Though the Aztecs were bounced in the NCAA’s second round last season after a 26-8 year, Steve Fisher’s group is gaining the mentality that it’s no longer just enough to make the tournament.
WHO RETURNS: The good news for San Diego State is that they have the ingredients for a deep NCAA run. Fisher returns an experienced team including Mountain West Player of the Year Jamaal Franklin, and guards Xavier Thames and Chase Tapley. The trio accounted for more than 58 percent of SDSU’s offense last season, which, coincidentally, is the percentage of offense that Syracuse lost from its squad last year. Though Franklin led the team with 17.4 ppg and 7.9 rpg, he was a bit turnover happy, averaging 3.0 a game. But he’s vowed to cut down on the silly mistakes while looking more for his teammates. Meanwhile, the Orange will need to extend its 2-3 zone out to Tapley, who drained 77 3-pointers last year.
NEWCOMERS: Fisher also adds three Division I transfers, including rangy wing Dwayne Polee II (St. John’s), and forward JJ O’Brien from Utah. O’Brien, a 6’7″ power forward gives the Aztecs some desperately needed size (San Diego State’s tallest player, DeShawn Stephens, is just 6’8″). James Johnson, from Virginia, will help out in that department as well, but won’t be available until December. Meanwhile, freshman forward Winston Shepard has the chance to contribute right away.
REMEMBER ME?: One of Fisher’s assistant coaches is former SU player Tony Bland. Bland played two seasons on The Hill and started every game in his sophomore season, but transferred to San Diego State after his playing time dropped with guards Preston Shumpert, DeShaun Willliams, Allen Griffin and Jason Hart on the roster. Bland finished his college career with 1,368 points and would go on to play professionally in the USBL, the NBDL and in Europe.