UW opens season against McNeese State

It's finally that time of year again. The autumn leaves are beginning to disappear and the lights at Bank of America Arena will be shining bright Saturday, as the No. 18 Washington Huskies look to prove their ranking against relatively unknown McNeese State of the Southland Conference. The game is at 1 p.m. PST at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

Although the Cowboys were one of the worst teams in the country last year with a 10-20 record, three of those wins coming against non-Division I opponents, the Huskies will still have to be wary of an early season letdown against a team that will come in with nothing to lose.

Located in Lake Charles, La., McNeese State has ten players returning this season, including four of their starting five.

Patrick Richard, a 6-foot-4 junior small forward from Carebcro, La., led the Cowboys in scoring last season with 12.8 points per game on 47 percent shooting from the field. He also averaged 5.2 rebounds and a steal, to boot. Expect him to be one of the best players in the Southland Conference this season and achieve all-conference honors for a second year in a row.

Helping Richard in the scoring department is Diego Kapelan, who averaged 12.6 points on just 37 percent shooting from the field. Although the 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard from Vancouver, B.C. wasn't an efficient scorer in terms of percentage from the field, he did shoot 87 percent from the charity stripe and 40 percent from beyond the arc, making him one of the most potent three-point shooters in the conference.

Down in the post, P.J. Alawoya, a 6-foot-7, 215 pound senior power forward from Houston, Texas, will keep the UW bigs busy. Last season he averaged eight points on 52 percent shooting from the field and added 7.4 rebounds per game.

Rounding out the starting lineup should be C.J. Collins, a 5-foot-10 senior point guard from Lake Charles, La., and Stephan Martin, a 6-foot-0 senior guard from Lacassine, La. Collins is a returning starter, while Martin primarily served as a six-man last season.

Dave Simmons (fifth year) and his staff of David Dumars (Joe Dumars' brother), Patrick Haynes and Steve Welch are served with the task of replacing four departed players with three transfers and one redshirt freshman. Two of those transfers are ineligible to play this season - William Brown from New Mexico and Rudy Turner from UL-Monroe.

The other transfer is Mari Konate, a 6-foot-8 forward originally from Javille, France. Konate is transferring in from USC Salkehatchie junior college in South Carolina. The soon-to-be 23-year old junior, averaged 4.2 points and 4.4 rebounds last season while playing in the JC ranks.

The other newcomer that is eligible to play Saturday is Adrian Fields, a 6-foot-5 highly-touted redshirt freshman forward from Opelousas, La. Even though this will be just his first game, expect him to see some time on the court as he has been praised for his versatility. As a senior in high school, he averaged 18 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists and two steals per game before succumbing to an injury that ended his promising season.

McNeese State, who has one famous basketball alumnus in Joe Dumars, lost just one player to graduation this past year, Elbryan Neal. However, two others - Will Morning and Jamarcus Little - transferred and one, Atakan Yurttas, left the program on his own.

Out of the players no longer with the team, Morning will be the biggest loss. The 6-foot-7, 281 pound junior power forward was a load in the post, averaging six points on 55 percent shooting from the floor.

Following this game, the Huskies will begin to prepare for the Eastern Washington Eagles encounter on Tuesday. That game will be played at Hec Ed with a 7 p.m. PST start time.

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