Season Preview, Part II: Wings

With the loss of five seniors and the addition of 12 newcomers, predicting the 2004-05 men's basketball season is no easy task. Never fear, as three fans and a publisher give you a wide range of views for the upcoming season.

Wings

Ralphy Holmes

Jermaine Harper

Yaphett King

Danny Lambert

Andrew Awad

Vershan Cottrell

Previews: Whit Haydon | Mike Welton | Kirk San Roman | Paul Causey

Whit Haydon

Ralphy Holmes is back, and that is bad news for opposing coaches in the Big West Conference. Ralphy is the most electrifying player to come through Fullerton since Cedric Ceballos and Henry Turner in the late eighties - both NBA alumni. Ralphy Holmes is a pure scorer among many other talents, not the least of which is an on-court persona that lights up an arena.

Ralphy is a player who has already earned demigod status among Titan followers, and my concern is how he can live up to everybody's high expectations that he has created for himself through his outstanding and clutch play two years ago. He has made some incredible plays in his Fullerton career and I always make it a point to look at the opposing coach after he does something spectacular - disbelief.

In a perfect world Ralphy Holmes has no rust, is not a step slower and does not jump an inch lower, and picks right up where he left off two years ago. I'm not sure this is fair to anybody. If for some reason we have not seen the best of him I won't know what to expect, but I do expect him to do what he does best which is to put the ball in the basket. Putting the ball in the basket is what separates Ralphy from other outstanding athletes that can't score - the basketball world is full of guys that can't score and that's a club Ralphy does not have a picture ID.

Yaphett King is a baller plain and simple. He can do a little bit of everything. Score, rebound, eat up loose balls, hustle - you name it. Plays with an incredible amount of desire and heart. He is extremely tough to guard one on one, as he is physically stronger than anybody his size. He brings man-strength to the floor and is very secure with the basketball. Not prone to turning the ball over and can hit the three. We have seen a lot of good from Yaphett but I feel there is more to come.

Jermaine Harper is an explosive athlete with tremendous open court speed and good quickness. He was a part-time starter in the ACC at UVA. If Fullerton runs the ball as they say they are going to do every year then he has a chance to do very well. Harper has demonstrated a very inconsistent three-point stroke. Summer league games saw him struggling in a half court set with shaky ball security. Harper has the ability to be a very good player in the conference but Fullerton's style of play will either play into his favor or it will not. The best case scenario is that Harper penetrates from the wing and makes driving layups or kicks the ball out to an open three-point shooter. The worst case scenario is that Harper's athleticism is offset by his desire to test his stroke from distance and does not deliver. Virginia fans have expressed to me that he plays very good defense and plays very hard. Jermaine's success will be a key to Fullerton this year.

Vershan Cottrell and Andrew Awad provide depth but will struggle to see meaningful minutes among this talent-laden backcourt.

Outlook: As Fullerton's shooting guards go, so go the Titans. It's that simple. Either they are knockdown artists or Fullerton gets knocked down to the second tier of the BW.

Grade: A-. Ability to knock down the three the key.

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Mike Welton

When Ralphy Holmes becomes eligible on Dec. 21st, this category is the strength of this team. Ralphy was a first team all BW a year ago, and averaged over 17 points per game on a shoulder that was no better than 75% healed. Ralphy is a definite POY candidate, and could lead the team in rebounds.

His back ups include LB, Harper, King, Burns, and Cottrell. Yaphett King and LB both can hit the open jump shot - but how many open looks will they get this year without the benefit of the double teams on Pape Sow.

Jermaine Harper is a transfer from an ACC school (Virgina), but posted less than spectacular numbers while his playing time diminished in his sophomore year.

Vershan Cottrell is a walkon jc transfer, who looked good in last weekends scrimmage, but probably won't see much playing time.

Justin Burns is also a jc transfer who will have to earn his playing time by playing hard on defense, as his shot is highly suspect. .

Grade:  Based on age (both Ralphy and King are almost senior citizens;)), and athletic ability, I would give our wing category a very solid B+.

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Kirk San Roman

It's good to have Ralphy "Sensational" Holmes back in blue and orange! I don't think I have ever rooted harder for a young man in my life. Hopefully this school year will provide him with the opportunity to make choices that will have a positive impact on the next eighty years of his life.

To put it simply, Ralphy is the most exciting and talented basketball player to wear a Titan uniform since Cedric Ceballos. This is not meant as any sort of jab at Pape Sow, but Ralphy can single-handedly control the outcome of a game, and seems to revel in the pressure.

While not a pure shooter, Ralphy is a scorer. Many players are capable of making a spectacular move. Ralphy makes the same move, AND puts the ball in the basket! He could start at the 2 or 3 spot. Most likely the 3.

With Pape Sow's 9.7 rebounds per game headed to the NBA, Ralphy is capable of getting 6+ on any given night. This will be a tremendous help, as our 5 spot is obviously still an untested commodity.

Jermaine Harper will likely start at the shooting guard position. Having Bobby, Ralphy, and Jermaine on the court at the same time has me counting the days until the San Diego State game. Not to sound like a broken record, but we haven't had this much talent on the floor in a long, long time.

To be truly effective, Jermaine will need to knock down the outside jump shot, allowing Ralphy to freelance near the basket.

From game 1 to game 28, our most improved player last season was Yaphett King. Yaphett combines excellent low-post skills with a deadly jump shot. A lethal combination for Titan opponents!

Yaphett's versatility will garner him significant minutes as one of our 8 or so regulars. He is capable of playing the 2, 3, and 4 positions.

Danny Lambert is capable of scoring Fedi-like points from behind the 3-Point arc, but injuries have sidelined him for the second consecutive year. When he recovers from surgery, will there be a spot available for him in the rotation?

Vershon Cottrell and Drew Awad are walk-on's who are not expected to see many significant minutes.

Grade: B+

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Paul Causey

"Who's the leader of the pact that's made for you and me? R-A-L-P…"

Whenever I think of Ralphy Holmes playing in a Titan uniform again, I become oh-so-very-happy. Almost giddy. Some might call it corny. But that's just the way it is. On the court, Ralphy Holmes is my all-time favorite player since Leon Wood and when he plays homes games at Titan Gym are the Happiest Place on Earth™.

Off the court, well, I am not going to pretend I know what it's like to run in Ralphy's shoes but come June 2005 he has a chance to do something not even the great Leon Wood could accomplish: Graduate the same year he finishes his basketball career.

"Sensational" Holmes is one of a kind. He earned his nickname on the streets of Philadelphia. Some will love him (Titan fans) and some will hate him (all other Big West foes) but this guy absolutely loves to play the game and it shows.

What's in store for 2004-05? How about 20-6-3, as in points, rebounds and assists? That's my prediction.

Everyone knows this guy can play, the only real question is how far can he take a team that has so many new players, a team that is assured of struggling in the early going (Ralphy becomes eligible sometime after game number five) while at the same time trying to learn new offensive and defensive schemes. As Coach Burtons states "I have to be careful because I don't want to take anything away that he does great and bog him down with thinking too much."

Another prediction: Ralphy will do just fine, thank-you.

Redshirt transfer Jermaine Harper appears to be the best defensive player on the team and he also possesses one of the deadliest shots. I have seen him in practices where he simply can not miss but I have also seem him where he can't find his shot (Titan Hoop Club Scrimmage & BBQ). The good news is defense should never take a day off so if he is not hitting he needs to recognize this and get the ball in the hands of our numerous scoring threats on this year's team such as LB, Ralphy, Jamaal Brown and Yaphett King.

King was signed very late last year and was easily the most improved over the course of the season. Since then he has lost weight, looks stronger, improved his outside shot and is just as physical when he posts up. All indications point to him taking on more of a leadership role this season.

Danny Lambert was slotted in to give us some much-need depth until Ralphy and J. Brown returned but an injury has prevented him from practicing this season and it appears he will be out at least another two or three weeks. Thats a shame because he is one of the best outside shooters on the team.

If we could get our post men to play like Vershan Cottrell and Andrew Awad practice, we would not be having any question marks in the front court. Both are walk-ons and both could have an opportunity to play, especially during the early going. They are fierce competitors who, at the very least, should motivate the more talented players on the team to play just a little harder.

Grade: A-; Ralphy and Yaphett are proven players and Jermaine has the talent to dominate in this conference.

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