Junkies Journal: SJS Versus Portland State

Next up for the Spartans: Portland State Vikings (I am not sure Leif Erikson made it to the west coast?) —This is another solid team, virtually intact from a 19-win season a year ago. Plus, they might be a little ticked off, too—coming off a one-point loss on the road against Eastern Washington.

Spartan trivia: Who was the only SJSU Spartan to score 40 in a game?

Answer at the end…

Can't help but wonder when Adrian Oliver, the 4-star PG from University of Washington, decided to transfer to SJSU that coach George Nessman's first thoughts were "…that ought to shut them up."

Despite building the Spartans from scratch and doing so the right way: recruiting primarily high school players (as opposed to JUCO players) and working towards their strengths (for example, biting the bullet and red shirting players to get them stronger)—coach has gotten a lot of heat from some Spartan fans.

In fact, some have allegedly written AD Tom Bowen demanding his removal.

Now, let's be honest Spartan-fan; the San Jose State men's basketball team has produced some fine players, but they were never a powerhouse.

This is a team that came stumbling out of the gate to begin with: losing to San Jose High in their very first recorded game in 1909 (they rebounded to beat Pacific Grove High to finish the season).

They have not had a winning season since 1993/94 (15-12) and have not won at least 20 since 1980/81 (21-9). Before that season, the Spartans had not won at least 20 games since 1949/50. So why the high expectations?

The fact of the matter is Coach Nessman is building the team the right way:

• He had to make the talent-base younger. He has done that… going into next season, for the time in over 10 years, the Spartans return all five starters from the season before.

• He needed skilled power players. SJSU has never had this many tall players who can play a little then they have right now. In fact, they get their tallest and most skilled big man (Clint Amberry) next season as a red-shirt freshman.

• He had to teach these guys how to win—removing the culture of losing is never easy.

• Finally, he had to land a nationally ranked player to be his goto guy. Adrian Oliver is the highest rated recruit to come to SJSU since Olivier Saint Jean. Pairing him with Justin Graham gives the Spartans the best backcourt in the WAC going into next season.

For the rest of this season, coach Nessman's team will win some battles, but might still struggle on the court. They will surprise some teams and might disappoint on occasion.

And I am sure fans will grumble and send letters, but the truth of the matter is he really has done the program right. I am sure AD Bowen knows that… Maybe the critics are not silenced, but at least they are marginalized.

Next up for the Spartans: Portland State Vikings (I am not sure Leif Erikson made it to the west coast?)—this is another solid team, virtually intact from a 19-win season a year ago.

Plus, they might be a little ticked off, too—coming off a one-point loss on the road against Eastern Washington. They also have not lost at home all season…

They are better next season—like the Spartans, they have signed a 4-star transfer from Washington by the name of Phil Nelson (Washington lost three players from that vaunted 2006 recruiting class, including Sacto King's Spenser Hawes). Here are the players:

C Scott Morrison (SR, 6-11, 250, 10 pts, 5.3 rebounds): Spartans have seen this show before with the Bronco's John Bryant—Morrison is not as heavy, but just as big and effective. Good hands and wants the ball—sets a mean screen and is good at rolling to the basket. Four years at PSU, three years as a starter. Keeps the ball alive…

PF Tyrell Mara (SO, 6-6, 235, 6.6 pts, 3.8 rebounds): this under-sized power player is built like a linebacker, but a lot quicker than he appears. He will work the paint, but likes to shoot from the outside, including the 3 (I think he would be more effective if he moved inside)— he can either kill you with the 3 or start the fast break—going the other way.

SF Deonte Huff (SR, 6-4, 195, 12.1 pts, 5.3 rebounds): this senior wing is a very seasoned and dangerous player. He provides a lot of leadership and timely scoring. A smart ball player—he can shoot well, has a nose for the ball, and is an above-averaged ball handler. Shooting percentage is down from a year ago, but his free-throw shooting has improved where he almost automatic (not the guy to foul at the end of a game).

PG Jeremiah Dominguez (SO, 5-6, 150, 11.3 pts, 3.3 asts): water bug point guard can flat out motor. Shoot first player, who might be their best gunner from beyond the arc. You got to pay attention to this guy: we works well without the ball and can shoot the lights out. A difference maker…transferred from Portland U—reminds me of Brody Angley of SCU, but quicker...

G Dupree Lucas (JR, 6-1, 170, 7.2 pts, 2.3 asts): second-year starter can really play both guard spots—he will have the ball in his hands a lot, with the better shooter Dominguez working off screens and trying to get an open shot. Solid leader, who played his first year of college ball at Xavier College before transferring to PSU.

Coach on the floor…

Off the bench:

G Andre Murray (JR, 6-2, 200): comes in at either guard spot, and a guy who really plays starter minutes. One of the Vikings off the bench who can really hurt you with the 3. JC transfer from LA, where he was recruited by most of the "other" LA schools (Irvine, LBSU, Riverside, UCSB…)

PG Mickey Polis (JR 5-8, 165): the Vikings don't miss a beat with their second string PG, Polis is another water bug point guard who, like Dominguez, comes in firing. Maybe even a better shooter… Polis had 16 points against Washington, going 5 for 5 from beyond the arc. If you hear his name called—it won't be long until he is shooting the ball.

F Julius Thomas (F, 6-5, 220): this true freshman will probably be the first power player off the bench. A hustle-guy, who will get a lot of points on put backs and open 10 footers. Originally from Tokay HS in Lodi, CA…

PG Justynn Hammond (5-8, 165): another small PG (man, they come in waves) working his way into the lineup. Like Chris Oakes, did not become eligible until after the fall semester. Maybe a better PG than Dominguez or Polis, but not the shooter.

F Alex Teifenthaler (FR, 6-9, 220): like Dominguez, transferred from Portland U –and like Hammond, had to sit out until end of the fall semester. Vikings are counting on this guy to come in and provide serious minutes at either power position. Working his way into shape, but ought to get a lot of minutes against the Spartans.

F Kyle Coston (FR, 6-8, 210): this true freshman has been the team's first big man off the bench for the Vikings all season. Has got some valuable minutes so far this season—can shoot a little and is not afraid to pull up from beyond the arc.

JR Moore (SR, 6-8 255): came home to Portland after playing three years at Rhode Island—a lunch pail-type player: works hard, not going to venture outside the lane, sets a good pick and rebounds. Exceptional outlet passer…

G Brian Curtis: (SR 5-10, 165): has so many good PGs ahead of him, so he really has not seen many minutes so far this season—is said to be a good shooter.

Trivia question answer: Wally Rank had 40 points against Sac State in 1980.

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