San Jose State should be improved | NevadaAppeal.com

San Jose State should be improved

Editor’s Note: This is the fourth in a series of articles previewing Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball teams. Today, the Appeal takes a look at San Jose State.

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

San Jose State coach George Nessman is striving to bring the Spartans’ basketball program back to respectability.

He knew it wasn’t going to be easy, and despite an 11-50 record his first two years, there has been progress. Thirteen of the Spartans’ 25 losses last year came by nine points or less, and four losses in the Western Athletic Conference were by three points or less.

“We’re a lot better,” Nessman said. “We need to get a lot better than we’ve been the last two years.

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“We had an opportunity to go to England. It was great for the team. The extra 10 days of practice was valuable.”

It may take winning a couple of the close games the Spartans lost last year to get the team over the proverbial hump. Teams that have success and tradition win those close games. Schools that are trying to build a program often lose those games.

The Spartans return 10 players – five active players and five redshirts – that were in the program last year. Gone are the top two scorers – Carlton Spencer (14.3) and Menelik Barbary (12.2).

Guard Jamon Hill (9.7) and forward Tim Pierce (8.3) are the top returning scorers. Also returning are DeVonte Thomas (4.4), Lance Holloway (3.1) and Darion Goines (3.5).

There isn’t a lot of offensive firepower in that group, but Nessman is hoping a trio of redshirts can supply some much-needed scoring.

Center Oliver Caballero from Alisal High in Salinas, Calif., averaged 17.2 points and 9.6 rebounds two years ago in high school. The 250-pound Caballero averaged 9.3 a contest in the Spartans’ recent tour to the United Kingdom. Chris Oakes, a 6-9 sophomore forward, transferred from Peperdine, and will start playing in late December. He played in 24 games over two seasons. Justin Graham, a 6-4 point guard from Ripon High, was a two-time MVP of his high school league. He averaged 12.3 a game during the Spartans’ tour.

“Justin has a chance to play a lot of minutes,” Nessman said. “He’ll likely be the starting point guard. He’s very talented. He’s a redshirt freshman, but he’s still a freshman.

“Chris can be an impact player. He can score around the basket and he’s played Division I basketball. We got the crap knocked out of us around the rim last year. The only way to challenge teams is to get bigger, stronger guys. Oliver (6-9, 260) gives us a lot more size and strength.”

Other newcomers to the program are freshman point guard Lance Olivier (5-3, 130), sophomore guard Mac Peterson (6-3, 195), who averaged 12.8 a game last year for Diablo Valley College and shot 47.2 percent from 3-point range. Junior guard DaShawn Wright averaged 17 a game at Marshalltown Community College, center C.J. Webster (6-9, 255) averaged 4.6 a game when he was at Texas State in 2005 and 6-10 freshman forward Clint Arberry (16 points, 8 rebounds at Los Alamitos) rounds out Nessman’s recent recruiting list.

Kevin Fleming, who redshirted last season after averaging 5.8 a game in 2005-06, will battle for playing time on the perimeter.

•Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281