Oct. 30, 2002
Depending on which poll you read, Dick Davey's 10th Santa Clara team is picked between 4th and 6th in the West Coast Conference race. When told this, Davey said he didn't pay attention to the polls but didn't have any problem with the opinions of the "experts."
"That's about right, but right now I don't know as much about my teams as past years. We are counting on using a lot of younger players and we have a chance to be pretty good by the time league season rolls around. We may be better or we may not. There are surely are question marks."
One of the question marks involves the team's rebounding. In fact, how well the Broncos rebound will have a significant effect on how the season shakes down. Unlike other seasons, there are several guys capable of making baskets.
"Nobody pops out as a great rebounder", says Davey. "Last year our wing players didn't put up huge numbers in that area and we're counting on getting more production from those spots."
Who will be manning those spots is just as big a question as how many rebounds will be hauled in from those positions. In watching some early practice, there are only two guarantees in the starting lineup with Kyle Bailey and Jordan Legge. Last year, Bailey was first team all-league, but had as many ups as downs. However, this season I'm hearing great things about him demanding more from his teammates and himself. Legge gained about 20 pounds during the offseason in order to battle the conferences premier bruisers in Cory Violette and Zach Gourde.
There is legitimate competition for the other three spots because of graduation and injury. Jim Howell is playing with much more confidence and has shown signs of being more than a screener and a guy diving for loose balls. Redshirt freshmen Scott Borchart and Linden Tibbets will press for time with one of them having a legitimate shot at starting.
Bakari Altheimer will play a lot at point with Bailey sliding over to the two. Bakari is making better decisions and even though his jump shot form won't be taught at clinics anytime soon, he's making shots on a more consistent basis. He is a super kid who is bright, coachable and a real pain to teams that press. Until JUCO wings J.R. Patrick and/or Alex Kargbo get healthy, Altheimer and Bailey could easily be the starting backcourt.
Ethan Rhode is heady role playing shooter who may be a poor man's Nathan Fast. He seems to know the game and is committed to getting better on the defensive end.
Cord Anderson looks like the team's best defender and it looks like he'll be getting an opportunity as a senior. He and his brother Brad are both real credits to the program and examples of what persistence and hard work can do. Brad is somewhat undersized at the four spot, but can rebound because he's gifted athletically. However, they need more from him on the offensive end.
I'll write more on the freshmen later. But it looks like a pair of SoCal stars in Brandon Rohe and Travis Niesen will get in the rotation as rookies. Both possess a toughness and lack of timidness not often seen in freshman.
I've just rolled off a bunch of names that have yet to make a major impact and that's crux of the preseason predictions. No one knows what most of the guys can bring to the table and the feeling here is that it will take 12-15 games to be able to form a solid opinion on where they may go.
Are they good enough to take out Pepperdine, Gonzaga or USF? Those three along with San Diego are picked by most to finish ahead of the Broncos. But Davey's teams have almost always defied the experts. The returnees have said they are driven by last season's first round WCC Tournament loss to St. Mary's and are committed to making a difference this season.
How many of the newcomers will become impact players? If one of the two JUCO guys, at least one of the redshirt freshmen bigs, two of the true freshmen become impact players and the returnees keep getting better, then maybe there's a run for the championship in these guys. The unknown is really the issue. But relax Bronco fans, there is a precedent. The last time Davey had this many first-year players was his very first team and SCU fans remember what happened that year. If you don't remember, ask Lute Olson.