The Mountain West Conference held its annual men’s basketball media days on Tuesday and Wednesday and released its preseason media poll as well. The San Jose State Spartans were picked to finish in 11th place in the conference, following a 2-28 (0-18 MWC) season with an 11th-place finish.
Speaking with ESPN, San Jose State head coach Dave Wojcik said that he is determined to build a winning culture.
“We’re trying to build a culture there, and it takes time to build that culture,” Wojcik told ESPN’s Ari Wolfe. “You have to get the right character kids.”
The team returns just two starters and five letterwinners from last season. Two of the three departing starters transferred, including last season’s leading scorer, Rashad Muhammad. The other, Jaleel Williams, was a senior. New to the team are five freshmen out of high school and one junior college transfer. Senior guard Princeton Onwas (6’6”, 215), who transferred from Utah in 2014, becomes eligible for competition after redshirting last season per NCAA transfer rules.
Wojcik emphasized the need to bring in recruits of good character after a disciplinary crisis the previous season. In December 2014, Wojcik suspended five players, including Muhammad and Williams, for violations of team rules. The following month, he reinstated those two players and dismiss two others. Another player transferred. Senior forward Frank Rogers, one of the two dismissed players, has been reinstated to the team this month.
Onwas said that the team is motivated to improve, now that the team is eligible for the postseason. The NCAA placed sanctions on San Jose State for the 2014-15 season due to an unsatisfactory Academic Progress Rate. They included limited practice time and a postseason ban.
“This year, we just have a huge chip on our shoulder, and now we have the opportunity to play in the postseason,” Onwas told the Mountain West Network’s Jesse Kurtz in an interview
Junior guard Gary Williams, Jr. (6’5”, 215), who transferred from Indian Hills Community College, also added that this year’s team has improved athletically.
The Spartans' season tips off on Nov. 7 versus Pacific Union.
“The team is way different from last year’s team,” said Williams. “We’re a lot more athletic and we’re longer, especially with me playing point guard and Princeton at the two.”
In his interview with ESPN, Wojcik said that Onwas and Williams will contribute important skill sets for the upcoming season.
“Very powerful, very strong, very good defender and finisher,” Wojcik commented about Onwas. He also added about Williams: “He just brings size, he can score, and I just like that ability because we can interchange those guys a lot. We can post them up; we can play them in the perimeter.”
Revealing how he decided to become a Spartan, Williams said that he could relate with Wojcik in multiple ways.
“All my life I feel like I’ve been one of the underdogs...I got connected with Coach Wojcik, and I felt like he was similar to me,” said Williams. “He’s a high energy guy, I’m a high energy player, and I feel like we have similar characteristics.”