Nov. 5, 2004
Fullerton, Calif - In his second year as men's basketball coach at Cal State Fullerton, Bob Burton is simultaneously preparing for his second and third "seasons." We're not talking about him looking ahead to 2005-06 and an influx of promising redshirts and new recruits. We're talking the end of Fall final exams (Dec. 18) when his player rotation will be dramatically altered by the eligibility of former All-Big West Conference performer Ralphy Holmes (6-4, Sr., Philadelphia, PA) and Western Kentucky transfer Jamaal Brown (6-7, Jr., Spartanburg, SC).
"It's really exciting going into a season with mostly our own players, kids who have been through our program for a year. That's huge," said Burton. "We will have a really different style. We will emphasize defense and pushing the ball and this should be one of the best running teams they've had here in quite awhile. But it's difficult preparing for a two-part season - one without those guys and a second part with them. They will make a major impact and it will be interesting to see how we mesh those parts."
Holmes and Brown should miss only five games and then have two contests to get themselves and their adjusting teammates ready for Big West play, which begins on Dec. 28.
"We are very optimistic about this team. There will be a really different `team' feel to it," said Burton. "And last year we really had only two proven scorers in Pape Sow and Bobby Brown (6-1, Soph., Los Angeles). This year we have many more offensive weapons - Bobby is a proven scorer, (Virginia transfer) Jermaine Harper (6-3, Jr., Gardena, CA) proved himself in the Atlantic Coast Conference, Ralphy may be the best player in the league and Yaphett King (6-4, Sr., St. Petersburg, FL) showed he could score at times. What we need to find is a way to score inside and Jamaal will give us a great lift in the front court. He can post up, he has a nice outside shooting touch and he can penetrate. He's a good player."
"Our scoring and athleticism on the perimeter will make us fun to watch. We're excited now and we think we will really get excited in December."
Head Coach Bob Burton
The big hole lies in the middle where the 6-foot-11 Sow averaged 17.3 points and 9.7 rebounds on his way to a contract with the Toronto Raptors.
"We hope the combination of Lloyd Walls (6-9, Sr., Anaheim, CA) and Derek Quinet (6-9, So., San Jose, CA) can approach the numbers Pape posted," said Burton. "They both are great defenders. They will set screens and we will find ways to get them involved in the offense. Quinet can shoot it and Walls rebounds well.
"And Hardy should benefit from us changing to more of a running team. He won't be as restricted with his lanes. He's an inspiration to all of us - he's one of the most competitive kids I've been around."
Joining the four lettermen are five players who were in the program last season. Harper and Wright State transfer Walls practiced all season after transferring a year ago and Irvine Valley College transfer Danny Lambert (6-4, Jr., Irvine, CA) practiced some of the time around a knee injury which may still affect him this season. Jamaal Brown and El Camino College transfer John Clemmons (6-0, Jr., Los Angeles, CA) arrived at the semester break in December.
"That gives us good experience now, too," said Burton.
Competition for playing time will be intense with several newcomers given a chance at considerable minutes. Clemmons will challenge Bobby Brown at point guard and probably play some in tandem with him since Brown's 3-point shooting ability pays off equally well from the off-guard slot. Ohlone transfer Vershan Cottrell (6-2, Jr., Renton, WA) is another perimeter shooter.
"I recruited John Clemmons when I was an assistant at Fresno State," said Burton. "He's a true point guard who has shown good leadership. He had some grade problems and fell off the radar and we were thrilled to pick him up last year. He's really good."
Cypress College transfer Justin Burns (6-6, Soph., Birmingham, AL) will be a factor at either the small or power forward slots. Lambert carries a deadly outside shot if the knee problem which sidelined him last year can be alleviated. The team's inspirational leader is Fresno City College transfer Drew Awad (6-3, Jr., Fresno, CA) who is a leukemia survivor. There's also a pair of eager freshmen in Mike Harrington (6-7, Rich Central HS) from Chicago and Damien Massey (5-11, Long Beach, CA) from Long Beach Jordan High School, who are anxious to get an opportunity.
The 2004-05 Titans also will get the benefits of formidable practice competition. Coach Burton has three redshirts in his program who could make an impact the following season. Off guard Frank Robinson from East Carolina and Adam Tancredi from Quinnipiac are four-year transfers and big Curtis Battles (6-10, 350+ pounds) is from West Hills Community College.
"Our scoring and athleticism on the perimeter will make us fun to watch," concluded Burton. "We're excited now and we think we will really get excited in December."