Oct. 17, 2003
SANTA CLARA, Calif. - The dawn of a new season is once again upon 12th year head coach Dick Davey and his Santa Clara University men's basketball team. The Broncos enter their 82nd season of competition in 2003-04 with renewed optimism and a sense of comfort with the West Coast Conference Championships returning to Santa Clara for the first time in three years.
Coming off an injury-plagued year in which SCU finished the season with a 13-15 overall record and a 4-10 mark in WCC play, the Bronco basketball program feels that things will be different this year. With a majority of players returning in full health and the addition of only two new players to the squad, Davey has a veteran group that could vie for a place among the conference's elite.
Among those players returning who were sorely missed in 2002-03 is Kyle Bailey. The two-time All-WCC performer returns to the court as a junior in good health and a desire to win. His season was cut short last year due to a leg injury that has since been taken care of with rest and rehabilitation following surgery. Bailey's strength lies in his scoring and leadership ability. As a captain, he will be looked to for experience and a competitive fire that should ignite his teammates.
In his first two years on the Mission Campus, Bailey has scored 668 points for an 11.1 average. The Fairbanks, Alaska native improved on his foot speed and overall quickness prior to last season and is again ready to open some eyes with his play. A clutch performer, Bailey has won three games already in his career by hitting a shot with less than five seconds remaining on the clock.
Alongside Bailey is someone who coach Davey calls, "the heart and soul of this team." Jim Howell returns for his senior season after being the only SCU player named to a postseason team in 2002. His All-WCC honorable mention honors came after he posted 9.0 points per game and a team leading 6.2 rebounds per game. He started in all but one game as a junior and had a breakout game at Loyola Marymount that saw him grab 19 rebounds, the team's highest individual output of the season by six boards.
"Jim will give you a hard night's work every time out," said Davey. "He is a leader that will play his tail off and impact the play of others. He might not be the biggest influence on the stat sheet, but he will certainly factor into how our team in playing. "
Howell and Bailey are only two of 10 returning letterwinners from last year's team. Of the remaining returning players, two are guards; two are wing players and the final four set up shop in the low post.
Sophomore Brandon Rohe and senior Alex Kargbo will each see significant time at the guard position. Rohe, who broke Steve Nash's freshman record for both three-pointers made (51) and three-pointers attempted (145), returns for his second season and is another year wiser. As a freshman Rohe averaged 10.6 points per game and notched a season-best 29 points against Mississippi Valley State in the Cable Car Classic. That output was the highest single-game output for a Bronco during the '02-03 season.
Kargbo returns fully healthy after spending the majority of his first year in a Bronco uniform battling a wide variety of small ailments that limited his play to just 15 minutes a game in the 25 games he played. During his time on the floor he averaged 3.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per contest. It is his quickness and scoring ability that will make him a threat his senior season. With only four guards on the roster, Kargbo figures to get many minutes and will be looked to for contributions during that time on the court.
Bailey, Rohe and Kargbo are the three returnees that will be bolstered by the addition of Doron Perkins, a junior college transfer from Southwestern Oregon Community College. At SWOCC Perkins averaged 25.0 points and 6.5 assists per game. He was a two-time NWAACC Southern Region Player of the Year and led his team to a 42-16 record during that time span. Perkins' ability to score and his overall athleticism will greatly increase the Broncos' ability to adjust to various styles of play.
"Limiting yourself to one style of play can be dangerous," said Davey when asked about how his team this year will play. "I think we will have the ability to play at whatever pace is necessary to get the job done. We should be disciplined enough to play at a slower pace when needed, but we should also be able to step it up and run a little when the time comes. Doron will be a key factor in allowing us to play as many different styles as needed."
Although Davey does admit that most of his guards need to play better defense and rebound more, their teammates at the wing and post positions can make up for where they leave off.
Out on the wings are two returnees in Ethan Rohde and J.R. Patrick who essentially played in their first season for Santa Clara in '02-03. Rohde had a breakout year as a sophomore, averaging 9.3 points and 3.4 rebounds per game following his freshman season in which he played sparingly. Rohde started in 26 of the Broncos' 28 games last year, averaging 27.5 minutes per game while leading the team with his .412 shooting mark from behind the three-point line. His official coming out came at the Cable Car Classic where he earned tournament MVP honors after scoring 33 points in the two games and leading SCU to the title.
Patrick played his first year at SCU in 2002-03 after transferring in from the North Dakota State School of Science. As a junior Patrick battled through early season knee surgery that limited his playing time to only 22 games, in which he started three. In those contests Patrick averaged 5.6 points and 2.4 rebounds per game, ranking him sixth on the team in both categories.
In the post is where the most depth of the program lies. After Howell are three interior players who saw significant time on the floor and one who just got his ears wet during his redshirt freshman season.
Jordan Legge enters his third season in the Bronco program, having added another year of experience and increased strength and conditioning to his background. The 6-foot-8 junior will be looked to for more scoring in 2003-04, while his court intelligence and solid defense will also factor into his success.
"Jordan is a player that can really make a name for himself in this league this year," said Davey. "We have been trying for the last two years to get him to take more shots and be more aggressive offensively. After a summer in which he worked very hard to get his body in great shape, we think this could be a breakout year for him. He is very intelligent on the court and has good ability. He will be a difference maker for us this year."
Joining Legge and Howell down low are Scott Borchart, Travis Niesen and Linden Tibbets. Borchart appeared in 21 games last year after sitting out his first year at Santa Clara due to shoulder injuries. Coming into 2003-04, his health is once again a concern, but double shoulder surgery during the off-season may have made it possible for him to play all season. His touch and court presence will be a vital part of the Bronco offense.
Niesen enters his sophomore campaign after averaging 3.9 points and 2.8 rebounds in 12.8 minutes of play per contest as a freshman. Off-season strength and conditioning have bulked up the southpaw who will provide a physical force in the post. A sparkplug off the bench, Niesen often provided a lift on the court with his hustle and determination. Much of the same will be needed from him in '03-04.
Tibbets is considered to be one of the biggest improvements from last year's team. The sophomore from Duncanville, Texas added roughly 20 pounds of muscle and has worked on his agility and touch. His long arms and good leaping ability will make him a shot blocking threat, while his shooting ability makes him a threat from 15 feet and in.
Solidifying the post position is newcomer, and the tallest member of the team, Sean Denison. Denison is another import from Canada where coach Davey has had much success in recruiting. He joins former standouts Steve Nash and Steve Ross, along with current Bronco J.R. Patrick as some of the more notable imports from our neighbor to the north.
At 6-foot-10, Denison will provide much needed size and length in the middle. A big man with athletic ability, coach Davey sees the center as someone who will contribute for several years to come.
"We think his upside is tremendous," said Davey. "He can catch, he can shoot and he's a reasonable runner for his size. He will be a major contributor for us over the next four years."
The Comfort of Home
A big difference for the Broncos in 2003-04 will be the Leavey Center. Santa Clara will play 15 home games this season and will also host the West Coast Conference Basketball Championships in early March. The league's postseason tournament returns to Santa Clara after a three-year hiatus in San Diego. It will mark the first time that the renovated Leavey Center has hosted the event since the bubble was deflated on the Toso Pavilion four years ago.
"We are very excited about the WCC Basketball Championships returning here," said Davey. "San Diego has given everybody else hope, especially us, when they broke through and won the tournament on their home floor. That was the first time in league history that a host school won the tournament. Hopefully we can continue that trend."
In addition to the WCC Basketball Championships, the Broncos will also play host to the 37th Annual Cable Car Classic, one of the longest and most prestigious holiday tournaments in the country.
This year the Broncos will welcome BYU, Idaho State and Wisconsin-Milwaukee for the two-day event that will take place on December 29 and 30.
Santa Clara's optimism entering the season is based on, in small part, a tough preseason schedule that will prepare them for a grueling league season that leads up to the WCC Championships. The Broncos have eight teams on their schedule that played in the 2003 NCAA Tournament.
Two league teams, San Diego and Gonzaga both played in last year's March Madness, as did Cable Car participants BYU and Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Broncos will take on Oregon in "The Pit" on December 17 before returning home for Mississippi State on December 20. Dayton and Central Michigan are two of the possible opponents in the Maui Invitational to begin the season, so the Broncos will have their hands full right from the start.
The good news for Santa Clara is that they will play eight of their first 15 games at home this year before conference play begins. Once league action has started, SCU will play six of its first eight at home before concluding the WCC regular season on the road for five of its final six contests.