The Titans return three starters, six lettermen and three Division I transfers who will be eligible this season after redshirting in 2010-11. Senior guard Perry Webster, senior forward Orane Chin and senior forward Andre Hardy return from a team that went 11-20 overall and 7-9 in the Big West Conference last season. The transfers—senior forward Omondi Amoke, junior guard Kwame Vaughn and junior guard D.J. Seeley—will vie for starting roles.
"We will have real competitive practices, and how our chemistry develops will be the big key to the season," Burton said. "This is the most competitive squad that I've had here at every position."
Burton has a wealth of talent, experience and depth in the backcourt with Webster, Seeley, Vaughn and sophomore guard Isiah Umipig. Webster, Vaughn and Umipig all are capable of playing point guard.
"Seeley was a Top-50 prospect out of high school who got caught up in a coaching change at Cal," Burton said. "We'll see how he gets his ‘sea legs' back after a year away from the game. Kwame can push the ball and really play defense. In Perry, Vaughn and Isiah Umipig, we now have three guys who can play the point. Perry is a true point guard and a proven leader, and is all about winning. He really shines in the team aspect. The other two guys can play the ‘1' or the ‘2,' and that creates some intriguing possibilities."
Burton likes his mix of big men, too. Chin and Hardy are proven players who combined to average 22.8 points and 14.1 rebounds last season. Chin has made impressive strides since coming to Cal State Fullerton and could be poised for a big senior season after averaging 12.2 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists last season. The same could be said for Hardy, who returned from ankle surgery to average 10.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in 19 games last season.
The frontline could be bolstered further by the addition of junior John Underwood, a 6-foot-9, 230-pound center who is seeking a hardship waiver which would allow him to play right away after transferring from Missouri.
"We will have good size, especially if John Underwood wins a hardship appeal and is eligible to play this season," Burton said. "We've had good success with Division I transfers."
• Cal State Fullerton was penalized with the loss of two scholarships when the NCAA released its annual APR (academic progress rate) report in May. The Titans had a 909 APR score for the 2006-10 academic years, well below the 949 national multiyear average for Division I men's basketball teams. Two other Big West Conference teams were also penalized. UC Riverside also lost two scholarship and received a notice of historic penalty after posting an 895 score. Cal State Northridge, which posted an 871 score, lost two scholarships, received a reduction in practice time and was slapped with a postseason ban that will prevent the Matadors from participating in the Big West tournament. As a result, the other eight teams in the Big West will qualify for the conference tournament regardless of where they finish in the standings.
• The academic penalties came amid far better news that Cal State Fullerton players compiled an aggregate 3.19 grade-point average in the spring semester, the highest marks in the history of the program. Senior Omondi Amoke, junior Kwame Vaughn and 2011 graduate JerVaughn Johnson all made the Dean's List with GPAs over 3.5. Nine other players posted 3.0 GPAs to make the honor roll. Guards Devon Peltier and Eric Williams joined Johnson in commencement ceremonies, giving the Titans 17 graduates in the past four years.
• Coaches and teammates are eager to see what senior F Andre Hardy can do on two good legs. Hardy was sidelined due to ankle surgery at the start of the 2010-11 season but still won the Big West Newcomer of the Year award after averaging 10.6 points and 8.5 rebounds in 19 games.
"It's amazing what he did last year on one good ankle," Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton said. "You should have seen the stuff—the chips and fragments—they removed."
Last Year: 11-20 overall, 7-9 in the Big West
Head Coach: Bob Burton, ninth season as head coach (134-112 at Cal State Fullerton; 134-112 career)
Quote To Note: "Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara again are the teams to beat in the Big West, but I like our chances in the rest of the mix. This may not be the best the league has been since I've been here, but I think it's the most balanced."—Cal State Fullerton coach Bob Burton, assessing his team's chances in the Big West Conference.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
Probable Starting Lineup: PG Kwame Vaughn, SG D.J. Seeley, SF Orane Chin, PF Andre Hardy, C Omondi Amoke.
Lineup Breakdown: The Titans return three starters, but it remains to be seen how many of them will start again this season. Senior Perry Webster proved to be a capable point guard while averaging 7.8 points, 5.2 assists and 3.3 rebounds last season, but he'll have competition. USF transfer Kwame Vaughn averaged 12.6 points for the Dons in 2009-10 before transferring to Cal State Fullerton, and coach Bob Burton raves about Isiah Umipig's shooting. Cal transfers D.J. Seeley and Omondi Amoke both have an opportunity to start, Seeley at shooting guard and Amoke at power forward or center. Senior F Andre Hardy was named Big West Conference Newcomer of the Year last season and will likely start alongside Amoke, but the competition for those two starting spots will intensity if Missouri transfer John Underwood is deemed eligible by the NCAA.
Scouting The Newcomers: Amoke, Seeley and Vaughn will likely make the biggest impact among newcomers in Burton's rotation. As Division I transfers who redshirted last season, all three have the added advantage of having practiced with the Titans for more than a year. Vaughn is a scorer who averaged 10.8 points as a freshman and 12.6 points as a sophomore at USF before transferring to Cal State Fullerton. Amoke averaged 4.8 points and 4.6 rebounds in 16.7 minutes per game as a sophomore as Cal in 2009-10. Seeley played sparingly in two seasons at Cal, but he was a prized recruit coming out of high school and could have a breakout season against Big West competition.
• C John Underwood left Missouri due to a family emergency following the 2010-11 season and is seeking a hardship waiver which would allow him to play for Cal State Fullerton this season. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound junior could provide a strong defensive presence when he becomes eligible. Assistant coach Julius Hicks said: "John will give us an extremely long shot-blocking presence. He will help us protect the basket in a way we haven't seen in some time."
• Junior G D.J. Seeley was a four-star recruit and the 15th-rated shooting guard in the country coming out of high school in 2008. Seeley didn't exhibit his exceptional scoring ability in two seasons at Cal, but he was one of top guards in the state of California in high school. Seeley averaged 25.4 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 3.3 assists as a junior at Tokay High School. He averaged 21.9 points and five assists as a senior at Modesto Christian High School.
• Junior G Cameron Glover has four siblings, including stepbrother Kawhi Leonard, a former San Diego State basketball standout who was selected by the San Antonio Spurs with the 15th pick in the 2001 NBA Draft.