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West Coast Countdown: Santa Clara Looks To Crash The Dance In 2008-09

Nov. 11, 2008

If there is any team in the conference that could break up the WCC's big three and earn a top three finish it is the Santa Clara Broncos, who finished fourth in the standings last year. The Broncos, selected fourth in the WCC Preseason Coaches poll, are the unanimous pick among the preseason prognosticators as the dark horse in the conference.

The main reason for optimism on the Santa Clara campus is the return of senior center John Bryant, arguably the most dominant big man in the conference. The 6-11 Bryant has undergone a dramatic transformation during his four years at Santa Clara. The San Pablo, CA native entered college at over 350 pounds, but has slimmed down to 275 entering his senior season.

Second-year Head Coach Kerry Keating welcomes back five letterwinners overall, including three starters. The Broncos will have a much different look this season as Santa Clara brings in eight newcomers, tied with Pepperdine for the most new faces in the conference.

What will probably look the same is the Broncos commitement on the defensive end. For the second straight year, Santa Clara was the top defensive team in the WCC, allowing opponents to only score an average of 61.4 points per game. In addition, the Broncos limited opponents to just 41.3 percent from the field, the third lowest clip in the conference.

THE BRONCOS' TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
NAME YEAR
POSITION
2007-08 KEY STATS
John Bryant Senior
Center
18.0 ppg, 9.6 rpg, 76 blocks
Ben Dowdell Sophomore
Forward
8.1 ppg, 3.8 apg, 50.9 FG percent
Calvin Johnson Senior
Guard
4.6 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 39.8 3-PT FG percent

SANTA CLARA BACKCOURT

Senior guard Calvin Johnson is one of the top three-point shooters in the WCC, knocking down .398 of his three-point attempts last season.


Santa Clara must fill the hole left by the graduation of Brody Angley, who started all 31 games at the point guard position for the Broncos. Angley, who ranked second in the WCC in assists (5.29 apg) and 14th in points (11.5 ppg), averaged 35.2 minutes per game, the second most in the conference.

The most likely candidate to take over the point guard spot is junior college transfer Perry Petty, a 6-0 junior guard from Allen County Community College in Burlingame, Kansas. Petty tossed in 17 points, dished four assists, and swiped five steals in the Broncos' 93-65 exhibition win over Cal State Monterey Bay.

The Broncos should receive leadership from senior guard Calvin Johnson, one of only two seniors on the SCU roster. Johnson, who started 18-of-29 games last season, was one of the most accurate three-point shooters in the conference, knocking down .398 percent of his attempts beyond the arc.

A trio of freshmen gives the Broncos additional depth at the guard position. Freshmen Troy Alexander (6-1), Kevin Foster (6-2), and James Rahon (6-4) should compete for playing time and give Coach Keating several different options in the backcourt.

SANTA CLARA FRONTCOURT

Sophomore forward Ben Dowdell set the SCU freshman minutes played record last season (890).


Bryant turned in a monster junior season, leading the conference in double-doubles (15) and rebounding (tied with SMC's Diamon Simpson with 9.6 rpg), while ranking second in scoring with 18.0 points per game. He was the only player in the league to lead the conference in three different statistical categories. In addition to rebounding, Bryant finished first in field goal percentage (58.3) and blocked shots (2.45 bpg). His league-leading 76 blocks last year gives him 162 for his career and catapulted him to the top of SCU's all-time blocks list, passing notable alum Kurt Rambis among others. Bryant enters the season ranked sixth on the WCC's career blocks chart.

Sophomore forward Ben Dowdell enjoyed a solid freshman campaign, making 29 starts and ranking fourth on the team with 8.1 points per game. Dowdell ranked third on the team in minutes (29.7 mpg) and second in FG percentage (50.9). He gained valuable experience last season as he set the freshman school record for minutes played last year (890).

The Broncos add three newcomers to the frontcourt in junior transfer Decensae White (Texas Tech), Freshmen-redshirt Scott Thompson and freshman Marc Trasolini. White will be eligible to play after the fall quarter due to NCAA transfer rules. Trasolini continues the long tradition of Canadian players at Santa Clara as he was named the 2008 Mr. Basketball for British Columbia and was on the All-Canadian First Team. Thompson, who is currently sidelined with a sprained ankle, is a 7-0 who gives the Broncos added size and depth in the frontcourt.