2008-09: Wings Preview

Cal State Fullerton head coach Bob Burton has 21 years of college coaching experience but there has never been a time during his career where he has only two returning players -- one starter and one reserve. The Titans' are coming off their first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 30 years but with so many new faces what are the expectations for the 2008-09 season? Here's a quick look at the wings...

In direct contrast to the point guard position, and barring the unmentionable, there is no doubt who will be starting and logging the most minutes at the "two". Senior sensation Josh Akognon has looked lights out in practice and appears to have really worked hard in the offseason. Numerous publications are raving about him and many believe he is a legitimate NBA draft pick.

Akognon is coming into the 2008-09 season as one of the best three point shooters in the college game and already owns school records for most three-pointers in a season (116, smashing Don Leary's record by 27) as well as the best free-throw percentage (90%). Akognon's challenge will be to make the other players around him better as well as improve on his defense. If he can do that then he will leave no doubt on where he wll be playing next year.

At the other wing position ("three") you have Chris Rhymes, Aaron Thompson and Marcio Lassiter ("C-O") battling for the starting spot.

Rhymes is a highly touted recruit from Cowley CC who tore a knee ligament but should be cleared for contact drills in early November. Right now he is just running and shooting baskets but he has a nice-looking stroke from the outside (shot 61% from the floor and 38% on 3PT at Cowley) and the coaches are very anxious to see what he can do once he gets near 100%.

Rhymes is listed at 190 pounds on the official website but he has to be closer to 220. He has broad shoulders and has a very strong upper body. Seeing that he was the leading scorer on a near-championship Juco team, there's a very good chance he uses his strength to his advantage. And if former Titan great Yaphett King, who coached him at Cowley (as well as one year at Redlands CC), believes in him than that alone should put him in the starting lineup.

If Rhymes is not ready to start it could mean that Lassiter will get the nod at this position. Marcio does what the coaches love and that's play smart, hard-nosed pressure defense and also has the ability to hit the long range jumper off the run. He also does what the fans love: Hustle, hit the three and make free throws (didn't miss one in 18 attempts last season). From the early practice sessions, Marico looks to be much improved and actually a step quicker than last season. His defense and senior leadership alone will get him plenty of minutes at, potentially, all three guard positions.

Thompson is another player who could see plenty of playing time. He is a little behind at the moment as he adjusts to the higher level of play and getting to know where he needs to be on the floor. Once he irons out the mental aspects of the game, and lets the game come to him, he will excel. While not a great outside threat he does have a knack for the offensive boards and slashing to the hoops. He can also dunk with authority and hit the occasional three. Think of him as a poor-mans Cedric Ceballos.

Walk-on freshman wing Kwasi Mensah ("Q") is a tough competitor who plays hard and and is very coachable. While he likely won't be seeing playing time this year you have to admire a kid who pursues his dreams and you can just never rule him out in the future. One can easily see him improving enough to earn a scholarship some day.

TitanCentral.com Take: Last season the Titans had one of the best wing combos in the Big West in Akognon and Frank Robinson (Okay, they were the best). This season could prove to be no different with an improved Akognon and a healthy Chris Rhymes (That's right, when healthy, Rhymes is a high-major type of player). Add in a senior defensive stopper in Lassiter and an effective Aaron Thompson off the bench and these two positions are the strength of the team. Like the point guard position, however, it may take some growing pains -- and a few TitanCentral.com forum posters to write the season off early -- before it comes together.