Spartans have huge holes to fill in backcourt

San Jose State administrators think they have a coach in George Nessman who can build a promising future despite not having overwhelming success. In his sixth season last year, Nessman's Spartans finished second-to-last in the WAC with a 5-11 record, but they managed their first winning season overall (17-16) since 1994.

Nessman, whose team played in the College Basketball Invitational last year, was awarded with a three-year contract extension for the winning season.

If he wants to record another one he must adequately replace his backcourt -- four-year point guard Justin Graham and shooting guard Adrian Oliver, who led the WAC in scoring last year with 24 points a game.

At least Nessman can plug in a couple of players with Division I experience in the backcourt. James Kinney (Ohio) and LaVanne Pennington (Southern Miss) are eligible after playing in the junior college ranks last year.

Kinney comes in from Eastern Utah College, where he averaged 13.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists. Pennington averaged 16.9 points for Barstow (Calif.) College. During San Jose State's Rome tour this summer he averaged 14.7 points and made 51.6 percent of his three-pointers.

Nessman also has the remainder of his starting lineup back, including sophomore wing player Keith Shamburger (12.4 points a game), senior forward Wil Carter (9.8 points and 8 rebounds), and senior center Matt Ballard (5.3 rebounds).

Shamburger is a player to watch. He was one of the top freshmen in the WAC, starting in all 33 games. He started more games in a season than any previous San Jose State freshman and more games than any WAC freshman in 2011.

He posted the highest scoring average by a San Jose State freshman since freshman eligibility was reinstated in 1972.


--San Jose State was the only team in the Bay area to stage a Midnight Madness when practice started Oct. 15. The arena was not filled to capacity but George Nessman liked the idea to build unity.
--The Spartans completed a brief tour of Italy in August by going 2-1 against top under-20 teams from that country. Wil Carter led the team averaging 16.3 points and Keith Shamburger contributed 16.0 per game. "The road is a challenge anytime," Nessman said. "Here we faced a different set of rules, a distinctly different style of ball, professional opponents, cultural challenges and not to be overlooked, some gym temperature issues. We embraced them all and gained from it."
--C Matt Ballard was asked to join the program last season after being discovered in intramural play. He is in his second year as a team representative to the Student-Athlete Advisory Council.

LAST YEAR: 17-16 overall, 5-11 in the WAC

HEAD COACH: George Nessman, seventh year as head coach (68-119 at San Jose State; 68-119 career)

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We are enthusiastic about our short and long term prospects to continue our upward arc and growth. We remain totally dedicated to building this program, achieving resounding success and making the San Jose State community proud of Spartan basketball." -- Coach George Nessman, when he received a three-year contract extension in July.


PROBABLE STARTING LINEUP: PG James Kinney, G Lavanne Pennington, F Keith Shamburger, F Wil Carter, C Matt Ballard.

LINEUP BREAKDOWN: The biggest concern for George Nessman must be replacing the scoring that guard Adrian Oliver produced last year. That will require Shamburger and Pennington to take their fair share of field-goal attempts. Another development to watch is how Kinney and other point guards play under control and distribute the ball.

SCOUTING THE NEWCOMERS: Pennington and Kinney enter with experience at the Division I and junior college levels. Freshman guard D.J. Brown, who redshirted last year, is a player to watch. He set career records at Los Angeles Chino High School for scoring (1,336 points), assists (480) and steals (185).


--G Jeremy Pope is a junior-college transfer who can provide a boost to San Jose State's three-point shooting. He was a two-year player at Cerritos College who averaged 12.7 points, 2.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists as a sophomore. He led his team in three-point shooting making 41.7 percent (70-of-168) of his attempts. He also had back-to-back 30-plus point games.
--F Wil Carter is one of two players to start in all 33 games last year (Keith Shamburger is the other). He averaged 11.4 points and 9.5 rebounds a game and converted 51.9 percent of his field goal tries for the last 14 games. He posted 13 games in double-figure rebounding. He was the leading rebounder in the WAC Tournament with 27 in three games. The Spartans were 9-4 when he collected 10 or more rebounds.
--G Calvin Douglas was the team's fourth-leading scorer in its brief Italian tour in April, averaging 10.1 points a game. He is San Jose State's top returning three-point shooter, converting 40.6 percent (39 of 96) from beyond the arc.

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