willing to do the little things ... put a body on someone or box out ... players who are willing to get after a loose ball."
Last year, the Matadors were strong on the offensive end of the court. Cal State Northridge was second in the Big West in scoring (78.0 ppg) and third in field goal percentage (.463). The Matadors return four of its top six scorers from a year ago including league scorer Deon Tresvant (13.9 ppg), Josh Jenkins (10.5 ppg) and Tremaine Townsend (10.1 ppg). Rob Haynes (6.8 ppg) is a three-year veteran who provides offensive fire power from behind the arc. Jenkins got the Northridge offense in high gear with his ability to pass the ball. Jenkins led the Big West Conference in assists (194 assists, 6.4 apg).
"There are certain principles that we do every year that won't change," said Braswell. "A lot of our offense starts with our defense. We get a lot of our offense from turnovers that allows us to convert them into baskets. We really like to push the ball. We want to get easy baskets. We have several players this year who can score."
The Matadors will embark on another challenging schedule in 2008-09. Road games at Stanford (Nov. 18, 7:00 p.m.), at New Mexico (Nov. 24, 7:00 p.m.), at UCLA (Dec. 7, 7:30 p.m.) and at San Diego State (Dec. 22, 7:00 p.m.) highlight several highly competitive teams on the schedule. The Matadors will have 12 home games during the regular season.
Josh Jenkins (5-10, 185, Senior, Albuquerque, NM), Deon Tresvant (6-0, 170, Senior, Long Beach, Ca) and Rob Haynes (6-4, 185, Senior, Cerritos, Ca) form the backbone of one of the top backcourts in the Western United States. It is the responsibility of the point-guard to make calls both offensively and defensively, and Jenkins did an outstanding job handling those responsibilities in his first season with Cal State Northridge last year. Jenkins, an honorable mention All-Big West selection, led the conference in assists (191, 6.4 apg, #3 for a single season at CSUN), ranked third in the conference in steals (1.6 spg) and averaged 10.5 ppg. His ability to read the floor and make smart plays earned him the respect of teammates and opponents alike. Jenkins became the first Matador since Markus Carr (2001-02, 5.3 apg) to win the conference assist title. In five games, Jenkins churned out ten or more assists including a season-best 12 assists against Cal State Bakersfield, only three short of the school record.
Tresvant was simply sensational as a scorer from behind the arc or moving to the basket. What is amazing is that Tresvant led the team in scoring (13.9 ppg) as a reserve player while averaging 16.1 ppg during league play. Tresvant didn't start one game, but still averaged more than 26 minutes played per game. Tresvant, a second team All-Big West selection, was voted team MVP. Tresvant hit a team-leading 83 three-pointers, second-best in the Big West and second all-time for a single season at CSUN. Tresvant shot .413 (83-for-201) from three-point territory, seventh-best in the conference.
Haynes is 100 percent healthy after suffering from a knee injury that required surgery during the summer. Haynes, a three-year starter, is looking forward to a breakout season. Like Tresvant, Haynes can hit from deep range. Last year, Haynes hit at least one three-pointer in 23 of 30 games. His 40 three-pointers was second-best on the Matadors.
Rodrigue Mels (6-3, 180, Senior, Les Abymes, Guadeloupe) and Therin Taylor (6-6, 185, Junior, Richmond, Ca) are two more talented players who will provide exceptional depth; Mels from three-point range while Taylor can play both the off-guard and small forward positions. Injuries slowed Mels' progress last year, but when healthy, Mels is an offensive force. In five games, Mels scored in double figures including a season-high 18 points against Duquesne. Taylor has the defensive ability to guard the other team's best offensive player. Taylor can also score going to the basket when called up.
Mark Hill (5-10, 175 Junior, Los Angeles, Ca), Kenny Daniels (6-4, 210, Junior, St. Louis, Mo), Matthew Wallace (6-2, 160, RS Freshman, Inglewood, Ca), Dallas Rutherford (6-2, 175, Freshman, Northridge, Ca) and Vinnie McGhee (6-0, 165, Sophomore, Oakland, Ca) are several names who could see quality time in 2008-09. Hill, a transfer from Tulsa University (92 assists in 2006-07), will be eligible in mid-December and his contributions will play huge dividends. Hill handles the ball with exceptional talent, is a great passer and defends the entire court. Daniels can score slashing to the basket or shoot on the perimeter. Daniels also is aggressive on the defensive end of the floor, and can also rebound when needed. Daniels, last year at Sheridan College in Wyoming, shot 57 percent from the floor and 81 percent from the free throw line in averaging nearly 14 points per game. Wallace, a redshirt in 2007-08, has shown the ability to shoot the basketball. Rutherford, a true freshman, can play both the point and off-guard positions. As Rutherford gets stronger and older, his best years are ahead of him. McGhee will redshirt this season after transferring from Sacramento State (12.1 ppg, 5.1 apg) where he was named Big Sky Conference Freshman of the Year and a mid-major All-American.
This is an area that is loaded with talent, experience, size and depth. Tremaine Townsend (6-9, 215, Senior, Phoenix, Az) leads a powerful force of big men for Cal State Northridge in 2008-09. Townsend, a second team All-Big West selection, became the first CSUN player in school history to lead the league in rebounding (9.8 rpg) and blocked shots (1.3 bpg, school record 37 blocks). Townsend was second in the Big West in field goal percentage (.525). Townsend, who also averaged 10.1 ppg, earned ten double-doubles, grabbed ten or more rebounds in 14 games, and in his last ten games averaged 12.5 rpg. last year. In his first collegiate start at UC Davis, Townsend earned career-highs in rebounds (22) and points (21). The 22 rebounds were two short of the school record and six short of the league record. What is impressive is that Townsend worked hard to improve his game during the summer of 2008. The coaches believe Townsend could average a double-double (points-rebounds) in 2008-09. Townsend simply rebounds, block shots, and scores on the perimeter and on the inside.
Townsend will be joined on the inside by several names including redshirt juniors Willie Galick (6-8, 225, RS Junior, Nanaimo, BC) and Jermaine Smith (6-9, 220, RS Junior, Irvington, NJ), veterans Tony Osunsanmi (6-4, 190, Junior, Ontario, Ca), Evan Scott (6-6, 210, RS Sophomore, Long Beach, Ca) and Michael Lizarraga (6-7, 240, Sophomore, Dixon, Ca), and newcomers Vincent Cordell (6-6, 210, Junior, Huntsville, Al), and the first 7-footer in school history, Xavier Crawford (7-0, 225, Junior, Richfield, Mn). Galick, a transfer from Pepperdine University, is a big, strong physical player who is athletic enough to step out on the perimeter and shoot the jump shot. Smith, who was bothered by a knee injury last year, is a defensive presence around the basket, can block shots, rebounds, possesses a nice shooting touch around the basket, and simply plays both ends of the court. Osunsanmi, although only 6-foot-4, simply goes after the basketball in the rebounding department. His energy at going after the ball is contagious at both ends of the court. Scott is a talented redshirt sophomore. Lizarraga has lost weight but is in better physical shape after a rigorous summer workout schedule. Lizarraga is tough, big and strong around the basket. Cordell is a multi-dimensional player who will play at small forward and also some power forward. Cordell, who averaged 12.9 points and 9.4 rebounds per game last season at Northwest Shoals College in Alabama, can shoot the three-pointer, rebound the ball and lock up a player defensively. The Matador coaches are looking forward to Crawford being a key asset on the defensive end of the court. Crawford's size gives him shot blocking abilities and rebounding strength.
Let the games begin.