Mark Patton: UCSB Basketball Limbers Up for Another Title Race | Sports

The alley-oop lob missed its mark and bounced up to a section of coiled stands.

It’s the heatwave days at the UC Santa Barbara Thunderdome, where short, hour-long workouts are as likely to produce an “oops” as any effective slam-dunk.

“They flip him like hot cakes,” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack scolded at the end of the session. “The thing is, I don’t have time to stop and make them run. Come September 30, when we have more time, these guys are going to run for every turn they make.

“They’re going to say ‘Wow! Did this just happen to me? ‘ They will take it out of their system.

The Gauchos will start running when training sessions lengthen with Thursday’s first official training. The expectations are as high as the jumps of stupendous jumpers like Amadou Sow 6ft 9in, Robinson Idehen 6-10 senior, Miles Norris 6-10 junior and Josh Pierre-Louis 6-4 junior.

“They will be a very good team,” said former UCSB coach Jerry Pimm, watching Gaucho’s training. “It will be one of his best teams, I think, if everyone stays healthy.

“He has good youngsters and a few veterans… six good outside players and four good inside players. He has 10 guys who can really play.

They’re a flawed 10 for now, but it’s the same story around this time every year.

“We are just starting the process of building a team,” Pasternack explained. “Each team is new. Each team has a long journey to climb the mountain. We’re down there now, taking small steps, because it’s still so early.

“I tell them we’re only five fingers right now… Those five fingers must become a clenched fist.”

The Gauchos are expected to have a powerful punch. Three of last year’s top four scorers – Sow (13.5 points per game), 6-3 goalkeeper Ajare Sanni (10.9) and Norris (9.7) – return from a team that went 22- 5 and won their first Big West Conference championship in a decade.

Joe pasternack
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Coach Joe Pasternack has raised the bar for the UCSB men’s basketball program with the recruitment of top players and program donors. (Photo by Mark Patton / Noozhawk)

Two other veterans, 6-8 Jay Nagle and 6-5 Sékou Touré, are preparing for their senior seasons. Although Toure has been out with injury for much of the summer, no one has made better use of the offseason than sniper Nagle. Pasternack considers him to be one of his most improved players.

“Jay is a fourth year guy, and everyone matures and develops at different times,” he said. “He knows how we do things. He’s a smart player. I think Jay will help us this year for sure.

The UCSB grabbed the nation’s attention in March when they defeated No.5 seed Creighton in the first round of the NCAA tournament. The buzz from last season still echoes inside the Thunderdome.

The Gauchos have previously been named the Big West favorites by college basketball preview magazines such as Lindy’s Sports and Athlon Sports.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi agrees, screening them as the No.13 seed for the 2022 NCAA tournament. CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm ranks them even higher as No.12.

College Hoops Today’s Jon Rothstein, who spent part of his recent honeymoon watching gauchos train, was so enamored that he ranked them among his “10 Midmajors to Watch.”

“UC Santa Barbara will be missed by handyman JaQuori McLaughlin, but Joe Pasternack has added a talented Georgia Southern transfer replacement Calvin Wishart,” he wrote. “Six-foot-four freshman Ajay Mitchell and Cincinnati transfer Zach Harvey – a former top 50 rookie – will also push for minutes in the backcourt.

“The strength of this team is its playground, as the triumvirate of Sow, Norris and Idehen is of power conference caliber.”

Jakov Kukic, a promising second-year student from Croatia 6-10, adds depth and keeps the future looking bright for this frontline.

Pasternack’s aspiration from day one in 2017 was to build UCSB in the image of Gonzaga, a West Coast conference program that walked with conference power through to the NCAA Finals of Last year.

Her donors have put their money where her dreams are, raising money for soon-to-be-completed armchair seats on both sides of the Thunderdome. End-of-court seats should be added within a year or two.

Another novelty is a training ground at the top of one of the mezzanine levels. Previous upgrades included a giant video card worthy of an NBA arena, a new sound system, and renovated locker rooms.

“We have got great support from outside sources who are giving us the funds to do these things,” said athletic director John McCutcheon. “One thing led to another.

“When our external donors see projects come to fruition when they embark on them, it gives them the assurance that their money will not be used for something that will not happen.”

Paul Orfalea is the new recruit in the quest for the Gauchos. The marketing genius who started Kinko’s at UCSB is running a contest to see which student can sell the most season tickets.

“He’s a marketing and sales brain, and I spent a lot of time choosing his brain,” Pasternack said. “He has so many great ideas.

“The gold zone is already exhausted. It’s incredible. Banknotes fly off the shelves. There is a lot of hype. I think people can’t wait to come back and see a game live. “

He will provide them with plenty of opportunities, having scheduled 18 home games starting with San Francisco State on November 10. .

The UCSB will make these trips with two new drivers at the wheel.

“He’s a big part of it all this year,” Pimm said, gesturing to Wishart as his rebound pass found Sow for a layup. “He’s very smart, he has ambidextrous hoop skills, he can shoot standing from the outside, he handles the ball well … and he’s a good boy.”

“And this new kid, the No. 13 (Mitchell), will also be a very good player. He has intelligence and instinct and a decent height (6-4½) for a leader. It shoots well too. As soon as he learns everything and learns the moves, he will be a very good player for them.

Cole Anderson, a 6-4 freshman at Clovis West High School near Fresno, is another big part of UCSB’s future. His 464 career three-pointers rank third in state history, and his 2,730 points place him second in the ICF Center Section record books.

“He can really shoot and he’s pretty athletic,” Pimm said. “He still makes mistakes, but he will learn. He really wants it. He really has a passion for playing.

“Those kind of guys, you can’t hold them back.”

Pasternack doesn’t like to promote new players, but he’s happy with what he’s seen from his freshmen. Mitchell, he said, is “ripe beyond his years.”

“The professional teams (in Europe) wanted him to play for them instead of coming here,” he said.

The pros have claimed both Pasternack playmakers from last year. McLaughlin, who recently signed a two-pronged contract with the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks, and Devearl Ramsey both ranked among the top 25 players in the country in assists-to-turnover ratio last season. The Gauchos were 10th in the team.

There is plenty to clean up before they return.

“You can’t replace JaQuori McLaughlin, or his playing experience,” Pasternack said. “He started here for three years. Deearl started for three years. You don’t insert someone and get that experience of knowing our system.

“But we have seven perimeter players, and it will be a very competitive environment, fighting for every minute of playing time.”

And that’s what he loved the most about the long, hot summer of the short, hot workouts.

“We’ll have to do things differently because there’s no JaQuori McLaughlin right now,” he said, “but I think we have enough talent to be as good as we want anymore. late in the year.

“The cream always rises to the top.”

And he will start beating them at full speed next Thursday.

– Noozhawk sports columnist Mark Patton is a longtime local sports writer. Contact him at . (JavaScript must be enabled to display this email address). Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook. The opinions expressed are his own.

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