Mountain West preview: Colorado State learning to play together
This is the 11th and final article previewing teams in the Mountain West Conference. Today the Appeal looks at Colorado State.
Stories in this series:
Larry Eustachy, Colorado State men’s basketball coach, knows basketball and he has a pretty good handle on his team.
The Rams, who finished second to Nevada in both the regular season and conference tournament last year en route to compiling a 24-12 record, seemed unfazed by the fact that the media picked CSU to finish fifth back in October.
Colorado State did lose Gian Clavell (20.4 a game) and Emmanuel Omogbo (13.6, 10.4), and those are big losses, so it’s easy to see the reasoning behind the middle-of-the-pack prediction.
Eustachy, who is one of 66 coaches, 20 active, all time with more than 500 wins (515-321), does know that filling the shoes of Clavell and Omogbo won’t be easy.
Clavell single-handedly carried the Rams in the conference tournament. In fact, even though Nevada’s Jordan Caroline was named the MVP of the tourney, Clavell may have been the most outstanding player. Omogbo was a force inside as his numbers prove.
The Rams do return Prentiss Nixon (15.0, 3.1 last year), Che Bob (12.8, 8.8), Deion James (10.2, 3.8), J.D. Paige (9.6, 2.1) and 6-11 Nico Carvacho (10.4, 6.6). There is some firepower there.
“We’re very young,” Eustachy said. “We’re trying to learn how to play the game with so many new faces. We’re not immature, we’re just young.
“We don’t handle adversity very well. It is to be expected because we’re a very young group.”
The Rams were 2-3 at press time, and Eustachy said that the team needed to be more receptive to coaching after one of the setbacks.
Eustachy will be counting heavily on JC transfers Raquan Mitchell from South Plains-Texas and Deion James, a 6-8 forward from Pima JC. Mitchell is averaging 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds a contest, and James is at 10.2 points per contest.
Arkansas transfer Lorenzo Jenkins is averaging 6.3 a game thus far, while Robbie Berwick, a Florida State transfer, is at 3.8.
The veteran coach talked about chemistry as being a key. He said with so many new faces, meshing would be an issue early on.
“Some of my best teams didn’t like each other off the court, but played very well together on the court,” Eustacy said. “It helps when you hang out together off the court; have each other’s back.
“You have to have a belief system in what we do. We want our players to grow as people and grow as players. Players know what to expect when they come here.”
Taking care of the ball will be key, according to Eustachy. Through five games, CSU is turning the ball over 15 times a game, a number the coach would like to see lowered.
“There is a right way to play, and it’s tough to beat a team that takes care of the ball,” Eustachy said. “We have led (the league) in scoring before.”
The Rams have struggled a bit defensively, allowing nearly 80 points a game while scoring just 70 a contest.
“We have worked hard on defense,” Paige said. “It (defense) has been a big part of what coach has emphasized.”