Season Preview: Front Court

Most reputable publications believe Cal State Fullerton is on the verge of greatness this season but can you really trust these rags? Probably not, so that is why four fans have all you need to know about how well the Titans will do in the 2005-06 season.

Front Court

Curtis Battles

Jamaal Brown

Justin Burns

Jerrel Lake

Chris Minardo

Manny Montano

Gary Nunez

Adam Trancredi

Previews: Throwback | DXDA Star | Rufus | TitanCentral

Throwback (Whit Haydon)

Jamaal Brown is the best post player Fullerton has had since 1993. A clutch performer, Jamaal brings rebounding ability and a sweet touch around the basket. Jamaal normally needs to get going and then it's all over, and when it rains it pours. Prone to frustration at times when he is not getting it going early, it is important that another big man steps up when he is in foul trouble. There will be a huge void when he is out of the lineup and esentially there are prospects and suspects there to pick up the pieces when necessary. As JB goes, so will the Titans.

The leading candidate for a breakout year is Justin Burns. JB2 has shown flashes of brilliance so far but is hopefully ready to show consistency. The main thing JB2 can do to help matters is put the ball in the basket when he has the opportunity and to rebound the basketball. Pretty simple idea - although easier said than done when it has not been done consistently to date. JB2 has the ability to be a fan favorite. My guy feeling is that JB2 has a nice year.

Frankly, I do not know enough about the other big men as of now. I'm be inclined to be negative but I'm going to hold off for now. Hopefully one emerges. Yes, just one would be great.

Grade: B. Lot of unanswered questions, but JB is so solid it would not be right to make it worse.

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DXDA Star (Adam Rank)

I always seem to run into Jamaal Brown everywhere. The Nordstrom Rack or the American League Championship Series, it does not matter, Brown always seems to be there.

That is the way most Big West post players must feel about him. Every time you turn around, there is Brown either draining the game-winning free throws at UC Irvine or coming up with a tip-in against Cal State Northridge.

Even when two geriatric boosters try to rush the floor after a big win over Utah State, Brown was there to catch them in his arms, too.

It is amazing that somebody who will play only a season and a half for Fullerton will be one of my favorite players of all-time. The popular wisdom among some of the Titans unfaithful indicated that Division I transfers could not help the program. Or that a transfer player is nothing but a malcontent looking for a new place to play. Brown has shattered that myth entirely. Brown has not only been a solid citizen off the court, he has given the Titans an inside presence they have sorely missed since the early 1990s.  It also could be argued that Brown is the most valuable player on the Titans seeing that the team is very thin at the position.

We asked Brown if he was going to get any help down low and he humbly said, “It’s not like that.” Brown is very confident that his teammates will be there to pick him up when he is down. The leading candidate is Justin Burns who showed flashes of greatness at times for the Titans. Burns has the athleticisms. He reminds me of one of those guys UNLV would bring off the bench in the 1980s. The only question remains whether his basketball skills can catch up to him. Burns could be all-league by the time his career is done.

Two other players that figure to get minutes are Gary Nunez and Curtis Battles. Nunez is a JC transfer, which typically means that you cannot expect much from him. If he can catch rebounds that fall into his hands and spell Brown for brief stretches that will be good enough. Any scoring production from Nunez will be seen as a gift, but he could be called upon to score if Brown gets into foul trouble. Battles is one of our favorite kids because he has worked so hard to drop weight. Unlike other projects who came in and excelled in the pool instead of the basketball court, Battles has really put in a tremendous effort. The hope here is that Battles can make a contribution when called upon, but hopefully his number will not be called too often.

If the Titans ever need to rely on Chris Minardo, Jerrel Lake, Manny Montano, or Adam Trancredi for any significant contributions this year, the season will be deader than Steve Bisheff’s hair piece.


Brown: A
Burns: C (but with A potential)
Nunez and Battles: Incomplete
The rest: Make sure you have a nice suit for the bracket buster game.

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Rufus (Mike Welton)

Could be a position of strength for the Titans; however, some people must step up for us to have the needed depth at this position.

Jamal Brown: JB should increase his numbers this year, as he will be more of an offensive choice this year. He will probably be the #2 choice on offense behind LB. He will be counted on to increase both his scoring and rebounding numbers, and some of the team’s success will depend on how he handles the added responsibilities. He will also be asked to add senior leadership. If he can run the floor for 35 minutes a game, he could put up some good numbers this year and improve on his honorable mention all BW status.

Justin Burns: JBII will play both the wing and the post positions, but I think he is a post player because he lacks the shooting ability to be effective at the wing. JBII needs to continue to develop his basketball knowledge, improve his footwork, and become more of an offensive threat. His strengths are his jumping ability and his shot blocking. We will need MORE of everything from JBII

Gary Nunez: Nunez could provide some minutes in the post. He is a back to the back player, with limited range on his jump shot. He has a big body, and hopefully can rebound at the Dl level; doesn’t have hops – but can he use his girth to get position and block out for rebounds? He appeared to be a tad slow in the blue/white scrimmage. Can he run with the greyhounds in the Titans fast paced offense? He was highly successful at Ventura JC, how fast he learns what he can, and can’t, do at the D1 level will determine his success and the number of minutes that he gets. Can Nunez and JB play at the same time and NOT slow the offense down? We need some “YES” answers for the Titans to be successful.

Curtis Battles: Curtis is a BIG man. He is a walk on, but I think he can help us in rebounding and covering space in the paint. He can’t play extended minutes – but can help us in certain situations. I look for Curtis to surprise some people this year.

Adam Trancredi: Adam appears to be too soft and too slow to play much for the Titans. Appears to like to stay outside and shoot jumpers, much like Josh Fischer. I don’t look for Adam to get many minutes. His numbers at his previous school don’t project into him being much of a factor.

Manny Montano: Manny looked to be fairly quick and athletic in the blue/white scrimmage. Skinny body, but was not afraid to mix it up inside; could be the sleeper of the post crew.

Chris Minardo and Jarrel Lake are most likely to be red shirted as they need time to develop.

Grade: B+

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TitanCentral (Paul Causey)

It's could be very easy to forget all the contributions Jamaal Brown brought to the team last year but the fact remains he was the only true front court player we had after Hardy Asprilla went down with his injury. The good news is the prognosticators didn't forget. Many publications project him as a first team All-Big West member. The media put him on the Big West's Preseason All-Conference team.

So the word is out. Jamaal is now one of the top two post players in the Big West -- along with Pacific's Christian Maraker -- and, like last year, is going to be counted on to lead the way with his inside presence. Not too shabby for a guy who started out slow, and then came on with a vengeance. He finished the season with eight double-doubles (ummm, burgers), three of them coming in the NIT games.

This season his soft hands and great moves under the basket will only help to keep defenses even more honest. The fact that he is now being given a green light to shoot the three only spells trouble for fellow Big West defenders. Jamaal matches up much better in the Big West at the four spot and, though he did extremely well last year, I wonder if he can be as effective at the five if Justin Burns emerges as the fifth starter.

Currently Burns and newcomer Gary Nunez are fighting for the last starting spot. If Nunez is to start the tempo won't be nearly as fast, at least in the early going, as heis still getting adjusting to the new style of offense.

Nunez gives us better rebounding -- especially on the offensive end -- and he positions himself well under the basket. Nunez is one of those players who has a knack for being in the right spot on the offensive side. I expect Nunez to struggle during the early going while he gets in better shape and "learns the system" but should be much improved by the time the conference games are in full stride.

If Burns doesn't start he is an excellent first option coming off the bench as he provides immediate energy with his athleticism and crowd-pleasing personality. Burns' improvement in the program is similar to the improvement made by Yaphett King and, given that he is only a junior this year, he should make even bigger strides by the time his career is over. Based on the practices, he has worked extremely hard in the off-season to improve his game. Once he learns to settle those feet (30 turnovers in 388 minutes last season) and position himself on defense for rebounds, Burns will be a highlight video star in next year's DVD. (Think block shots and lots of dunks)

There are a few others who are fighting for their roles on this team. It is pretty much a sure thing Chris Minardo is going to redshirt. It's a shame most people didn't get a chance to see the real deal at the scrimmage but he is another player who is going to make a big impact for the Titans next year. I have have seen what Chris can bring and I know Titan fans will love him next year.

Two other possible redshirt's are junior Manny Montano and freshman Jerrel Lake. I'm not sure who to redshirt here. I think Lake could fill in at the three when we want to go big and he has such a huge upside from an athletic standpoint he could really help us down the line. Montano is a junior college transfer who obviously needs to put on some weight and learn to hold his ground on defense but he's a good option and could help us sooner rather than later. Montano has also been making significant improvement during the practices.

Two others who have already used up their redshirt year are Curtis Battles and Adam Trancredi. Trancredi was supposed to come in and battle for a starting spot but he is struggling right now. Adam wants to play outside but his body and his lack of a good-looking stroke says he should play inside. If he learns to play defense and learns to rebound -- big ifs -- he will see playing time.

Curtis Battles is the one who intrigues me the most. He has lost so much weight, 380 lbs down to a listed 305 pounds (I think it's even less), and has significantly improved his conditioning, he is starting to get some looks from the coaches. In the "lines" drill he used to be at least 10 seconds or more behind the others, now it's down to a second or two.

Okay, so we know he's committed and dedicated to the program, the question now is, will he play? Probably wll get a chance somewhere early on due to foul trouble but also depends on how much he improves and what the opponents bring to the table. When we play zone, he could be a good option as he takes up a lot of space in the middle. I can see him getting 5 minutes a game early on and after that is up to him.

Grade B: We need a very healthy Jamaal Brown and some others need to step up in a big way.

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