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 2018-19, 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.
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“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:
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.
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 improve 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.
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 Mission Prep standout averaged 23 points for the Royals in his senior season but did not play against Menlo.