Nov. 17, 2005
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Dick Davey isn't one to complain about what he doesn't have. But, the list of what the Bronco men's basketball team lost from a year ago is hardly insignificant. So much so, it's difficult to describe the outlook for this year's team without reviewing what is missing from last season.
Here is a quick look at the impact of the seven players who are departed from last year's team that won six of its first eight games and defeated eventual national champion North Carolina, Stanford and league runner-up Saint Mary's College twice:
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But, that was then. This is now. The youthful 2005-06 Santa Clara men's basketball team will be looking for its own identity with a fiery senior forward, an experienced junior class, a pair of sophomores who were thrown right into the mix last season. And, you can't describe SCU hoops this season without mentioning a five-member freshman class that includes a Texas-bred all-state quarterback and a 6'-10" center who could evolve into one of the league's best interior players.
"I think from an individual identity standpoint, it all wraps around Travis Niesen," said Davey, in his 14th season as head coach at Santa Clara and 28th overall on the Mission campus. "His competitive spirit and drive really affect the rest of the team to the point that it helps them play at a little higher level.
"One of the central themes for us is that we are shooting the ball better. That is such an integral thing for us because it helps us feel better about ourselves and more confident. With a fairly young group, confidence is a big factor."
Introducing the 2005-06 Broncos
The Broncos return just 41 percent of their scoring and 42 percent of their rebounding from last season, but three players are back who started a combined 67 games last year: Senior Travis Niesen (Mission Viejo, Calif.), sophomore Brody Angley (Redding, Calif.) and center Sean Denison (Nelson, B.C.). Guard Brandon Rohe (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) is expected to use his experience to play a vital role for the Broncos.
Niesen is the team's leading returning scorer after averaging 15.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game a year ago and connecting on nearly 48 percent of his shots from the field. He surpassed the 30-point mark twice last year and scored 26 points in Santa Clara's 77-66 win over North Carolina in the Pete Newell Challenge. The 6-7 junior will provide experience and leadership to the Broncos after playing in 89 games in his first three seasons and starting in 63 of those.
Angley earned his first career start in his fourth game as a freshman against the Tar Heels and responded with an eight point, seven rebound and five assist effort. Northern California's rushing record-holder as a football running back as a prep, he started 22 games last season and, despite his 5'-11" height, averaged 2.7 rebounds and handed out 2.6 assists per game.
Denison missed the first 12 games of the season due to a stress fracture in his foot and played his way into shape as the season progressed. After a slow start, the Canadian Junior National Team member ended the season on an upswing with a 10-rebound performance against San Francisco in the WCC Tournament.
Rohe missed last season due to a back injury and enters his first healthy preseason in more than two years. One of the team's top shooters two seasons ago, Rohe averaged 8.3 points during his first two campaigns and set freshman school records, surpassing Steve Nash, in 2003-04.
"I think that our three starters from last and Brandon Rohe, who was a starter when he was healthy two years ago, are extremely important to our team," said Davey. "We can count on those guys for their experience and leadership.
"We don't see this as a rebuilding year even though we lost several players from last season. This is a mature enough group to be successful and compete at a very high level."
Other returning Broncos who played significant minutes last season are forward Tristan Parham (Chicago, Ill.), sophomore Mitch Henke (Minnetonka, Minn.) and junior Scott Dougherty (Portland, Ore.). Parham will be expected to shoulder a rather heavy load this season as a senior, while Henke should make major strides both on the perimeter and in the paint after showing flashes last season as a freshman. The sharpshooting Dougherty, a walk-on who earned a scholarship after appearing in 49 games in his first two years at Santa Clara, will miss the season after suffering a foot injury that required preseason surgery.
Scouting The Bronco Perimeter
After losing two of the school's most dynamic guards, the Broncos will look to point guard Brody Angley as the primary ballhandler for the 2005-06 season. Brandon Rohe has significant experience at the point position as will, but should present a major threat shooting from behind the three-point arc.
Behind their experience, Santa Clara is expected to rely on freshman Calvin Johnson, a former all-state quarterback and basketball performer from tiny Morton, Texas. A playmaker who has the ability to shoot from the outside or drive to the basket, Johnson was the Most Valuable Player of the state Class A-AAA all-star game and should become more comfortable in the Bronco system as the season progresses.
Another new player who could make a surprising impact in the Bronco backcourt is senior walk-on Joey Kaempf. A prep teammate of Dougherty at Portland (Ore.) Jesuit, Kaempf accepted an invitation to join the Broncos after coaches watched him during walk-on tryouts. He and Dougherty led Jesuit to the state finals in 2002 and he was honored as a member of the all-state tournament team.
Walk-on John Burke and freshman Domineek Daniel could also see time at the guard positions. Daniel (Barstow, Calif.) was slowed during the preseason due to a medical condition and his status for the season is uncertain.
An interesting story in the backcourt is a player who will not suit up for the Broncos this season. Senior Danny Pariseau (Spokane, Wash.) transferred to the Mission campus from Eastern Washington just 12 assists shy of the Eagles' school assists record and will sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules. His experience in practice should help the youthful Bronco backcourt.
Scouting The Bronco Interior
Santa Clara features a number of players who can play both inside and step out and help on the perimeter. Travis Niesen is expected to play both roles this season, while Mitch Henke has the ability to contribute in both areas as well. Tristan Parham is an athletic forward who excels in running the floor and using his long frame to rebound. Sean Denison used the summer to add strength and flexibility and can step outside both offensively and defensively if necessary.
Niesen, an honorable mention all-WCC performer a year ago, was called by North Carolina coach Roy Williams as "..the kind of kid you don't like to play against. But he's the kind of kid you'd love to have on your team. So, to me, that's about as good a compliment as you can give anybody." The left-handed Niesen can frustrate defenders with his intensity and competitiveness as well as his ability to score and rebound consistently.
"It goes without saying that Travis is a very competitive player," said Davey. "He can score on anyone he plays against and defensively he is a great communicator, which is a tremendous quality. Something you wouldn't see if you only see him play, he is such a balanced person off the court. He likes a number of things. He enjoys academics. He would surf or play golf everyday if he could. And, he knows what he wants out of life and that is something that is easy to respect."
Parham transferred to Santa Clara from a successful junior college program at Coffeyville, Kan. He has suffered from knee pain since his arrival but, when healthy, is capable of putting up double-double numbers. He grabbed 11 rebounds in last year's opener against Duquesne and scored in double-figures three times, including a 12-point effort at Pacific.
Henke played in 27 games last season and had a typical up-and-down freshman campaign. He scored 10 points at Pepperdine on 4-for-4 shooting with a three-pointer and a free throw to go with three rebounds, two steals and a block in just 13 minutes. Okechukwu (nickname is pronounced Oh-Kay) Mbanugo (buh-NOO-go) received a valuable season as a redshirt freshman after playing just four years of organized basketball. He is an athletic player with a long frame and has shown flashes of tremendous improvement and will see action this season.
A major addition to the Bronco interior is freshman center John Bryant (San Pablo, Calif.). At 6'-10", 327-pounds, his presence alone gives Santa Clara a new look on the inside. He is expected to see significant action as a freshman and, together with Denison and Niesen and/or Parham, gives SCU a deep interior. Fellow freshman Cliff Sammet comes from a successful high school program under coach Pete Newell, Jr. and, at 6'-7", will add depth on the inside in his first year at SCU.
Much like the guard position, the interior features a mature transfer who is a tremendous help in guiding the young Broncos. A 7'-0", 275-pound center from Western Kentucky, Josh Higgins (Dayton, Ohio) will sit out this season but will be a major help in the development of Bryant and the interior..
This Year's Schedule
A well-balanced non-conference schedule should provide the Broncos with experience against a variety of styles and competition to prepare the team for WCC play that begins in early January.
Following its season-opener at home against Cal State Stanislaus on Nov. 19, the Broncos travel to UC Irvine to play the Anteaters before returning home Thanksgiving weekend for its annual game against Davey's alma mater, Pacific. The Nov. 29 game at San Jose State contributes an important three points to the winner in the annual Rivalry Series between the two schools. The Broncos have won seven of the last eight against their neighborhood rivals.
The slate for early December shows several tough matchups for the Broncos, opening with a Dec. 3 game at Mississippi State. After a break for final exams, Santa Clara plays three games in seven days -- at home against Cal Poly, at Oregon and a rematch at defending national champion North Carolina on Dec. 17 in Chapel Hill, N.C. SCU plays Notre Dame de Namur and Montana before the holidays.
The 39th annual Cable Car Classic is scheduled for Dec. 28-29. Santa Clara hosts UC Riverside in the first game of the tournament at 6 p.m., followed by Boston University against Bucknell, one of last year's NCAA upstart teams.
A new Saturday-Monday format in West Coast Conference play begins Jan. 7 when Portland visits the Leavey Center. The Broncos will help kick-off the new ESPN Big Monday agreement with the WCC at home against Gonzaga on Jan. 9 at 9 p.m. Among the highlights on SCU's league schedule include the annual Alumni Day on Jan. 28 against San Francisco, a Feb. 13 showdown against Saint Mary's and Senior Day against Pepperdine on Feb. 27.
Spokane, Wash. will host the annual WCC Championships at Gonzaga's new McCarthy Center. The tournament format remains the same, with the top two seeds receiving byes straight to the semifinals, the next two seeds earning a bye to the quarterfinals and the bottom four teams playing first round games.