Things are different now.
``The whole thing wasn't even put together at this time last year," program director Mike Mahoney said. "We had to rely on Babacar's kids from Africa and France – six guys 6-foot-9 or bigger."
The good news was the team had size. The bad was that they were short on guards – and American-born players.
Enter the 2006 edition, which features a handful of California natives, four from the rest of the country and four from overseas.
Mamadou Diarra, a skilled 7-footer from France, returns after averaging 11.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game a year ago. Ibrahima Thomas is a 7-foot forward from Senegal who has improved since arriving in the United States, is also back along with 7-foot-1 Frenchman Boubacar Sylla.
``This year we've been able to pick and choose our roster," Mahoney said. "So we have a lot more balance."
Johnson hails from Minnesota and will give the team a quick and relentless floor leader.
``We thought he was the best point guard we saw last year," Mahoney said. "He can finish in traffic and get by people."
Gillenwater is a Massachusetts native who spent last season at Fremont High (Calif.).
``He's still adjusting to the environment," Mahoney said. "But he's clearly got an old-school NBA game. He's got a big body and knows how to use it. He's automatic if you get him the ball on the block and that's something we didn't have last year."
It's likely that Diarra will start in the middle, Gillenwater at power forward, Johnson running the point and then the wing spots will be up for grabs between four players.
Mychel Thompson, the son of former NBA big man Mychal Thompson, is a 6-foot-7 forward who will also be in the mix along with French-born 6-foot-5 Moussa Camara.
Other players who will see action off the bench are John Wilson (6-3, 190), Spencer Anderson (6-3, 185), Marvin Adams (6-4, 200) and J.P. Olukemi (6-6, 210).
``The good thing – and bad thing – is that we'll go 12 or 13 deep this year," Mahoney said. "We can wear people down, but it'll be tough to get everyone enough minutes to keep everyone happy."