Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday's scrimmage from Steve Graham's viewpoint

Hey, here's a nice treat (we play no tricks on All Hallows Eve) for you Rebounders -- Steve Graham, Justin's father and a former basketball player and coach, checks in with his take on last Saturday's scrimmage:

It's always hard to make predictions based off of scrimmages. Playing against guys who know each other isn't the same as facing an opponent for the first time. However, I must say I was really impressed with where this team is compared to last year. The term "picking up where you left off" is not an accurate description of last week's scrimmage. Why? Because this year's team looks much better than they did at this time last season and here's why:

1. The ability to hit from the outside. Last year, the team didn't have a jump shooter from three point range. While Tim Pierce can shoot it, he's much better as a set shooter. This year, Robert Owens and Adrian Oliver have filled the void and can drain the long ball, even with a defender on them.

2. Improved post play. CJ and Chris look like they have put in time over the summer. CJ looks quicker and Chris looks bigger. They seem to know where each other is on the court and the spacing is much better on offense. This allows them to take advantage of one-on-one situations, as well as find the open man when double-teamed.

3. Penetration and kick. Justin and Adrian have the ability to penetrate and take it all the way, but if help side comes they can kick it to the open man for the easy basket or three. Teams will have to respect the outside shot now, so that really opens up the floor.

4. Improved Depth. DaShawn, DeVonte, and Mac showed they can play at a higher level. This will allow for the depth needed to play WAC level ball.

5. Unity. This team looks like they are on the same page. While Lance, Clint, Garrett, and Jerelle aren't identified as superstars right now (you never know who will keep improving) they played hard and played within themselves. I enjoy watching their development, as well as their team spirit.

Unfortunately, Oliver wasn't available to play and I sure hope he's ok, because I think he has a ton of potential. Not to mention I really like Ollie.

I'll be interested in hearing back from Justin on how this Saturday's scrimmage goes. And then it's the first exhibition game on Thursday night...I can't wait!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The San Jose State 'smalls'

Do not fret as San Jose State's 'bigs' will also be receiving a justified dose of 'love' in the very near future here but today we are focusing on the 'smalls' who are positioned as guards and wings.

Let's begin by flat out offering that this is the BEST EVER group for talent and potential. We tend to limit our use of such four letter words and are hesitant to invoke these statements of grandeur but this is what we believe to be accurate and appropriate. (To those who disagree -- respond accordingly but please be at a minimum tenuously tethered to reality when doing so)

Plus, we are looking at two sophomore starters and a junior as the top three here so the even marked betterment is a possibility!

Our early 2008 take is that Justin Graham and Adrian Oliver (once he has sat out the initial six games of the season due to his transfer) are penciled -- no make that penned -- amend that to read blood - oathed in as starters. Take that to the bank...well, in the light of today's economic times, store that in your personal safe.

Never have two backcourters such as this duo been paired together simultaneously in a San Jose State men's basketball uniform. Each has the capacity to create both for themselves and for their teammates, each is a scrapper, each is a winner.

Our sense (no, we do not get a vote on this since our ballot initiative failed to get enough signatures) is that City College of San Francisco transfer Robert Owens is the likeliest of the other 'smalls' to be next in playing time.

Granted, the accomplishments in a scrimmage do not necessarily translate into the productivity over a season but Owens has always been a tremendous outside shooter with a quick release and he remained as such on Saturday. On top of that, he's very athletic -- not being a slow-footed catch-and-shoot guy who depends on others to create scoring opportunities for himself. What we would also like to see is dribble-drive/ballhandling ability from him but our exposure to his game has been very limited and such might already be present -- at least to some degree.

But let us also not forget Tim Pierce, DaShawn Wright, Mac Peterson and Lance Olivier.

Pierce returns as the team's top three point shot maker and we also liked a couple of his drives to the basket at last Saturday's scrimmage. If this is indeed a wrinkle added to his offensive game then he'll enjoy even more 'open' long-range shot opportunities with opponents now having to account for forays to the basket.

DaShawn Wright will again lead the squad in steals-per-minute and be one of those stealth scorers who compiles his points on putbacks and short to mid-range shots.

Mac Peterson looked much more comfortable on Saturday as compared to last season and will gets his points on kickout passes from the team's 'bigs' for open looks as well as from his fellow 'smalls' penetrating into the paint, drawing defenders and sending him a pass.

Lance Olivier also seemed greater-versed with his role -- it will be interesting to see if his court appearances grows larger as the season progresses.

This bunch may be 'smalls' in relative terms but will be playing a large role in how the San Jose State 2008-2009 season plays out. As we offered in the second paragraph, this year is going to be a fun one with the promise of even greater enjoyment just down the line.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

We couldn't pass up posting this -- an Adrian Oliver article

At the Parsing the WAC web site, a series has started about underrated players in the Western Athletic Conference. A Louisiana Tech player was the initial subject with Adrian Oliver the second feature. Here you go Spartan fans:

There are a few players in the WAC who aren't getting any love from the media. We're not sure why but it probably has to do with the fact that nobody has seen them play. It's much easier and convenient and certainly understandable to pick returnees to the various pre-season All-WAC teams because they are the familiar.

So the second 'overlooked' player we are featuring is 6-4 Adrian Oliver of San Jose State.

You won't find his name among any of the first or second All-WAC selections from either the media or the league coaches. Yet he went to a top (at least then) PAC-10 program coming out of high school after turning down an offer from Kentucky and declining Kansas and other PAC-10 schools.

So why the omission?

Oliver was the 64th best recruit in the country as a Modesto Christian senior per Bob Gibbons in 2006.

He was the 13th best prospect in Long Beach Press Telegram's "Best In The West" selections as a senior.

Rivals placed him 11th in California during his senior season.

As with Magnum Rolle, nobody in the bevy of WAC beat reporters has seen Oliver play -- that accounts for the media exclusion.

But it seemingly should be a different case for at least a few of the coaches throughout the league. Granted, Oliver was being recruited as a high major as a senior and none of the WAC coaches bothered to pitch any overtures and rightfully so but his talent was still known and there had to be club team games and tournaments where Oliver was seen.

Again, why the omission?

This was Lorenzo Romar on Oliver soon after landing him: “He is an extremely complete guard who can shoot the three and play any position on the perimeter. He brings a high level of toughness and a winning attitude to our program.”

Granted, coaches offer these types of platitudes to every recruit but this actually was the consensus about Oliver as a high school senior.

As a freshman, Oliver played all 32 games for the Huskies, starting 13 while averaging 21 minutes. He scored 4.7 points and grabbed 3.1 rebounds a contest while finishing third on the team in steals. He also posted a 71-47 assist-to-turnover ratio.

But knee, nose and back injuries decimated Oliver's sophomore season early on and that, plus family needs and the sense that Romar wanted him to play more at the point than any other position, lured him back to California.

While Oliver can certainly handle the ball and can create for himself and others, he's more of a scorer and -- very importantly -- one who wants to be scrapping inside for offensive rebounds as often as possible. He jumps very well and physical play is no deterrent to him.

Such isn't the mindset of most points so positioning him as such isn't the most proficient use of his talents. Do note his 3.1 rebounding average as a frosh.

Located in the area, we just had the opportunity to see Oliver play in a San Jose State scrimmage -- our first chance to view him on the court since his senior year in high school.

Our observation: He remains a tough, ultra-competitive and strong-willed player.

Call it a high basketball IQ or the ability to discern a play unfold before it takes place -- whatever description fits best -- Oliver possesses it. He best displayed this when situated on the right side of the floor about 15 feet out defending his matchup. Just as an another opposing guard began a dribble-drive from on top, went into the key and neared the basket for a layup attempt, Oliver sprinted towards the basket and, as if out of nowhere, jumped and blocked the shot. The fans certainly didn't see it coming and neither did the player who thought he was in the mist of racking up a basket.

Oliver also managed a number of tips on offensive rebounds, with a couple being attempted slams off the missed shots of others. He's a quick leaper, needing little time to get in the air.

It was clear to us that as a coach you want him in the mix and not outside as a typical point attempting to prevent or slow down fastbreaks and the like. It's not that Oliver couldn't play such a role, more simply a misuse of one of his major abilities.

Granted, his outside shot wasn't particularly on during this particular scrimmage but worry hasn't set in.

Oliver will be teamed up with fellow sophomore Justin Graham in the Spartan backcourt this season, after sitting out the initial six games due to his transfer. This gives San Jose State two talented playmakers, a description in this use meaning players who can creates for themselves and their teammates.

Expect the San Jose State players to post both higher shooting percentages because of the Oliver/Graham duo's ability to create and resulting greater assist totals.
Graham played the point last year and will again be charged with bring the ball up the floor, thus allowing Oliver to play the game he's been polishing all his life.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Some good news and some bad news

We were getting ready to send out the following:

"Shari Hernandez, Justin Graham's mother, is doing her best to make sure plenty of Ripon area fans are in the stands at Fresno State on Saturday January 10. Shari is organizing a bus trip to Fresno because daughter Jessica Graham will be playing for Idaho against the Bulldogs at 2 p.m. Her son Justin, along with Adrian Oliver, who is also from that area, and the rest of the Spartan men's basketball team will be facing Fresno State that same night at 7 p.m."

So it looks like there will be plenty of blue to counteract the red.

Then we received this from Shari:

"I have some bad news to report. Jessica Graham tore her ACL in practice on Monday and will be out for the season. She will have surgery next week and will begin a 5 month re-hab!!"

We're sending out our best wishes to Jessica -- do hang in there and come back even stronger than before.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Basketballin' with the Spartans

It was good to see a bevy of new faces this afternoon along with those familiar as the 2008-2009 San Jose State men's basketball team was unveiled in an intra-squad scrimmage followed by a Rebounder get-together.

But (and we have to put it this way) it was even better to see the Spartans in action -- a much needed hoops fix leading to the exhibition game scheduled a couple of weeks from now.

Now for those of you who have to know, Chris Oakes made the very first basket of the scrimmage. It was a dunk following a nifty pass from C.J. Webster who got the ball via a pass from Adrian Oliver.

What else did we see?

Well, if there is a better outside shooter than Robert Owens and the display he put on today then just try and make your case. His quick release and perfect form is going to force defenders to make dreaded choices this coming season. Do they stay around the paint and help man up against the SJSU 'bigs' or fly out to the corners or elsewhere beyond the three point stripe and contest shots? That's call pick your poison.

Adrian Oliver's quick jumping also impressed us. He managed a number of tips on missed shots, garnered at least a couple of nice dunks and generally displayed an off-the-charts basketball IQ.

Justin Graham picked right up where he left off with his canny court play and impossible-to-stop, dribble -penetrations. He and Oliver are going to create a ton of openings both for themselves and their teammates this season.

Kyle Thomas, the lefty redshirt transfer from Loyola, displayed a nice touch. It will be nice to get him active in 2009-2010.

It was also fun to see Clint Amberry out on the court, shaking off the rust and getting experience playing in the paint on the D-1 level.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Don't mess with Team Webster

Beware! Yes, if Team Webster approaches you at the local basketball gym for a 'friendly' game of three-on-three, well, don't say we didn't warn you. You might think C.J. is the ringer of the trio but we're not so sure anymore. We recently engaged Sharon Webster, C.J.'s mother for a question-and-answer session and we
promised not to ask about her three-point range or rebounding ability. Little did we know that mom is the enforcer, having the backs of her husband and C.J. whenever they take to the court

Here's the evidence:

Haven't you heard from whom C.J. get's his talent? Honey, let me tell you momma got moves. Ain't no shame in my game! My rebounding is ridiculously radical. Three-point range...not so much. However, I am still known for getting into foul trouble in the paint. Got a tech and was thrown off the court in league play this past summer for an "accidental" elbow to the mouth of an opponent. But it was worth it, we won! Church Ladies 48 vs Singing Baptist Men 40. That one particular player couldn't sing for awhile, but he recovered okay.

Yikes. We will make sure to call her Mrs. Webster every time from now, probably with a visible genuflection thrown in for this Queen of the Court.

Here's our Q and A:

Q - When C.J. was a high school junior and senior, what was the recruiting process like for you as a parent? Were there calls day and night interrupting meals? Did the mail deliverer give you dirty looks due to all the recruiting materials sent to C.J.?

SW - Yes, there were hundreds of calls from schools all over the country. When we would initially speak to a coach, we would tell them the best time to call. When they would get overly eager and call during dinner, my husband would answer the phone and not so politely tell him that we're in the middle of dinner and to call back later. Except my husband sounded more like Mr. T... "We eatin fool, call back tomorrow and not at dinner time!" I would look across the table at C.J. and cringe, feeling very uncomfortable for the poor fellow on the phone. C.J. would look back at me and just shrug his shoulders and say "I told him what time to call me, I don't feel sorry for him." Then C.J. would just continue stuffing his face full of food.

And yes there was tons of mail. Too many trees had to suffer so that C.J.could receive the "just keeping in touch" bi-weekly mail.

Q - If there was one, what's the most amusing thing you recall from any of the home visits by college coaches?

SW - I won't mention names, but I still snicker when I think about this particular recruiting visit. We had scheduled a visit via an asst coach to meet with him and the head coach of a well-known out of state private school. So the assistant shows up without the head coach! Well, we had attended a really great parent recruiting education seminar hosted by RCS Sports (Jim Hicks), and learned that if a school is really serious and truly wants your child, then the head coach will always be apart of the process. So we sat down and asked the whereabouts of the head coach. The asst coach gave some lame answer and/or excuse that I can't even remember. Anyway, it wasn't going to fly with me. So I cut everything short and stood up so that he knew it was time for him to leave. In the meantime, you could smell all these delicious aromas coming from my kitchen. The dining room table was set beautifully for our expected visitors. I was getting a bit ticked off about the whole thing by now. Anyway, the guy was taking his time about leaving, so I went into the kitchen and started fixing to-go plates for C.J.'s high school coach to take home with him. Mind you I had not offered Mr. Assistant Coach a crumb. The guy was unbelievable, he comes over and looks at Coach Nic's plate and says, "that sure looks good, is that peach cobbler?" I give him the evil eye and answered very matter of factly, "yes it is." Trying to be sarcastic, he's says "no thank you, I already ate before I got here". Then he BURPED really loud in the middle of his sentence! I opened the door to show him out, and fanned the burp out behind him.

Q - How was C.J.'s initial destination (Texas State) determined as the one for him? Was it totally up to C.J.? Was there family input?

SW - There was lots of input from C.J.'s entire family. All of my brothers were student-athletes and now most of them are coaches, so it was hard for them to keep their mouths shut. My husband and I had C.J. compile lists and work his way through it with pros & cons. When it got down to the final three, then C.J. had to make the decision.

Q - After C.J. was injured and then went through various coaching changes, what was going through your mind during this time?

SW - I always knew that things would work out for C.J. Among his God-given talents, basketball is one which he truly loves and cherishes. This was just a detour on his road to success. I always told him there is a lesson, something God wants you to learn from all this. C.J. is stronger, wiser and better since going through this experience. Although I was trying to stay positive and give C.J. good motherly advise, there were times when I wanted to get on a plane and pay a visit to one particular coach and just beat him like he had stolen something! Wham! Pow! But I'm over it now. You know, stuff happens...get up, move on, get over it.

Q - Were there any 'restrictions' placed on C.J.'s choices when deciding on a new D-1 school (We can't fully remember but sort of recall C.J. saying Hawaii was ruled out due to its location)?

SW - I met Coach Nash and was very impressed with him as a person as well as with his b-ball program. The location was indeed a factor. C.J.'s dad told him that he had to choose a school that he (Dad) could drive to in one day or get there by plane within four hours. Overall, it had to be a good school academically and the head coach had to be a man of character who would hold his players accountable.

Q - How did the decision for C.J. to attend San Jose State come about?

SW - When things didn't seem to be panning out for C.J. to attend Virginia Tech or Gonzaga, we moved on. We were not going to sit on our hands and wait for Bill or Seth to make up their minds. C.J. was concentrating on schools in PAC 10 & WAC, I was more interested in getting him a little closer so I contacted LSU and University of New Orleans. I thought C.J. could be the next "Big Baby", but LSU never responded, imagine that. UNO responded immediately and was very interested, but they did not make our short list. However, once C.J. started on his California schools list, it was all over. CalPoly, Long Beach and Fullerton were battling it out for C.J. We really took a liking to Asst Coach Marlon Morton @ Cal Fullerton. However, their new incoming head coach didn't seem to be interested and passed on C.J. Coach Morton gave C.J.'s info to his good friend Don Williams @ San Jose. When C.J. flew out for the official visit, the choice was made. C.J. canceled his visits to Hawaii and a couple other schools. He was sure this was the place for him. He was really impressed with Coach Nessman and could see Coach Nessman's vision for the future of the SJSU MBB and wanted to be right smack dab in the middle of it.

Q - What advice would you give to parents who have sons or daughters just entering the recruiting process?

SW - Read the coaches bio's. Get a feel for who they are and what experience they may/may not have.
Get educated about the recruiting process.
Be knowledgeable. Don't believe everything coaches tell you, find out for yourself.
Research the school's academic standing. Find out graduation rate for athletes & non-athletes.
Question the head coach about his contract. Renewing? Contract terms? If the coach is out next year, 9 times out of 10 your kid is out also!
How does the coach see your child fitting into their program? In what capacity or role?
What type of support system do they have in place for student-athletes?
After you as a parent have investigated, researched and asked loads of questions, what is your gut feeling about the head coach? Is he/she a strong leader? Is this a person of good character and moral standards?
Don't be afraid to get in somebody's face about your kid, even if your child is 6'10 & 265 lbs.

Thank you of The Court for your time and participation -- it's been quite informative. Please do let us know when you will be at Walt McPherson Court for one of the SJSU games and the refreshments will be on us. In fact, bring all of the Church Ladies as we would love to witness them against all foolish takers.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Meet Troy Johnson

With a new basketball season fresh upon us, we thought it appropriate to introduce you to a new member of Coach George Nessman's coaching staff.

Troy Johnson has come aboard as the video coordinator/film exchange coach. Troy's duties will be all matters dealing with video such as exchanges with other teams and breaking down practice, scrimmage and game film to isolate specific plays and players. "If Coach Nessman wants footage of the 'bigs' on the team performing good postups or positioning that needs improvement, then I do that," Johnson said.

Film study is something the coaching staff spends major time on as well as using video in conjunction with player and overall team instruction.

Johnson is also currently pursuing his master's degree in Physical Education - Exercise and Sports Science.

He was the head coach at Merritt College in Oakland the last two seasons and coached at Western New Mexico University, Ohlone College and San Francisco City College prior to that. He's also friends with many of the coaches affiliated with two of the top club basketball teams in the Bay Area, the Oakland Soldiers and the Oakland Rebels. Johnson also coached the New York City Midnight Express club squad.

Growing up in New York City, he played hoops including as a member of New York City's Metro Hawks (formerly Riverside Church) and did a post grad year at a North Carolina-based prep school before moving across the country to attend Merritt College.

Asked about his future, Johnson said, "Hopefully continue to learn and blossom under Coach Nessman's direction to become one of the best D- 1 assistants and eventually a head coach at this level before my career is over."

We welcome Troy Johnson to the Spartan Family.

Monday, October 20, 2008

After watching San Jose State beat Boise State, come to...

Here's another reminder:

SATURDAY, OCT. 25 1 p.m. -- Spartan men's basketball team scrimmage

It will be held at Walt McPherson Court

A lunch costing $5.00 will be available as will the opportunity to renew your membership or join The Rebounders. Lunch is free to all paid up Rebounders.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Upcoming plans for The Event Center

It's not yet widely known but a significant item we came across recently was the upcoming expansions of both the San Jose State Student Union and -- more importantly to us since it houses Walt McPherson Court -- The Event Center on the San Jose State University campus.

Few actual specifics are known but we heard the cost was to be around $140 million for everything and that's obviously a significant project.

We don't believe this will increase the seating capacity for basketball but some of the changes for The Event Center do involve creating a better overall experience for attendees. Architecturally, The Event Center plans call for an outdoor amphitheater to be built with seating for around 2,000 and recreationally an indoor jogging track will be constructed.

We will keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three of the 'Golden Boys' of SJSU basketball reminisce

Golden Spartans, A Trio of Former SJSU Student-Athletes

By Gayle Kludt, SJSU class of ’70 and ‘81

(George Clark photo near right, Larry Arnerich far right)

Ask any former student-athlete about their playing days and a smile will come to their face. That smile will widen as they talk about the special players, special friends and special games they experienced during their years in a team uniform. Just recently, I was lucky enough to speak to three former SJSU basketball players, Larry Arnerich, Ray Silva and George Clark.

It was a special privilege to speak to Larry Arnerich, class of 1937, and SJSU’s oldest living roundballer. Arnerich, who will turn 94 in October, played for four years at SJSU and then went on to a 40-year teaching and coaching career. Larry played when the “old” gym was brand new, when there were no athletic scholarships, when SJSU still had frosh teams.

When asked to recall special memories of those days, he cited playing both Stanford and UCLA, scoring 10 points on that UCLA team.
He played for former SJSU coaching legends Bill Hubbard and Hovie McDonald.

When his playing days were over, he went on to coach the SJSU frosh team where one of his players was SJSU sensation Hal Carruth. The then SJSU A.D. wanted to cut Carruth but Arnerich resisted; Carruth went on to become one of SJSU’s best players.

Arnerich did his student teaching at Gilroy High School. It was at Gilroy that he became familiar with the lightweights, also called the 110s, 120s, and 130s. These numbers refer to a combination of age, height and weight that placed players in a playing group. Often times, these players were not old enough, or tall enough or big enough to play on the varsity team but played on these teams as they acquired age, height and weight along with basketball skills.

Arnerich imported this grouping technique when he started his own teaching and coaching career. He certified former SJSU star Carroll Williams, who coached at Santa Clara and later became school A.D., to play at Lincoln High School using this system.

Another of his former players was Norm Mineta who went on to become the mayor of San Jose, a U.S. Congressman and a member of the cabinets of both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush.

He started his teaching career at San Jose Tech in 1937 for the princely annual salary of $1800.00 and stayed there until 1943. Stints at San Jose High, the newly built Willow Glen High and San Jose City College followed. At City, his team won the league championship and Arnerich went on to a career in administration as the Dean of Men, Athletic Director and Director of Community Services.

Both Ray Silva and George Clark will testify to Arnerich's influence on them and thousands of other players and students. Arnerich was married to his wife, Leeoda, for 64 years and has three children and five grandchildren. Just recently, he excitedly told me, he welcomed a second great grandchild into his life.

Ray Silva, SJSU class of 1952, arrived on the San Jose campus in the spring of 1948. Silva played for Arnerich as a tenth grader at San Jose High in 1945. Silva, a member of the 110s, was then a whopping 103 pounds and stood 5’1”. His junior year he had progressed to the 120s and finally made the 130s in his senior year.

At SJSU, he played for Walt McPherson’s frosh team and made the varsity in 1949-51. In those years, San Jose had a wonderful city league program.

After finishing up at SJSU, Silva played in the San Jose Open League before being sent by the Navy to Pensacola, Florida. Commissioned as an Ensign, he became a physical training instructor, working with the cadets in the pre-flight program.

While at Pensacola, he was player-coach of the pre-flight team, and was selected to represent the Naval Basic Training Command on its All Star basketball and volleyball teams.

Silva credits Arnerich for much of his success. As a 14 ½ year old, he assembled with the other 110s to face an unsmiling Arnerich in the San Jose High gym. Arnerich informed the squad there was a no smoking rule, and anyone who smoked would automatically be kicked off the team. Silva, who ate, slept and dreamt basketball, quit smoking that very day and has never had another cigarette. Years later as an insurance agent, he values the importance of that decision.

Silva says he became a coach because of both Arnerich and his college coach, Walt McPherson. Informing his mentor of this career choice, Arnerich replied, “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” but Silva persisted.

He did his college senior teaching observation for six weeks with Arnerich, following that up with his practice teaching with Arnerich at Willow Glen High. When Arnerich left Willow Glen to become the coach at San Jose City, he recommended Silva for a coaching position at Berkeley High. Silva had the privilege to send some of his Berkeley players on to City College to play for Arnerich.
Silva and Arnerich have maintained a 64-year relationship with Silva claiming Arnerich to be his lifelong role model. Silva also cherishes his strong friendships with other team members, stating that it is something they will always share. This is a special fraternity, of former players, with a bond like no other.

Like Silva, George Clark, SJSU ’53, played for Arnerich at San Jose High. But unlike Silva, the tall and lanky Clark played on the varsity at SJH from 1945-1948. Clark, recruited by USC, briefly stayed on the Trojan campus but the pull from home was just too much.

By the fall of ’48, he was back in the Bay Area and on the San Jose hard courts. A member of the SJSU frosh team, Clark joined the varsity in January of 1950, playing for then coach Walt McPherson.

A favorite memory involves SJSU playing the then ranked #6 Bowling Green in a game at the Cow Palace. Clark was matched up against All-American Chuck Share, a 6’10" center. Clark held Share to 10 points while scoring 13, leading the Spartans to victory over Bowling Green.

After his playing days, Clark went on to teach history and coach basketball at San Jose High from '55-'59 followed by a vice-principalship at a Cupertino junior high. From then it was an administrative career of over 30 years that included a 12-year stint with the American International Schools. Clark, along with wife Bonnie, worked in Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Columbia before settling over the hill in Santa Cruz for their golden years.

Clark recalls that Arnerich was not only a great coach but a wonderful gentleman, respected by his players and colleagues alike.
Both Silva and Clark are still involved with SJSU, belonging to the Rebounders and attending SJSU games. For Clark, it is a chance to be young again, and “Rah-Rah” for his favorite school. Both hold SJSU near and dear.

For us, the fans, the years at the court go on and on, with new players coming and going, while we stand, watch, and cheer. For the players, the years are few, and go by oh-so-quickly. But the memories, of great games, great friends and great times, last a lifetime. Hopefully our current players realize how truly special these playing days are, and that all too soon, they will join our roster of former SJSU stars. And one day, not very far off, someone will ask them about their playing days, and a special smile will come across their faces, and all the memories will come flooding back, just like they have for Larry Arnerich, Ray Silva, and George Clark. That smile will widen as they reminisce about their playing days as they “Fought on for dear ol’ San Jose State.”

Many, many thanks to Gayle Kludt for her time and effort here as well as for the participation of Larry Arnerich, Ray Silva and George Clark. We salute each and every one of you.

The Lady Spartans receive a commit

According to multiple news reports, the San Jose State women's basketball team has gained a commitment from a San Diego high schooler.

"San Diego's Alisha Eckberg, a 5-foot-11 guard, verbally committed to San Jose State University over the weekend, according to her mom, Rosie Eckberg. The 2009 recruit plays for Canyon Crest Academy in San Diego and spent the summer with the EBO Black club team."

According to our research, Eckberg scored 17.7 ppg. last season as a junior, shooting 45% overall. She nabbed 7.3 rpg. (89 offensive and 109 defensive). Her grade point average as a junior was a marvelous 3.35.

Here's another snippet, albeit an older one, on her: "Sophomore Alisha Eckberg has been CCA's most dynamic contributor on offense with her ability to beat almost any Coastal League defender one-on-one..."

Eckberg will sign a letter-of-intent in November. College coaches cannot comment on a recruit until the letter-of-intent has been signed.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The media and the coaches predict the WAC

It's finally here -- the collective takes by the media and the league coaches on how the WAC will play out in the WAC in 2008-2009 and who will be the best and also the better players.

First the pixel-stained wretches of the media (hey, WAC administration: please add who these voters were):

Men’s media poll
(1st Place Votes), Points

1. Nevada (20), 255
2. Utah State (4), 220
3. New Mexico State (2), 201
4. Louisiana Tech, 149
5. Boise State (3), 142
6. San Jose State (1), 132
7. Fresno State, 114
8. Hawaii, 103
9. Idaho, 34

(We don't wish to be mean spirited but drug testing should be mandatory for the three reporters who gave Boise State first place votes. We also believe NMSU is too high and SJSU too low)

Preseason Player of the Year

Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

Newcomer of the Year

Luke Babbitt, Fr., F, Nevada

Preseason All-WAC Team

Jonathan Gibson, Jr., G, New Mexico State
Kyle Gibson, Jr., G, Louisiana Tech
Armon Johnson, So., G, Nevada
C.J. Webster, Jr., C, San Jose State
Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

(We like Armon Johnson's game but feel Brandon Fields brings a better all-around set of skills to the proverbial table. It's hard to quibble with Kyle Gibson's selection as he was our sixth man for our five-person All-WAC contingent. Webster and Wilkinson are the two best 'bigs' in the league)

Now for the thinking of the coaches.

Men’s coaches poll
(1st Place Votes), Points

1. Nevada (7), 63
2. Utah State (2), 57
3. New Mexico State, 48
4. San Jose State, 43
5. Boise State, 30
6. Louisiana Tech, 29
7. Hawaii, 25
8. Fresno State, 20
9. Idaho, 9

(It's interesting that the coaches have Boise ahead of LA TECH -- could we be missing that the loss of two point guards is an insurmountable hit for the Bulldogs?)

Player of the Year

Armon Johnson, Nevada

Preseason All-WAC Teams
First Team

Jonathan Gibson, Jr., G, New Mexico St.
Kyle Gibson, Jr., G, Louisiana Tech
Armon Johnson, So., G, Nevada
C.J. Webster, Jr., C, San Jose State
Gary Wilkinson, Sr., F, Utah State

(The coaches and the media are in agreement regarding the top five -- that in itself might be worthy of a congressional investigation. Where Bob Knight when we need him to be the contrarian? It certainly also appears that we are not giving Armon Johnson all the love many others feel he deserves)

Second Team

Luke Babbitt, Fr., F, Nevada
Brandon Fields, Jr., G, Nevada
Anthony Thomas, Jr., F, Boise State
Tai Wesley, So., F, Utah State
Jahmar Young, So., G, New Mexico St.

(Thomas and Wesley are inclusions we didn't have. LA TECH's Magnum Rolle and San Jose State's Adrian Oliver are not to be found on either team nor do Hawaii's Roderick Flemings and Fresno State's Sylvester Seay appear. Hmmm...)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Oh boy, do we stick our necks out

Let's begin with a fitting quote from someone named Albert Einstein: "When the number of factors coming into play in a phenomenological complex is too large scientific method in most cases fails. One need only think of the weather, in which case the prediction even for a few days ahead is impossible.”

If that wasn't enough, here's Hannah Arendt: "Predictions of the future are never anything but projections of present automatic processes and procedures, that is, of occurrences that are likely to come to pass if men do not act and if nothing unexpected happens; every action, for better or worse, and every accident necessarily destroys the whole pattern in whose frame the prediction moves and where it finds its evidence.”

But we like the following the best. “The groundhog is like most other prophets; it delivers its prediction and then disappears.” -- Bill Vaughn

Pigs can't fly but rodents can be wise.

With these words of caution in mind, we say it's going to be a wild men's basketball season in the WAC. Granted, such a statement would be considered par for the course if uttered by a WAC employee or anyone affiliated with a WAC team. But here's why such an offering doesn't fall into the 'yadda, yadda, yadda' category: because nobody knows who is going to win the conference championship in 2009.

Nobody in the media, none of the conference coaches. Certainly not the rose-colored glasses-wearing fans of the various teams. Now plenty have submitted their guesses -- including us below -- but at best all are educated judgment and opinion. At worst...well, it's fan being typical fans or sometimes personal grudges being played out. We've yet to encounter the divine prophet who nails such efforts each and every time but please do put us in touch with anyone you know fitting that description.

The collective talk of the conference is that five teams have legitimate chances to win the WAC:

(please note that these are listed in alphabetical order)

Louisiana Tech Nevada New Mexico State San Jose State Utah State

Yes, we fully expect incoming ordnance from the fan-doms of Boise State, Fresno State, Hawaii and Idaho but that goes with the territory of making predictions. The latter four teams just don't have the manpower this go-around -- that's not a coaching sin nor a hanging offense -- just our perception of reality. We'll gladly admit our error if we are proven wrong and expect reciprocation if our accuracy prevails.

What is especially going to be enchanting viewing in 2008-2009 is how the youthfulness and the newness of the members of the 'Big WAC Five' plays out. The Bulldogs, the Wolf Pack, the Aggies, the Spartans and the Aggies again will have a large number of freshmen and sophomores and certainly newcomers as part of their respective foundations. The question is begged just how will the 'kids' and 'newbies' develop, in what aspects and at what pace?

Obviously this is not a new theorem but our take is the two WAC teams that end up ranking as the top defensive squads in the fast-approaching season will eventually be battling among themselves for the top spot. Generally, the better individual defenders come from the ranks of the juniors and seniors and the best defending teams usually have a majority of upperclassmen in the playing rotation. But these junior/senior and upperclassmen characteristics simply won't be heavily present during WAC play, at least not in nearly the same proportion as last season. Thus, individual and team development should be closely watched throughout conference play.
Now let's wade into the defensive numbers pool even while issuing the cautionary Benjamin Disraeli phrase that there are lies, damn lies and statistics and also with the proviso that there are a number of other important factors that 'play' into a team's shooting percentage defense. Nevada's defenders led the WAC in shooting percentage defense last season, followed by Fresno State with New Mexico State, Boise State and Utah State tied with one another. San Jose State was next, with Hawaii and Idaho tied and Louisiana Tech bringing up the rear.

For reference purposes, JaVale McGee obviously anchored the Wolf Pack's defensive efforts, Marcelus Kemp was a sixth-year senior and Lyndale Burleson made the All-WAC Defensive Team as a redshirt junior. Fresno State had a goodly number of seniors, as did New Mexico State and especially Boise State. Utah State lost three seniors. San Jose State lost some seniors but returns its starting five intact.

So with a goodly amount of experience departed and with the defensive roles these players filled in many cases being assumed by greener underclassmen, we offer that we have no idea what the ultimate order of finish of the top five will be in the WAC. Neither does anyone else.

With that mantra -- "we have no idea what the ultimate order...will be" -- in mind, here we still go with our fearless forecast plus the 'whys' of our choices:

Predicted Order of Finish:

1. Nevada
2. Utah State

3. Louisiana Tech

4. San Jose State

5. New Mexico State


6. Boise State
7. Hawaii

8. Fresno State

9. Idaho

Nevada - The House of Cards in Reno could fall apart given a tweaked Luke Babbitt hamstring or any injury that keeps The Wonderkind off the court for a period of time. There's plenty of proven scorers to surround him -- 6-3 guard Armon Johnson, 6-4 guard Landry Fields, 6-6 Joey Shaw (who has NCAA experience from his time at Indiana) -- but nowhere near even another Babbitt-lite on the roster. Mark Fox will need consistent boardplay and defensive effort upfront from 6-8 Dario Hunt and 6-7 Ahyaro Phillips, although the former is much more ready than the latter. The return to play of oft-injured 6-7 junior Richie Phillips would be a nice bonus as he's entering his fourth year in the program and his injuries have prevented him from contributing to date. Fields and Lyndale Burleson will pressure opposing backcourters as both were given league honors last season for their defensive efforts.

Summary: we see only depth to some degree and frontcourt uncertainties holding back the Pack.

Utah State - Now some will disagree but Stew Morrill's Aggies enjoy the best home court advantage in the league what with sellouts and a student section that best works over opponents. Plus the trio of 6-9 Gary Wilkinson, 6-6 Tai Wesley and 6-4 Tyler Newbold gives the Aggies the best center/forward/guard threesome in the league. But we still want to see more than 31 free throw attempts -- in 35 games -- for the season from Newbold. What Utah State needs foremost is someone to step in at the point and run Morrill's offense (easier said than done) and another power player to consistently contribute on the frontline. Freshman Deremy Geiger, redshirt frosh Jaxon Myaer and junior college transfer Jared Quayle are the inexperienced candidates for the former. The pickings are a little slim for the latter. There's a bunch of junior college recruits battling to replace Jaycee Carroll but the key there will be who can not only shoot well off the screen but who can create off dribble drives. Pooh Williams is the best defender on the team (with Newbold close) and his efforts at containing opponents should earn him much greater playing time this season.
Summary: a proficient point is needed along with a consistent shooting guard stepping up as well as a center/power forward.

Next was the most difficult choice. Louisiana Tech or San Jose State? San Jose State or Louisiana Tech? Here's our little secret: we flipped a coin and it came up for the Bulldogs. How's that for courage?

Louisiana Tech - Tech fans will definitely need a new scorecard this season as the Aggies underwent more personnel turnover than any other team in the WAC. Were titling this Louisiana Tech season "Kyle Gibson gets some help" and it's expecially so on the frontline. 6-10, 260 Kenneth Cooper will be a defensive stalwart in the middle, flanked by expected point producers Magnum Rolle at 6-10 and 6-7 redshirt freshman Olu Ashaolu, with former Idaho Vandal 6-8 David Jackson and 6-10 Shawn Oliverson providing depth at forward and center respectively. Rolle will have some pressure to produce close to a consistent double-double but the shots and boards will be there for the taking. Gibson, a true shooting guard, played every position save center last season and it looks like he will be playing the point in 2008-2009 what with two backcourters (Jamel White and J.C. Clark) being dropped from the squad recently. Gibson logged 36 minutes a contest last season and just may have to replicate that feat this season unless Canadian import Juevol Myles can adapt quickly in quarterbacking the team or another freshman backcourt recruit, Arrez Henderson, can help. But right now, neither Myles or Henderson appear on LT's official roster. Junior college transfer Jamel Guyton looks to have the outside-shooting skills to man the two.

Summary: Tech still lacks solid depth so any injuries could be devastating but this Ruston roster talent level is the most improved in the WAC. Kyle Gibson, Magnum Rolle and Olu Ashaolu should combine to provide enough points to position the Bulldogs for a winning season. Rupp still doesn't have the roster he wants in the exact terms of classes and that should take another season or two. Plus, Gibson will hopefully finally be afforded the opportunity to play as a shooting guard next year in his senior season.

San Jose State - As previously mentioned, five starters return which can be either a good or troubling situation but here it is favorable. Juniors C.J. Webster and Chris Oakes man the 'big' spots quite well but do need to display improved defensive positioning which will translate into less foul trouble. One of the keys to the Spartan season will be the development of another consistent post, be it 6-9 soph Oliver Caballero, who was nagged by injuries for most of last season, or 6-10 redshirt freshman Clint Amberry. Sophs Justin Graham and Adrian Oliver highlight the backcourt with their ability to create along with junior shooters Robert Owens and Mac Peterson. Three-point ace Tim Pierce returns on the wing along with fellow seniors DaShawn Wright and DeVonte Thomas. San Jose State will be a much better shooting/scoring squad than previous incarnations and also be in a situation where substitutions off the bench are much more capable.

Summary: the Spartans remain young to a degree and will miss Oliver for the first six games due to NCAA transfer rules. Conversely, here's a team that should by natural progression be better by the end of the season -- which bodes well for tourney play. Graham and Oliver are going to be problems for opposing guards but that third 'big' remains a major need.

New Mexico State - Here's another team in need of introductions to one another and the keys to the season are:

*** how tight the playing together meshes
*** how quickly and how consistently some of the newcomers can contribute
*** what leadership emerges given that a number of seniors have graduated

6-2 Jonathan Gibson and 6-5 Jahmar Young own two of the starting spots and both should be at or around the 15 points per game or so average. Freshman Terrance Joyner has the most potential of any of the incoming guards but the question remains about who will and can man the point and when? The return of 6-4 soph Wendell McKines helps and he'll team up with redshirt 6-7 freshman Troy Gillenwater in the corners. Redshirt frosh 7-0 Hamidu Rahman and 6-11 true freshman Chris Gabriel are in the middle but unproven at this point. 7-0 Abdoulaye N’doye is supposed to enroll in December but it's anyone's guess if he will play or redshirt. There are two recruits from Canada -- one is redshirting and the other is freshman point Hernst Laroche.

Summary: There are definitely enough shots to go around this coming season and that will be beneficial to the spirit of the Aggies. Getting Mick Durham on the coaching staff is a positive move as a professional of his calibre is always a plus addition. Ultimately, we see New Mexico State as too young and inexperienced this go-around to top the other teams listed but still dangerous and deserving of inclusion.

Okay, let's move on with more that will surely raise some blood pressure readings to astronomical levels:

Player of the Year: Luke Babbitt

Isaiah 11:16 prophesied that "...and a little child shall lead them..." and, while the 6-8 Babbitt doesn't qualify as petite, he will be both the POY and the Freshman of the Year in the WAC. The only problem we see for him next season is staying out of foul trouble as his opponent as well as the others will be assigned to go right at Babbitt as much as possible.

WAC All Leaguers:

Gary Wilkinson - Utah State
Brandon Fields - Nevada
Jonathan Gibson - New Mexico State
Magnum Rolle - Louisiana Tech
Adrian Oliver - San Jose State.

Wilkinson needs to be consistent from the get go but this should be aided by the dearth of experienced 'bigs' he'll face. We selected Fields over Armon Johnson because he brings offense and defense to the Wolf Pack. We went with Gibson over Jarmar Young because Gibson offers better playmaking along with scoring. Rolle has a golden opportunity and his projected scoring and rebounding totals give him the nod, however slightly, over Kyle Gibson. Oliver will be the top scorer for the Spartans and is their best talent.

Note that but one senior (Wilkinson) is among our selections. Last season, it was five seniors being honored.

Other Contenders:

Kyle Gibson - Louisiana Tech
Roderick Flemings - Hawaii
Armon Johnson - Nevada
Sylvester Seay - Fresno State
Jahmar Young - New Mexico State
C.J. Webster - San Jose State.

Gibson will enjoy a very big year and certainly receive consideration for First Team All League status from many. He was the most difficult player to leave off the First Team. Flemings will need to carry Hawaii and will certainly be the Rainbow Warriors top scorer and possibly rebounder too. Johnson was very good as a freshman and should be even better in 2008-2009. Seay will lead FSU in scoring and possibly rebounding too. Young just might top the Aggies in scoring but isn't the playmaker -- at least as yet -- that Jonathan Gibson is but he's a year less experienced than his teammate. Webster is our final choice as a possibility to land a First Team nod due to his combination of scoring, rebounding and passing talents.

So those of you suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune anywhere in the above, well, do offer your disagreements but please tell us both why we are wrong and why you, of course, are right. ;-)

Thursday, October 9, 2008

It's just about here

At last! At last! It's just around the corner.

Yes, do mark this on your calendar.

Put a neon flashing light sign on your roof.

Hire an airplane to carry a banner across the sky.

No, it's not because the presidential campaign is coming to a close but that you will have the opportunity to see your 2008-2009 San Jose State men's basketball team in action in just over two weeks.

On Saturday October 25, at 1 p.m., in The Event Center, an intra-squad scrimmage will be taking place. A meal will also be provided -- more details to follow.

The opportunities to join the Dunk Club and the Three Point Club -- yes those are going to be re-introduced -- will also be on tap.

What a weekend it will be! First, the Spartan football team will down Boise State on Friday and then basketball season becomes a reality for the fans the very next day.

Additional details soon.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

We re-visit the past

We like to re-visit the past every so often, especially so in a comparison to life and events today in order to determine if a situation has improved, stayed the same or regressed. In our opinion, nowhere is the contrast greater -- at least in local college basketball -- than between the 2004-2005 San Jose State men's basketball roster and the current one. The level of talent/potential is so far greater, there's no comparison.

Plus, consider just how much earlier this statement could have been written had Coach Nessman operated like far too many other coaches and simply clear cut the roster he inherited and brought in 'his' players? That a too-often overlooked element that some negative Johnny One Notes conveniently and purposely overlook.

Here is the last Phil Johnson-coached roster broken down by experience.

Demetrius Brown SR
Marquin Chandler SR
Kareem Guilbeaux SR
Michael McFadden SR

Demetrius missed the year due to injury. Marquin flat-out carried the team as best he could. Kareem was heady but had to play far too many minutes than appropriate. Michael had his moments.

Eric Bloom JR
Alex Elam JR
Mark Fresby JR
Tyree Gardner JR
Ryan Miller JR
Matt Misko JR
Kenny Smith JR
Donta Watson JR
Cheo White JR

Only Alex and Matt ever played all that much out of this entire group, with Tyree coming in third. Donta decided not to compete for playing time and departed. Eric, Ryan and Kenny never fully recovered from long-lingering injuries. Mark Fresby was quickly gone. Cheo was a walk-on.

Lance Holloway SO
Joe Udeoji SO

Both Lance and Joe were walk-ons.

What jumps out at us is the absence of any freshman or sophomore scholarshipped classes, a deadly factor that is an unsustainable practice for any basketball program looking to be consistent and competitive.

Plus, we are certainly grateful for and laud the effort from all these young men but a retrospective look tells us that but two or possibly three of the student-athletes were truly WAC-level starting talents.

That's quite an inheritance.

Now consider the season soon upon us:

Tim Pierce SR
DeVonte Thomas SR
DaShawn Wright SR

Chris Oakes JR
Robert Owens JR
Mac Peterson JR
C.J. Webster JR
Jerelle Wilson JR

Oliver Caballero SO
Justin Graham SO
Adrian Oliver SO
Lance Olivier SO
Kyle Thomas SO redshirt

Clint Amberry FR
Garrett Ton FR

First off, this is a much, much better and also healthier distribution of recruiting classes. There's at minimum a starter residing in each of the first three classes, some with more. Tim has started a number of games as has DaShawn. Then, there's Chris and C.J. as definite frontcourt returning and continuing starters and also keep in mind that, prior to his senior season, C.J. will be applying for the reinstatement of his freshman year of eligibility. We're hearing good things about Robert but time will tell if he garners starts. Justin...well, he's going to be a four-year starter. Adrian is starting from here on out. We believe Kyle Thomas has starting potential but that's for 2009-2010. We also believe Clint will be a starter -- certainly a major minutes player -- before his eligibility is complete.

Gee folks (sorry to go Palin on you), consider how much advancement has been made -- the evidence is undeniable.

The most recent additions -- Adrian Oliver and Robert Owens and Kyle Thomas -- are proof positive that the roster upswing continues. We've already determined Oliver as a coming WAC star but Owens will be at least a major minutes player. He displays long-distance shooting range and owns the most-sweetest shooting form. We won't see Thomas until next year but having a 6-8 or so wing with inside/outside scoring prowess is going to cause matchup problems for WAC opponents in 2009-2010 and beyond.

We would love to see Oliver in uniform from the get-go this season instead of his being sidelined for six games due to NCAA transfer rules because having the full team together from game one would be the best measuring tool but he'll be available soon enough.

Let's see who gets added to the roster come the approaching November signing period. One freshman-to-be point is already lined up.

This is your new source for San Jose State men's basketball

Sometimes change is good. We believe this is one such occasion.

We are rolling out our new site for all things San Jose State men's basketball for many reasons. The ability to post video for one, better results when googling for another.

There are other reasons too but the bottom line is our belief that making this change will enhance accessibility to our SJSU men's basketball coverage, thus providing a higher profile for Spartan hoops.

We believe the timing is right as Coach George Nessman's program is ready for takeoff. So consider this the new 'airport" with enhanced runway access.