Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Menlo to challenge SJSU Thursday night

Menlo College comes to Walt McPherson Court Thursday at 7 p.m. for an exhibition game -- the opening contest for the 2008-2009 San Jose State Spartans.

The Oaks play in the California Pacific Conference and are an NAIA team located up the highway in Atherton. Brandon Laird is the head coach. A Sacramento native, he played college ball as a shooting guard at UC Davis from 1997 to 2001. After graduation, Laird assisted at Davis until 2003 when he moved down to Menlo College also as an assistant coach. He took over the head coaching spot for the Oaks in the summer of 2006.

Here's the returning players for Menlo -- a roster populated by a mix of high schoolers and junior college transfers:

Logan Shoffner -- W 6-0 FR Riordan High, San Francisco
Julian Harris -- W 5-10 SO American High, Fremont
Jason Logan -- W 6-0 JR Mesa Verde High, Sacramento
Chris Cobb -- PG 5-8 SR Bishop O'Dowd High, Oakland
Josh Bory -- PG 6-0 FR Foothill High, Redding
Ryan Dung -- PG/W 6-1 FR Iolani High, Honolulu
Brandon Cochran -- P 6-7 SR Cuesta College, San Luis Obispo
Ari Goldman -- W 6-1 SO Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey
Kyle Adams -- P 6-3 SR College of the Desert, Palm Springs
Nick McCullar -- P 6-5 SO Lawndale High, Los Angeles
Tim Kees -- W 6-1 JR Bishop O'Dowd High, Oakland
Mike Stone -- W 6-3 FR Cypress High, Cypress
Saiyuan Bian -- W 6-2 FR Beijing, China
Andrew Young -- P 6-6 FR Jesuit High, Sacramento
Craig Haberlein -- W/P 6-4 JR Davis High, Davis

The Oaks will sorely miss two seniors who graduated in 6-3 Bryon Wesley and 6-0 point Cody Christensen. Wesley was the conference Defensive Player of the Year besides averaging a team-leading 12.8 ppg. and 6.5 rpg. which was also tops. Christensen averaged 8.2 ppg. while shooting .447% on a team-topping 141 three-point attempts.

Brandon Cochran was also integral to the squad's success (Menlo finished with an 18-10 record including a nine-game winning streak) with his 9.8 ppg. and 6.4 rpg. The 6-7 senior will lead the Oaks' frontcourt in 2008-2009.

Diminutive senior point Chris Cobb is but 5-8 but ranked ninth in the league in assists last season with 2.4 a contest. Cobb played just over 32 minutes a game last year and here is how Laird describes him: "Cobb is a fearless leader, a great competitor and great on-ball defender who leads our team with his heart and soul."

Cobb's lack of height will pose problems for him defensively but could be a concern for SJSU when the ball is in his hands as it's hard for defenders to get down that low.

The Oaks did lose 66-44 to Cal Poly on the road last season -- the sole D-1 team Menlo played -- but also made it to the NAIA national tournament.

Menlo may be a small school but consider this:

*** Jeff Van Gundy, most recently in the NBA as the head coach for the Houston Rockets, played for the Oaks in 1981-1982.

*** Current UC Santa Barbara Coach Bob Williams coached men's basketball for Menlo from 1983-1988

*** Bud Presley, a Bay Area basketball icon, ran the program from 1971 to 1983.

*** San Josean Nate Jackson played football at Menlo and is now a tight end for the Denver Broncos.

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