|San Francisco beat La Rebotera 96-60 during its three-game trip to Cancun. (San Francisco Athletics)|
San Francisco won 20 games last season, and was one of the biggest threats in the West Coast Conference toward the end of the campaign. Only two of their top players were seniors, and most of the rotation was set to return.
Not so fast. Six players transferred from the program after the season, including double-figure scorers Perris Blackwell (Washington) and Michael Williams (Cal State Fullerton).
As a result, a preseason trip to Cancun was just what head coach Rex Walters and the Dons needed.
“This team is really locked into getting better,” Walters said. “With this trip, it's given us a little bit of an advantage.”
Despite losing his top four scorers, Walters is very optimistic about the season. The Dons are bigger and they're more athletic.
More importantly, the chemistry is better this season – everyone is buying into a team concept.
“Last year, we had a lot of expectations, but our guys also had a lot of individual expectations,” Walters said. “I didn't do a very good job of managing that. Some guys were thinking about the future, some guys were thinking about being all-league. We were not as together. It was highly competitive group, but they were competing against each other.”
Walters is welcoming six freshmen into the program, one junior college transfer and two Division-I transfers. Moreover, Mark Tollefson redshirted last season. When it comes down to it, only four scholarship players are back – and Walters thinks there's a chance San Francisco can be better.
“I don't know, but I know this: when teams have finally bought into what we ask them to do, we've had a lot more success,” he said. “It's difficult when you're fighting it; we've always had resistance. We don't have a lot of that. But can we replace the intangibles? We'll find out.”
What Walters learned: “I really like our team. We've got a good group. We have good size. We're still young. We're bigger at every position, but we don't have experience. We have talent; we have ability. We have a lot of guys that people don't know about.”
Who stood out: “Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson were good, but we expected that. Tim Derksen, one of our freshmen, was really impressive. He scored 20 points in a game twice. “
Biggest concern: “We've not been great at guarding the ball. We also don't have a true post presence. Perris [Blackwell] gave us a big post presence. That would be a concern. For me, it really is inexperience. We need to get used to the wars. We're beating up on each other right now; we're not going to know the guys across from us.”
- San Francisco is still waiting to hear from the NCAA regarding the status of Penn State transfer Matt Glover. The Dons filed for a hardship waiver that would allow Glover to play immediately. “If we got Jumbo, we would have a chance to pretty darn good,” Walters said. “He's got a great demeanor on the floor. He's all about winning.”
- The top two returning scorers from last season are Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson, and Walters is counting on them for more than just points. He said they need to get used to the defensive attention they will start receiving, but they also need to be leaders. “We want our voice to be coming from Cody Doolin and Cole Dickerson,” Walters said. “It gives me a sense of relief.
- Walters was excited about Frank Rogers, a junior college transfer. He's a 6-foot-8 power forward who should contribute. “He was probably the best of our post players,” Walters said.
- UCLA transfer De'End Parker could be an immediate starter for Walters. He was able to play minutes as the backup point guard, and was a major factor before getting sick prior to the final game.
- Joe Edmonds, a 6-foot-5 freshman from Oklahoma, was solid for San Francisco. He will help with perimeter shooting and a little of everything on the wing.