With a practically new basketball arena opening in December, a former SCU all-everything player becoming an international sensation and a current Bronco evolving into one of the top players in the country... suffice it to say Bronco basketball might never have been on such an upswing.
Last April the bubble was burst on the basketball arena formerly known as Toso Pavilion. The fabric roof that held inside many fond memories for Bronco sports fans was deflated and a $15 million renovation began. Renamed the Leavey Event Center, phase I of the project features a new roof, scoreboard/video display, floor, seating and a two-story glass wall around the entire center. Subsequent phases, scheduled to begin in March, will include athletic offices, concession stands and a renovated pool adjacent to the building.
In August, Steve Nash, easily one of the most popular players in Santa Clara sports history, made international news by leading one of only two teams from the Western Hemisphere to the Olympic Games. Nash led Team Canada to a Group B championship and his 15 assists in a 101-90 upset of heavily-favored Australia was described as "unheard of" in international competition. He led all players in the Games with an average of ?.? assists per game and honored his teammates afterwards by changing his NBA jersey number from 14 to his Team Canada number 7.
October 15 did not just ring-in the start of basketball practice for basketball teams across the country. That date also signaled the return of a completely healthy and focused Brian Jones. The senior from Carson, Calif. has been rated as one of the top point guards in the country and is poised to solidify his place as one of the top players in school history.
Obviously, Bronco basketball fans have had plenty to cheer about during the offseason. If ninth-year head coach Dick Davey and his 2000-2001 squad have anything to say about it, they will also have plenty to cheer about after the season gets underway.
When the Broncos take the floor against Fresno State on Dec. 13 in the first game in the Leavey Center, they will definitely have been battle tested. Santa Clara opens the season with seven games on the road, including tournaments in Alaska and Iowa and road contests at Pacific and San Jose State.
"We have always played an aggressive schedule," said Davey, who enters the season with the third-most men's basketball wins in school history. "We schedule big games early in the year in order that our players aren't surprised by anything they see once we get into conference play. The object is to win your league so you can get a top seed in the tournament and advance to the NCAAs. I believe our schedule puts us in a position to develop our team to do that."
The Broncos open the season against Utah State in the Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks, Alaska on Nov. 17. In the second round, Santa Clara will play either South Florida or Davidson. Other teams in the tournament are Alaska-Fairbanks, Austin Peay, Colorado and Jackson State. Santa Clara will be making its first trip to Alaska since 1991 when it traveled to Anchorage for the Great Alaska Shootout. Fairbanks is also the hometown of current Bronco freshman Kyle Bailey.
Following the Alaska trip, the Broncos return to Northern California for "road" games at Pacific and San Jose State before trekking back towards the north for the Gazette Hawkeye Challenge, hosted by the University of Iowa. Santa Clara will face Tulsa University, one of last year's Cinderella teams in the NCAA Tournament, in the first round. The Broncos will face either host Iowa or Chattanooga in the second round game.
The final non-conference road games for the Broncos take place in mid-December with a two-game roadswing to the Midwest. Santa Clara faces a hostile environment in West Lafayette, Ind. when it plays Big Ten member Purdue for the fourth time in school history and the second-straight season. The trip culminates with a trip to Indianapolis to play at Butler University.
"Certainly we'd like to play a game or two at home earlier in the season. But, I like the fact that once we get into the Leavey Center, we will have played some of the better programs in the country. By that point in time, we should have a pretty good idea about where we are as a basketball team and can address our needs heading into conference."
The home schedule includes the contest against Jerry Tarkanian's Fresno State Bulldogs on Dec. 13 in the first game in the renovated Leavey Event Center. Following a home game against Nevada on Dec. 23 and the holiday break, the Broncos host the 34th annual Cable Car Classic. The event features Fordham, George Mason and Stanford in one of the longest-running on-campus regular-season tournaments in the country. SCU ends the non-conference portion of its schedule with home games against Murray State and Idaho State before beginning West Coast Conference action at Pepperdine on Jan. 12.
A close look at the lineup reveals a group of players at the guard position who are strong and capable of playing either an uptempo or physical style of basketball. The forwards have taken full advantage of the offseason program and, despite appearing somewhat undersized, can rebound and utilize the inside-outside game to take advantage of matchups. The players at the center position are versatile enough to muscle in the lane as well as step outside to take a mid-range jumper.
"We are a team that has the ability to adapt," said Davey. "People ask `What is your philosophy with regard to style of play?' Our philosophy is to do what we have to do in order to have a chance to win. That might mean playing in the 80s one night and in the 60s another night.
"I think our players are bright enough and good enough that they can do that. They can adjust. We have done that over the years and been able to have success at both ends of the court. I think we have a close-knit group of guys and that lends itself to working together on and off the court in order to get better as the season goes along."
Davey describes this year's squad as one of the more physical teams since he arrived on the Santa Clara campus in 1977. At first glance, the roster wouldn't necessarily make one think this year's squad is ready for the black and blue division. Yet, a closer look reveals the potential of an outstanding versatile basketball team.
"This team is probably the most physical basketball team I have had in my tenure here as head coach," said Davey. "They have taken advantage of the offseason conditioning program and the leadership of Brian Jones and Jaime Holmes has been really productive.
"We are counting on being a team that, by nature, will be very aggressive defensively. We will be a team that can stop people from scoring in a solid manner. Our rebounding is a bit of a concern, but if we that part of the game can hold up, I think we can be very good at the defensive end."
Name Letters Won Class Ht. Wt. G/GS PPG RPG APG Kyle Bailey Fr. 6-2 160 Delano D'Oyen *** Sr. 6-0 160 31/1 2.7 0.9 1.0 Brian Jones *** Sr. 6-3 195 31/30 13.3 4.7 5.2 Jason Morrissette Fr. 6-4 200 Brian Vaka ** Jr. 6-2 210 31/3 4.4 1.9 1.2 Dustin Warford *** Sr. 5-10 160 12/0 0.3 0.4 0.2
The guard position features Brian Jones who many analysts believe could be one of the top point guards in the country. A senior who missed the 1998-99 season due to a devastating right knee injury that left doubts as to whether or not he would ever play basketball again, Jones is a three-time all-WCC selection and is on track to become the school leader in assists.
Jones returned to the court last season and was one of the league's most productive guards, ending the season as one of the WCC's leaders in assists and scoring. He was one of four players in the league to be voted a unanimous all-WCC selection, the third all-conference honor in his three full seasons at Santa Clara.
"Brian's greatest asset is probably his toughmindedness as a player," said Davey. "He is physically strong and he can score in a crowd. He is one of the more unique players I have ever had as far as his ability. He hates to lose and he never gives in. Brian has also fared very well against other good players and I think he will be a legitimate All-America candidate this season if all goes to plan."
Senior Delano D'Oyen is an experienced veteran who can play both the point and shooting guard positions. Like Jones, D'Oyen is from Carson, Calif. and is an athletic player who has outstanding outside shooting skills. He served as the starter two seasons ago in Jones' absence and will certainly be more than capable in a prominent role this season.
Freshman Kyle Bailey is a highly-talented first-year player from Fairbanks, Alaska who has a chance to contribute immediately. A physical guard, Bailey has the qualities of a floor leader and he should contribute as an outside shooting threat.
At the shooting guard position, Santa Clara returns just one player who saw considerable time last season as a sophomore. Brian Despite several nagging injuries, Brian Vaka played in all 31 games and has the experience to step-in and become a primary scoring threat.
Freshman Jason Morrissette is a highly-recruited player who missed some time during preseason drills due to an ankle injury. He has the capability to add an exciting dimension to the offense. Senior Dustin Warford is a crowd-favorite walk-on who could see a considerable amount of time this season. He is a tireless player who has an outstanding work ethic.
Brad Anderson * So. 6-5 227 3/0 1.0 0.3 0.0 Cord Anderson * So. 6-5 219 8/0 0.0 0.1 0.1 Andre Bobbitt * So. 6-6 180 13/0 0.2 0.6 0.1 Justin Holbrook ** Jr. 6-7 220 23/0 3.0 1.1 0.3 Jaime Holmes *** Sr. 6-8 225 30/23 9.3 4.8 0.8 Steve Ross Jr. 6-5 210 Jason Westphal Jr. 6-7 220
Senior Jaime Holmes is the anchor of a group of forwards who have a chance to develop into a solid unit this season. As the only senior in the group, Holmes will be relied-upon to lend experience and leadership and help develop the group as a whole. A native of Merced, Holmes started 23 games as a junior and averaged nearly 10 points and five rebounds per game last year. He dropped 20 pounds during the offseason while increasing his strength and should be a mainstay in the Bronco lineup.
"I'm really proud of Jaime," said Davey. "One of his assets is his physical strength that allows him to push people around a bit. Now, he is a little more mobile and we are counting on him to contribute a lot more minutes, points and rebounds for us this year."
The other player Davey is counting on to contribute at the big forward position is junior transfer Jason Westphal. An all-conference selection last year at West Valley JC, the Gilroy, Calif. native is one of the team's better athletes and has a chance to be an outstanding rebounder.
At the small forward, there are a number of players competing for the starting position heading in to the season. The leader at the beginning of the season appears to be versatile junior Justin Holbrook. A player who can play either the small or big forward, Holbrook played in 23 games last season and looked particularly impressive during the last half of the year. His improvement during the offseason, combined with his work ethic and shooting skills give him the tools to be successful in the Bronco program.
Junior transfer Steve Ross is an experienced international performer, having served as a member of Canada's junior national team. Ross played the 1998-99 season at the University of San Diego and will not be eligible to participate until mid-December. Andre Bobbitt played in 13 games last season and has worked hard to improve his offensive skills. He has a chance to compete for considerable playing time and should be a factor by the time conference games begin in January.
Twins Cord and Brad Anderson gained a year of experience under their belts. Both add solid rebounding skills and will be continuing to work their way into the lineup as walk-ons.
Stephen Dely *** Sr. 6-10 230 26/3 1.8 1.6 0.3 David Emslie * Jr. 6-11 230 31/19 4.0 3.5 0.3 Jim Howell Fr. 6-8 230
In the paint, Junior David Emslie and senior Stephen Dely will share duties throughout the season with freshman big forward Jim Howell competing for playing time. The trio give Santa Clara depth and the versatility to play a variety of styles throughout the season. Emslie is one of the team's better shooters. He has good touch around the basket and can also block shots.
Dely is a left-hander from South Africa who started three games a year ago. He has battled through several nagging injuries and could emerge as a solid player in the middle this season. Howell is one of the most physically thick players on the squad and has an opportunity, due to his rebounding skills, to force his way into the lineup.
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Santa Clara will be looking to overcome the loss of three of its top five performers from a year ago who accounted for 42 percent of the team's scoring and 36 percent of its rebounding. Nathan Fast, an all-WCC performer, led the Broncos last year in scoring with a 14.1 per game average. Todd Wuschnig was the team leader in rebounds with an average of 5.7 per game, while Darrell Teat added 8.6 points , 4.2 rebounds and second-best 31 steals.
However, several factors give Santa Clara an excellent opportunity to register a successful 2000-2001 season -- The continued high caliber of players in the program, a strong blend of veteran experience and youthful enthusiasm, and one of the most talented and experienced coaching staffs on the We-st Coast.