Notes out of the Big West Conference:
UC Santa Barbara
"Bob Williams minces no words as he surveys a team that lost six seniors. The 19th-year UC Santa Barbara head coach knows someone needs to assume a leadership role brought about by the departures, including last year’s Big West scoring champion Michael Bryson.
Fortunately, Williams has a couple of candidates to fill the void.
Step right up Gabe Vincent and Eric Childress.
“It’s their team,” Williams said. “There’s no mistake about it...”
...In particular, Vincent provided a true No. 2 scoring threat as his 14.1 points per game average ranked No. 9 in the Big West. He made 80 three-pointers, the second-highest total in school history, and his work on the defensive end (team-high tying 41 steals) solidifies him as one of the conference’s top two-way players.
“Gabe’s ready for it,” Williams said in regards to Vincent’s ability to provide leadership. “He’s been a prime guy for us since the first day he stepped on the court. He is so good at so many different facets of the game...”
...Scoring certainly will need come from other areas for the Gauchos to have a legitimate shot at contending for the Big West title. They have 6-8 Jalen Canty, the 2016 California junior college player of the year, as a welcome addition to the frontline..."
"UC Davis benefitted from a summer foreign tour to Costa Rica that allowed the team to build togetherness and fortify its culture. Through 10 training camp practices to prepare for the tour, and the three games they played in Costa Rica, head coach Jim Les came away feeling pretty good about two of his seniors in Darius Graham and J.T. Adenrele.
Graham, who averaged 33.3 minutes played per game last year, tops among all Big West returners, got a distinctive opportunity in the Central American country. He ran some of the timeouts during the games, taking on the role of Coach Les.
It made sense. After all, this is the fifth year Graham has competed under Les. Graham is like an extension of the coach because he knows exactly what Les wants on the floor.
“He’s my quarterback,” Les said. “He and I think alike. He also everyday provides an example of what a UC Davis student-athlete should look like, from an academic standpoint; from an ambassador standpoint in the community and then from a coaching standpoint what we want on the floor.”
Graham’s leadership will be needed on a team that struggled last year, following a 2014-15 campaign that resulted in a Big West regular season championship and NIT berth.
But assistance will need to come in other forms too. J.T. Adenrele is a sixth-year senior who has missed two full seasons at UC Davis due to injury. He also benefitted from the Costa Rica trip, given a chance to shake off some of the rust and get reacquainted with game-like situations. Adenrele is a tireless rebounder and able shot blocker who gives the Aggies a much needed presence down low that helps balance out the losses of Josh Fox and Neal Monson – two of the league’s top rebounders last year.
“His last game he had 20 and 11 in Costa Rica,” said Les. “That momentum has carried on with his aggressive, dominant play. He’s a guy, for us to compete for a Big West championship; he has to be a prominent part of our basketball team night in and night out...”