Three starters re­turn for the Cal Poly men’s bas­ket­ball team

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY SCOTT MIDDLECAMP

Wins were hard to come by last sea­son for the Cal Poly men’s bas­ket­ball team, which com­piled a 9-22 record and fin­ished 4-12 in the Big West Con­fer­ence.

There could be rea­son to ex­pect an improve­ment in 201819, how­ever, with six play­ers re­turn­ing, in­clud­ing three starters — two of whom are se­niors. Guard Dono­van Fields, the Mus­tangs’ sec­ond lead­ing scorer from last sea­son at 13.3 points per game, should be the fo­cal point.

The Mus­tangs also have five true fresh­men and one trans­fer who will not sit out to add to the mix.

Things got off to a good start, too, with an 82-75 sea­son-open­ing vic­tory over Menlo Col­lege on Wed­nes­day night at Mott Ath­let­ics Cen­ter.

“The se­niors started di­al­ing in as we got closer to games,” said Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero, who has posted five straight los­ing sea­sons. “And when you look at the stat sheet (against Menlo), you can see what ma­tu­rity is, you can what it is to have that much ex­pe­ri­ence in the game.”

That ex­pe­ri­ence will be put to the test in a big way on the road 2 p.m. Sun­day against Pac-12 pow­er­house Ari­zona.

Here’s a look at what you can ex­pect this sea­son and the team’s ex­pected im­pact play­ers:

GUARDS

Cal Poly lost lead­ing scorer Vic­tor Joseph, who av­er­aged 14.4. points per game. Fields proved against Menlo Col­lege that he can shoul­der more of

the work­load this sea­son with a ca­reer-high 30 points.

How­ever, if the Mus­tangs are to have any suc­cess this sea­son, an­other player must help fill the scor­ing void. The player that most fits the bill is se­nior Mar­cel­lus Gar­rick, a trans­fer from Al­lan Han­cock. He had 16 points against Menlo and topped 20 points twice last sea­son.

Job Alexan­der, a trans­fer from Trinidad State, should also help pick up some of the scor­ing load. The ju­nior shot 57.6 per­cent from the floor and over 40 per­cent from 3-point range last sea­son.

Red­shirt fresh­man Jared Rice stayed with the team af­ter re­quest­ing a trans­fer ear­lier in the year.

FOR­WARDS

Mark Crowe, who started 15 of 31 games as a fresh­man last year and al­ready proved to be a ver­sa­tile de­fender could be poised to have a break­out sea­son. If he can im- prove his 3-point shoot­ing to be­come a two-way player, it’ll help spread the floor for Fields to at­tack.

Kuba Niziol does a lit­tle bit of ev­ery­thing for the Mus­tangs. The se­nior had 12 points, 12 re­bounds and eight as­sists against Menlo. Last sea­son, Niziol av­er­aged 7.2 points — mostly off the bench. Ex­pect that num­ber to tick up­ward, along with Gar­rick.

Ju­nior Hank Hollingsworth is a steady in­side pres­ence. The ju­nior av­er­aged 1.68 blocks per game last sea­son.

FRESH­MEN

The Mus­tangs should be ex­cited about Tuukka Jaakkola, a 6-foot-10 for­ward who had seven points and nine re­bounds against Menlo. Jaakkola has played for Fin­land’s U-20 Men’s Na­tional Team.

Also see­ing ac­tion against Menlo was fresh­man guard Ju­nior Bal­lard, who av­er­aged 16.4 points as a se­nior at Modesto Chris­tian School.

Cal Poly also has last sea­son’s Tri­bune County Player of the Year Kyle Colvin. The for­mer Mis- sion Prep stand­out av­er­aged 23 points for the Roy­als in his se­nior sea­son but did not play against Menlo.

PHO­TOS BY DAVID MIDDLECAMP dmid­dle­camp@thetri­bune­news.com

Cal Poly ju­nior Dono­van Fields was the sec­ond-lead­ing scorer for the Mus­tangs for the 2017-18 sea­son with 13 points per game.

Cal Poly head coach Joe Callero has led the Mus­tangs to five con­sec­u­tive los­ing sea­sons.

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