Basketball Team Begins Practice

The Cal State Fullerton men's basketball team opened up practice this past Friday -- a new rule from the NCAA allowed schools to begin practice at 7:00 PM local time -- with 16 players participating.

Only Jermaine Harper and Jamaal Brown are not at full speed. Harper is out another 2-3 weeks from a cyst removal behind his left knee while Jamaal Brown was dressed but could only do some light drills.

While the Titans lost plenty of fire-power in Ralphy Holmes, Yaphett King and Hardy Asprilla from last years team, the 2005-06 squad should have plenty of talent on the floor if this first practice was any indication.

One overall observation about this practice was the Titans will be a little more organized than last year but they will be pushing the ball more. Not sure if that makes sense but it's a true statement. More structure does not mean less movement in this case.

Here's a quick rundown of the players, organized based on TitanCentral.com's projected depth chart.

Bobby Brown: The Titans offense will begin and end with the point guard out of Westchester High. He has a refined jump-shot and seems to be looking to pass a bit more this year. This won't prevent him from taking the big shot or dazzling fans with his quickness. While I was trying to focus on some of the newcomers LB still stood out in a big way. There is no question -- or at least there shouldn't be -- that LB (stands for "Little Bobby") is the star of this team.

Jermaine Harper: Did not practice. Out another 2-3 weeks.

Frank Robinson: Robinson is going to be a great player for us, no doubt about it, just may need to go through some growing pains. Robinson has shed some weight this year. Could be as much as 25 pounds but I never thought he needed to lose it in the first place so I hope this is a good thing. Robinson has many things working in his favor: One he is left-handed and that will give him an advantage; two he can jump through the rough; three, he plays good defense. He still needs to work on his outside shot and he also needs to be able to finish when he takes it to the basket. He is the one player I can't wait to see in a real game situation.

Jamaal Brown: While Jamaal didn't participate in most drills he does look to be having a very fast rehab from arthroscopic surgery less than 2 weeks ago. Rumors are Jamaal will be cleared for practice on Thursday. For whatever reason Jamaal just looks a lot more confident, comfortable and at-ease with the program this year. There is also a possibility he may regain another year of eligibility, and that would be huge. With the NCAA making the decision, the probability is low, but apparently a precedent has been set in another similar case. Nothing to get too excited about, just stating the remote possibility.

Gary Nunez: Based on this practice Nunez is going to have a big impact on the Titans this year. He simply knows how to play the game of basketball. In addition to good post moves, Nunez has good hands, is strong and knows how to position himself for rebounds. He also surprised me on how well he runs the floor in Bob Burton's fast-past offense.

John Clemmons: It was great to finally see Clemmons play again. If I hadn't known better I would never have guessed he was coming off a long layoff. He is known for his passing and he didn't disappoint. Not sure about the looks or accuracy of his shot but he won't be putting it up too often so no worries there. He is a great backup to LB. Depth-wise, we really need JC to be healthy otherwise we have a big hole at the point guard position.

Damien Massey: A freshman walk-on redshirt who plays hard. He has a tough task in guarding the likes of Bobby Brown, John Clemmons or Ray Reed but he certainly doesn't look overwhelmed. He can handle the ball well and plays aggressive defense.

Vershan Cottrell: Another player who has not been playing much due to injury. Offensively he looked a little off but he was a maniac on defense. This kid can play, no doubt about it. If Harper's still not a 100% on November 20th it will be interesting to see who takes over the starting role for opening day.

Jerard Moret: What a great player the Titans have picked up. He does not play or look like a freshman. Moret is not a flashy type of player but he won't make those typical freshman mistakes. He has a good stroke, makes good passes, knows how to play defense and is just a solid all-around player. I think Moret and Cottrell will be battling for minutes as the first wing off the bench. Coaches are going to have a tough decision but I give the nod to Moret at this point.

Chris Minardo: I had been looking forward to seeing Minardo in action more than any other player. Just recently cleared to practice, Minardo was very impressive. Despite the fact he has not played since the injury to his wrist last February, the coaches are going to have a hard time redshirting him. A 6-10 wing who has a great looking stroke, passes the ball well, can jump out of the gym, what's not to like? At 190 pounds he needs to add some beef but this kid has tremendous upside. Since we appear to have all kinds of depth at the wings it probably is wise to give him a year but it's going to be tough watching him in street clothes all season.

Mike Danielian: I have to admit, I was kind of skeptical about Danielian. I mean, how does a two-time All-City player from Los Angeles who is the "best pure shooter in Southern California" (according to his high-school coach) not get a scholarship offer? Guess what, after seeing him play, I still can't figure this one out. Danielian is quick enough, he can shoot the ball and he can play defense. I can only guess the fact he is 6-2 had something to do with it, but I'll take him in a heartbeat.

Justin Burns: Burns has come a long way since last year. He still needs to get the kinks out on his footwork but he brings good emotion to the floor. The fact he won't be starting -- provided there are no injuries -- proves that Burton has taken this program to a whole new level. If he keeps working hard, Burns has the potential to take the coveted Yaphett King Most Improved Player Award for 2005-06.

Jerrel Lake: Another example of how far the program has come when I have to put him third on the depth chart and he is a redshirt candidate. Like Minardo, he has huge upside. Lake is not timid nor intimidated by his upper-classroom brethren. Something about those Westchester kids who always seem to play hard. Lake will need to improve his inside moves but he runs the floor very well, which is now a mandatory requirement at Cal State Fullerton.

Adam Tancredi: Tancredi, a junior this year after redshirting last year, is the likely candidate to back up Nunez at the center position. Looks a tad slimmer this year but still has good size. Some may want to write him off as they did Derek Quinet last year but I think it would be wise to let him play a few games before making such abrasive comments. Tancredi can play. He is not a typical walk-on player (none of our walk-on's are for that matter). Nor is he your typical post player. He likes to shoot it from outside but he doesn't seem to mind being physical on defense inside. All we need from Adam is some rebounding and solid defense but I think he will be able to add even more, especially on the offensive side. He fits in well to Burton's system: A big who can run the floor well.

Manny Montano: Like Minardo, another 6-10 skinny kid. Montano, though, is a pure post player. With our depth at the post this year (JB, Nunez, Burns, Lake, Tancredi, Battles), he is the first one I would redshirt. I like his skills and he certainly can block shots but he needs to learn how to use his body better and be more aggressive inside on rebounds. Adding some muscle will only help him keep his position against stronger players.

Curtis Battles: Already one of my favorites. Anyone who is that dedicated to losing that much weight is an inspiration. Sure he still finishes last in the "lines" conditioning drill but the gap is closing. As much running as the Titans will do this season Battles knows he still has a ways to go. He is a definite wild card and I look forward to seeing how he progresses during the course of the year. Right now though, he's already pretty good. He has good hands and easily dunks when he gets the ball inside. He does look awkward at times, especially his outside shot, but you can't teach size and he certainly has that. Only Battles can stop Battles as far as his potential.

Rayshawn Reed and Scott Cutley: Both are redshirt's this year after transferring from Georgetown and Kent State, respectively. Watching them play is addicting. These guys love to have fun playing the game and neither are afraid to tell you that. They are future Big West first team all-smack players and the good news is they can back it up. Cutley was absolutely unconscious during this practice. He can hit the three or post up. He is what you would get if you somehow cloned both Yaphett King and Hardy Asprilla into one person. Reed is lightning quick and plays in-your-face defense. He will only help this year's team become better. With these two on board for the next two years, Cal State Fullerton basketball will not be in rebuilding mode at worst until the 2008-09 season.