Crumpacker: What We Learned - 11/20/17
Breaking down week two of the 2017-18 non-conference slate
By John Crumpacker - #WCChoops Columnist
At 1-2, it’s fair to say Santa Clara basketball has not gotten off to the start it wanted after home losses to Nevada and Cal Poly, with a Thanksgiving week trip to the Great Alaska Shootout upcoming.
Nevertheless, there is reason for hope on the Mission campus as coach Herb Sendek begins his second season in charge of the Broncos. Guard K.J. Feagin is healthy following offseason foot surgery and is averaging 18.3 points and 3.0 assists per game. He’s joined in the backcourt by graduate transfer Henry Caruso from Princeton.
Caruso is having a seemingly seamless transition from the Ivy League to the West Coast Conference. He was All-Ivy League at Princeton and is now second on the Broncos in scoring at 15.3 per game and, even more impressive, he’s far and away the leading rebounder at 8.7. Perhaps Caruso’s transition is an effortless one because he’s a Bay Area local, from Burlingame, a short (depending on traffic) jog north on Hwy. 101.
“We’re still trying to define ourselves, working to become a team,’’ Sendek said. “We’re just in the beginning stages. I like our group. We have a balance of experienced guys and new guys.’’
Then, too, the Broncos are experiencing life without Jared Brownridge, who for four years was the face of Santa Clara basketball and left school as the WCC’s leading career scorer.
“You’re talking about the leading scorer in the history of the conference,’’ Sendek said. “He won’t be easy to replace. We’ll have to do that collectively.’’
Santa Clara finished 17-16 overall and 10-8 in conference last season, a team in the middle of the conference trying to move up. The 2017-18 Broncos are trying to incorporate several new players into the program, including Josip Vrankic, Shaquille Walters and Matt Turner, to go with such veterans as Feagin, center Emmanuel Ndumanya, Jarvis Pugh and Kai Healy.
Musing on his coach, Ndumanya said, “He’s a tough competitor. He pushes people a lot. He pushes you to get better. I’ve shown so much improvement since I’ve been at Santa Clara.’’ The 6-foot-10 Nigerian hopes his final season at Santa Clara is a good one, saying, “I see myself as being an energy guy for my team, showing a sense of urgency. I’m looking forward to bringing energy.’’
What We Learned
1) Breaking news here – No. 17 Gonzaga is very, very good, and figures to get better as the season unfolds. The Zags are off to a 3-0 start but will receive a true test of their mettle in this week’s PK80 Tournament in Portland, where they open on Thanksgiving vs. Ohio State and will face either Florida or Stanford should they defeat the Buckeyes. Gonzaga is at once young and experienced and deep, something any coach would love to have. As the season marches on it will be interesting to see how this team compares to last season’s NCAA championship game iteration.
2) No. 21 Saint Mary’s is pretty darn good, too, in bolting to an expected 4-0 start. The Gaels will play in this week’s Wooden Legacy tournament in Fullerton, where their first-round opponent on Thanksgiving is Harvard. Get past the Crimson and Saint Mary’s will see either St. Joseph’s or Washington State. The Gaels have a true post player in Jock Landale, a true point guard in Emmett Naar and several capable perimeter shooters in Calvin (Headband) Hermanson and Evan Fitzner.
3) Portland doesn’t project to move into the top half of the conference in coach Terry Porter’s second season but that doesn’t mean the Pilots will not be worth watching. Pay particular attention to center Phillipp Hartwich. The 7-2 German has 14 blocked shots in three games and needs 20 more to break the school record. Hartwich is a rejection waiting to happen.
Rui the real deal
Gonzaga is only now beginning to realize what it has in 6-8 sophomore forward Rui Hachimura, only the fifth Japanese-born male to play Division I basketball. Hachimura, who once scored 105 points in a Japanese high school game, had a modest introduction to Div. I last season as a freshman. He appeared in 28 games for the Zags and averaged 2.6 points per game as he adjusted to the game while becoming more proficient in English.
Hachimura is a much more confident and improved player as a sophomore, averaging 17.3 minutes off the bench while producing 9.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He’s already had some highlight-reel plays for 3-0 Gonzaga.
“I think he’s going to play a real prominent role for us this year,’’ coach Mark Few said. “He’s in the process of learning how to play effective basketball. He’s got some real gifts we’re trying to actualize.’’
Few and his staff became aware of Hachimura at the 2014 FIBA U17 World Championships in Dubai, where he averaged 22.1 points per game.
Stat Line of the Week
Jahlil Tripp, a 6-5 sophomore wing player for Pacific, had a superb effort in an 89-74 home loss to Nevada for SLOTW. He had 24 points on 9 of 15 shooting to go with 15 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal. Tripp made quite a trip to play for coach Damon Stoudamire – he’s from Brooklyn.
Quote of the Week
“There’s no magic. Got to keep doing the same thing, only better.’’
That’s USF coach Kyle Smith, asked what the Dons need to do to improve upon last season’s 20-13 record (10-8 in conference).
Tweet of the Week
It’s true. On No. 21 Saint Mary’s roster are centers Jock Landale and Jock Perry, both Aussies. With Landale measuring 6-11 and Perry 7-1, that’s 14 feet of Down Under talent.
Follow the three dots…
Coach Mike Dunlap’s LMU Lions pulled out a nice win at Gersten Pavilion on Sunday afternoon, rallying from a 74-68 deficit in the late going to tie the score 78-78 on Steven Haney’s 3-point shot with 19 seconds left. LMU went on to win 92-86 in overtime with four players scoring in double figures. … Saint Mary’s Naar had 12 assists in his team’s 79-61 win at San Jose State, to go with 10 points. Naar was named WCC Player of the Week for averaging 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game.
John Crumpacker spent more than three decades working at the San Francisco Examiner and San Francisco Chronicle. During his career he has covered the full gamut of sports from prep to professionals. Most recently, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for Cal through the end of the 2013-14 season. In addition to covering 10 Olympic Games, Crumpacker served as the beat writer for the San Francisco 49ers. He is a two-time winner of the Track & Field Writers of America annual writing award and has several APSE Top 10 writing awards.