2012-13 WWU men's basketball preview
Oct. 8, 2012
BELLINGHAM, Wash. - When sailing through uncharted waters, it helps to have an experienced crew.
Never before has the Western Washington University men's basketball team been in the position of defending a national championship, and not for more than a quarter of a century has it entered a season with a new head coach.
But eight letter winners, including three starters, return from last year's NCAA Division II National Champions, who posted a 31-5 overall record, and the new head coach is Tony Dominguez, who has been a WWU assistant the past 17 seasons.
"To have this opportunity is a dream come true," said the 40-year old Dominguez, who replaces Brad Jackson, now an assistant at Washington. "In some ways, it's a tough year to come in, because when you win a national championship, everything fell right. But it's rejuvenating to face the challenge."
One of the first things Dominguez did as head coach was to provide his team with two videos from last season - one from a semifinal loss to MSU-Billings in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament, the other a victory over Seattle Pacific in the NCAA II West Regional final of the NCAA II tourney.
"I wanted them to see the difference in execution and intensity, to see the things we didn't do in our losses that we did in our wins," Dominguez said. "What we want to take from the national championship last year is remembering what it took to get to that point."
It's in the backcourt that the Vikings have the most experience, as Allen is joined by another returning starter in junior Richard Woodworth (Bellevue/Newport) and a key reserve in senior Rico Wilkins (Dallas, TX/DeSoto).
"I think they're three of the best guards in Division II," Dominguez said. "They're all very determined, very seasoned, very confident, and they each bring different things."
Allen has been a second-team all-GNAC pick each of the last two seasons. He averaged 14.6 points a game a year ago, ranking 10th nationally in free throw percentage at 89.5 percent (94-of-105) and also hitting 41.1 percent (76-of-185) of his three-point attempts.
"John is shifty, he's as good with the ball as anybody in the country," said Dominguez. "He's also a very good decision maker, he knows what can work for the team."
Woodworth averaged 10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and a team-high 3.0 assists while also leading the Vikings in three-point percentage (45.2, 35-of-84).
"Rich is a good all-around player, there are no weaknesses in his game," Dominguez said.
Wilkins, the quickest Viking, was a major force off the bench last season, averaging 7.3 points.
"Rico has a knack for scoring in critical situations, and he's probably our best defender," said Dominguez.
In the front court, Mitchell is the lone returning starter, although senior forward Paul Jones (Kent/Kent-Meridian) was also a critical part of the rotation last season.
Mitchell averaged 6.8 points and 4.4 rebounds. He has an unusually soft touch for a 6-9 center, hitting 42.9 percent (39-of-91) on three-pointers, including a 4-of-5 performance in the national championship game.
Jones averaged 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds off the bench last season. He will join Allen and Woodworth as one of three team captains.
"On another team in another year, Paul would have started," Dominguez said. "He's as good a wing as you'll find. He'll step into the role Zach Henifin had last year of doing a lot of different things."
Two more players with extensive experience return on the perimeter. Senior Cameron Severson (Petersburg, AK) is a three-year letter winner who averaged 2.3 points last year, and junior Dane Thorpe (Bellingham/Sehome) also contributed 2.3 points.
Two transfers will add strength in the front court. Junior center Austin Bragg (Longview/Mark Morris) averaged 15.0 points and 10.2 rebounds for Clark CC last year, and also redshirted a year at Washington State. Sophomore forwardAnye Turner (Tumwater/Black Hills) contributed 15.3 points, 2.2 blocks and an NWAACC-best 11.9 rebounds at South Puget Sound CC last year.
"We expect a lot of rebounds from them, they were both in the top five in the NWAACC last year," said Dominguez. "Austin is very skilled, very good with the ball, and Anye runs the floor very well."
Another transfer is sophomore forward Aaron Dunn (Spokane/Mead), who lettered in football as a tight end at Washington State last year.
Completing the roster are four freshmen - forwards Jeffrey Parker (Richmond, CA/Silesian) and Joey Schreiber (Renton/Eastside Catholic), and guards Dana Abe (Seattle/O'Dea) and Jimmy Keum (Renton/Lindbergh).
The Vikings hit the ground running, playing exhibition games at Division I powers Washington and Duke before the regular season begins. Once it does begin, there are road trips to Hawaii and Las Vegas, as well as the always tough GNAC schedule.
"We snuck up on people last year, no one quite knew us and what to expect," said Dominguez. "This year, there's no sneaking up on anybody, everybody is talking about WWU. Our guys have to be ready to go, have to be mentally prepared right from the beginning."
Seattle Pacific Earns Nod Over Vikings In Coaches Poll
WWU's John Allen is the GNAC's preseason Player of the Year
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. - With four players on the coaches' pre-season all-conference team, its probably not a surprise Seattle Pacific is the favorite to win the 2012-13 Great Northwest Athletic Conference men's basketball title this winter. The Falcons, who won titles outright in 2005-06 and 2009-10 and shared the title in 2001-02 and 2006-07, received eight of the 10 first-place votes in the coaches' annual pre-season poll in outpointing defending national champion Western Washington 97-90. The Vikings earned the other two first-place votes.
Among the players back for the Falcons are guard David Downs and center Andy Poling, who both earned first team GNAC honors last season.
Downs (6-2, Jr., Kirkland, WA - Bellevue Christian) is the GNAC's top returning scorer from a year ago when he ranked eighth in the conference averaging 15.6 points per game, while Poling (6-11, Sr., Portland, OR - Westview), who finished ninth in scoring (15.4 ppg), is the leading returning rebounder, He ranked sixth last season with a 7.4 average.
Joining the Downs and Poling on the pre-season all-conference team are two teammates - forwards Jobi Wall and Patrick Simon. Simon is a transfer from Washington State.
Wall (6-6, Sr., Arvada, CO - Faith Christian) scored 11.1 points per game and also averaged 5.7 rebounds last season. Simon (6-8, Jr., Ephrata, WA) played in 26 games for the Cougars averaging 2.6 points and 1.1 rebounds.
Downs finished a narrow second to Western Washington guard John Allen in the pre-season GNAC Player of the Year balloting.
Allen (6-1, Sr., Brier, WA - Mountlake Terrace), who averaged 14.6 points per game and led the GNAC in free throw percentage (89.5) in leading the Vikings to a 31-5 record and a national title, was a second team all-conference selection last season.
Allen is one of three Viking players for first-year coach Tony Dominguez who were voted to the pre-season all-conference team.
Woodworth (6-3, Jr., Bellevue, WA - Newport) was an honorable mention all-league selection a year ago averaging 10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and three assists.
He also earned Elite Eight all-tournament honors averaging 11.7 points and 8.7 rebounds in the Vikings' three tournament victories.
Jones (6-4, Sr., Kent, WA - Kent-Meridian) was a key reserve for the Vikings coming off the bench to score 7.9 points and 4.4 rebounds.
Central Washington, which is picked to finish third this winter, and Alaska Anchorage, which finished fourth in the balloting, each placed two players on the pre-season all-conference team.
Among CWU's two selections is 6-6 junior guard Mark McLaughlin, who along with Simon is the only newcomer named to the team.
McLaughlin (Bothell, WA - Inglemoor), who finished fourth overall in the balloting, earned NWAACC Western Region MVP honors last winter for Tacoma Community College.
McLaughlin was the NWAACC's leading scorer averaging 27.5 points per game, including a season-high of 41 points. He also contributed 8.1 rebounds per game.
Also earning pre-season all-conference honors for the Wildcats is guard Jordan Coby (6-1, Sr., Tacoma, WA - Wilson), who averaged 11.1 points per game. He is CWU's only returner starter.
Guards Travis Thompson (6-1, Jr., Anchorage, AK - Dimond) and Kyle Fossman (6-0, Jr., Haines, AK) are Alaska Anchorage's representatives on the pre-season all-conference team.
Thompson averaged 11.8 points and led the GNAC in three-point percentage, connecting on 47.6 percent (70 of 147). He also ranked fifth in assists (3.9) and first in assist/turnover ratio (2.7) in earning second team GNAC all-star honors.
Fossman averaged 10.5 points per game and ranked second to Thompson in three-pointers connecting on 46.2 percent (67 of 145) of his attempts.
Rounding out the GNAC's pre-season all-conference team are Kolton Nelson of Western Oregon, Jonathon Hawkins of Northwest Nazarene, Stefan Tica of Alaska Fairbanks and Roger O'Neill of Saint Martin's.
Nelson (6-8, Sr., Klamath Falls, OR) is one of two returning starters for the Wolves, who finished sixth in the coaches' poll in back of Montana State Billings, which won the conference post-season tournament after finishing fifth in the regular-season, but doesn't return a starter.
Nelson averaged 10.6 points and 3.9 rebounds for the Wolves and also blocked seven shots. He also finished seventh in field goal percentage (54.3) just in back of teammate James Gehring (6-8, Sr., Castle Rock, WA - Lower Columbia) who made 56.7 percent of his shots and is WOU's other returning starter.
Hawkins (6-3, Sr., Phoenix, AZ - Greenway) averaged 10.7 points and 3.6 assists for the Crusaders in earning honorable mention all-star honors. He is one of two returning starters for NNU, along with guard Keith Moilanen (6-4, Sr., Brush Prairie, WA - Hockinson), who are picked to finish seventh this winter.
Tica (6-7, Jr., Belgrade, Serbia) averaged 14.5 points and made 67 of 174 three-pointers, while O'Neill (6-5, Sr., Edmonds, WA - Meadowdale) netted 13 points and 4.2 rebounds for the Saints. Their two squads finished in a tie for eighth in the coaches' poll.
Simon Fraser finished 10th in the balloting. The Clan, however, did add three transfers including two from Division I programs - forward David Gebru (6-9, Jr., Seattle, WA) from Western Illinois and forward Milos Milosevic (6-7, Sr., Montenegro) from Valparaiso.
Gebru played in 30 games at Western Illinois, averaging 2.2 points, while Milosevic played in 17 games at Valparaiso in the 2009-10 season, netting 1.1 points per game.
SFU also added guard Elijah Matthews (6-1, Jr., Washington, DC) from Pfeifer. Matthews averaged 9.3 points and 3.4 rebounds and connected on 52 of 135 points at the Division II school.
EIGHT D-I TRANSFERS ON GNAC ROSTERS
A total of eight new transfers with Division I experience will play this winter for GNAC teams.
In addition to Simon, Gebru and Milosevic, former Division I players new to the GNAC this winter include Tre Johnson (Montana State) at Central Washington, Jarrell Crayton (Boise State) at Montana State Billings, Kenny Jones (UCLA) at Northwest Nazarene, Seattle Pacific's Shawn Reid (Montana State) and Western Oregon's Mirza Sabic (Kennesaw State).
Johnson (6-7, Jr., Reno, NV) played 56 games in two seasons at Montana State. Last year he averaged 8.8 points and six rebounds.
Crayton (6-7, Sr., Bellevue, NE) played in 22 games at Boise State, averaging 1 ½ points per game, while Jones (6-2, Sr., Los Angeles, CA - St. Bernard) scored eight points in eight games at UCLA.
Reid (6-4, Jr., Post Falls, ID) brings the most productive numbers from a Division I program. He averaged 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds at Montana State.
Sabic (6-5, Sr., Surprise, AZ) scored 3.6 points and 1.3 rebounds last season at Kennesaw State.
D-2 TRANSFERS NEW TO CONFERENCE
In addition to Matthews at Simon Fraser, three other newcomers who previously played at Division II schools are on GNAC rosters this winter.
Alaska Fairbanks forward Zach Ngawaka (6-5, Sr., Keysborough, Australia) played last season at BYU-Hawaii averaging 2.6 points and 2.1 rebounds.
The Nanooks also added forward Mike Stepovich (6-7, Sr., Fairbanks, AK) from Division III Post where he averaged 3.6 points and 2.7 rebounds.
Guard Brian Ridgeway (6-2, Sr., Casper, WY - Kelly Walsh) played at Nebraska Kearney averaging 3.3 points during the 2009-10 season, while guard Omar McDade (6-3, Sr., Logan, UT) played at Fort Hays State last season, scoring 7.3 points and contributing 3.5 rebounds. They'll both play this winter for Montana State Billings.
ALL-STARS FROM THE NWAACC
Eight former NWAACC all-stars in addition to CWU's McLaughlin are on GNAC rosters this winter.
Alaska Fairbanks guard Pat Voeut (5-11, Jr., Bellingham, WA) was a first team Northern Region selection at Whatcom CC.
Guard Chris Holmes (6-3, Jr., Seattle, WA - Franklin) was the 2011 Western Region MVP at Tacoma CC before redshirting last season at Central Washington.
The Wildcats also added forward Nate Walker (6-5, Jr., Tacoma, WA - Foss), a first team all-star last season at Tacoma CC.
Saint Martin's guard Evan Coulter (5-10, Jr., Mt. Vernon, WA) was a Northern Region first team selection at Whatcom CC and Simon Fraser's Taylor Dunn (6-4, Jr., Vancouver, WA), who began his career at CWU, was a first team Southern Region all-star at Clackamas CC.
Turner, who averaged 15.3 points and 11.9 rebounds at SPSCC, was selected the Western Region Defensive Player of the Year and Bragg, who averaged 15 points and 10.2 rebounds at Clark, was also voted to the Western Region all-defensive team.
Western Oregon guard Drew Johnson (5-10, Jr., Gresham, OR - Barlow) also earned Southern Region all-defensive honors at Mt. Hood.
A NEW START
As a conference, GNAC teams are relatively young this year with just a total of 22 starters (2.2 per team) back from a year ago.
Seattle Pacific has the most with four. Three schools - Alaska Anchorage, Alaska Fairbanks and Western Washington - each have three.
None of last year's top seven scorers return and just two of the top 10 - SPU's David Downs (8th) and Andy Poling (9th). Poling (6th) is the only rebounder from last year's Top 10 back.
Among the Top 20, six of last year's top scorers and seven of the top rebounders are back.
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