The Bronco men's basketball team tips off their 2013-14 campaign at home on Fri., Nov. 8 at 7 pm vs. Bethesda University. The game will be live streamed with audio on SantaClaraBroncos.com. Santa Clara won its only exhibition 89-60 on Nov. 2 vs. San Diego Christian.
The Broncos are fresh off a 26-12 campaign last season that saw them win their second post-season title in three years, the CBI at George Mason on April 5 (80-77). It's hard to imagine any team in the country entering this season with more production lost than the Broncos. With the five seniors graduating in June of 2013, they took with them 13,455 minutes played, 6,188 points scored, 2,149 rebounds, 705 assists and 492 steals.
But Kerry Keating, entering his seventh season with the Broncos, brought in seven newcomers, including Jerry Brown, a graduate transfer from Fresno State. Santa's Clara's roster is thick with diaper dandies, including freshman-redshirt Nate Kratch and four true freshmen: Jared Brownridge, Jalen Richard, Jarvis Pugh and Emmanual Ndumanya.
Keating believes the exhibition helped get the freshmen jitters out of the rookies. "I know they were all kind of nervous during the exhibition," said Keating. "They played relatively well in our closed door scrimmage, but no on was there watching or keeping track of the points scored. Now we get a chance to really find out where we're at with consequences, hopefully none."
The Broncos want to establish from the opening tip that they want to take care of business at home this year. "We want to try and win every home game this year," said Keating. "We also want to find out who is going to step up to the level we want them to play at to the best of their abilities during the time they are in. The game on Friday will be a little less experimentation and little more implementation."
Pointing out the exhibition served its purpose by getting the freshman in uniform and in front of people in the gym without any real consequence – Keating said the team has practiced well this week and is ready to play a game that counts after more than a month of practice.
The coaches are still working to evaluate possible redshirts. "We won't jeopardize any potential redshirt guys by playing them on Friday because obviously once they play, they would lose their eligibility to be redshirted. So we are still in the evaluation stage of it. This week in practice is important for that as well as the game too," said Keating.
The Broncos will be without three-year starter Evan Roquemore as he recovers from a back issue, but Keating hopes to have him back for the San Jose State game on Nov. 12.
Keating wants the team dialed in and mentally focused so they can continue to build on what they have been working on throughout the preseason.
Young again, the Broncos will rely on their depth and versatility more than ever this season. "We want to have the ability to be a difficult opponent for people who still need to establish who our guys are going to be," said Keating. "Obviously Evan not practicing for a while has given a lot of guys the opportunity to step up. So we will find out on Friday. Brandon Clark took advantage of that last week."
Robert Garrett impressed many with his play in the exhibition, scoring all six baskets inside he attempted, including a couple dunks.
Keating also pointed to Brown as someone who brings a lot to the court. "Jerry has great energy and enthusiasm," said Keating. "For a big man, he has that versatility in the front court that we haven't had. He definitely has that level of athleticism that we need."
Kratch spent last season crashing the boards in practice with the likes of Academic All-American Marc Trasolini, the WCC's leading rebounder Yannick Atanga, Garrett and Niyi Harrison. "Nate's not going to stand out yet, because he's smart," said Keating. "He was a little anxious in the exhibition and again just like the other freshmen, he needed to kind of get the nerves out by playing a game. He will be fine."
There are a lot of unknowns with the team because they haven't established a rotation yet. It is something they are continuing to work on this week in practice and moving forward. "We are deeper than we have ever been so it's a little bit of an adjustment utilizing that properly but also realizing who needs to be in as far as scoring goes," said Keating. "There are still a lot of moving parts to it. Our guys are excited about the possibilities and starting to develop trust in each other to play as hard as they can until they need to come out. They want to come out to put themselves in a position to play as hard as they can in every possession. We are in a better position to do this now than we ever have been."
The coaches have emphasized playing smart and playing together this year. Keating pointed out half the team is newcomers so they don't know who is going to step up and put themselves in a position to be utilized a little more. "We are giving everyone a chance to do that," said Keating. "I would like to utilize our depth to get the ball up the court fast. We never practice with anything more than a 24 second shot clock for that reason. We have been able to do that in practice successfully. We don't have to do that in games, but we should be able to play at that speed and that pace because we practice it."