YOLO COUNTY NEWS

Aggies

Harden, Payne will lead Aggie men

By November 10, 2010

Enterprise staff writer

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Replacing versatile forward Dominic Calegari won\’t be easy. Getting Joe Harden and Mark Payne to 1,000 points each should be a snap. Moving up in the Big West standings is the goal.

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So, as the UC Davis men\’s basketball season gets underway Friday in Portland, the challenges are clear and coach Gary Stewart has the direction plotted.

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“The theme is return and advance,” the eighth-year Aggie leader explains. “We want to get to the upper echelon of the conference, return to the … tournament and advance farther than we did last year.

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“We feel like, if we remain healthy, we have a golden opportunity to do that.”

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When the Aggies take the court for their first regular season game against Florida Atlantic in the Athletes in Action Classic, all eyes will be on the duo of Payne and Harden.

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Both are coming off seasons in which they averaged right at 15 points a game and fueled a style that sent the ball around the periphery, carefully selecting shots.

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With 6-foot-10 Calegari gone, and former Franklin High standout Ryan Sypkens coming of age in his second season with UCD, look for more of the same seek-and-destroy Aggie ball.

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Harden, a senior who was named to the Big West Preseason All-Conference Team, has 908 career points and provides an up-tempo style of play that saw him selected Best Hustle Player in the

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conference.

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Among active players, Payne leads the Big West in points (964), assists (352) and steals (149). He missed eight games a year ago and still managed his lofty numbers.

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With each standing at 6-8, expect Payne and especially Harden to provide exceptional board prowess when matched up against shorter, slower opponents.

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The Aggies are coming off a 14-18 season in which they managed an 8-8 mark in conference. A media panel recently picked UCD to finish fourth in the Big West, but the arrival of four freshman is expected to give the locals new life.

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Mike Kurtz, a seven-foot post player, helped his Woodcreek (Roseville) High team win the Sac-Joaquin Section D-II crown last winter.

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Kurtz averaged 17 points and 12 rebounds a game and blocked seven shots per night. Stewart hopes Kurtz evolves to become a no-fly zone under the basket.

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Tyler Les (Notre Dame High, Peoria, Ill.) and Josh Ritchart (Forest Lake Christian of Auburn) are guards who are expected to provide time off for the perimeter trio of Harden, Payne and Sypkens.

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Alex Tiffin, a freshman from Thousand Oaks High, at 6-9 could prove his worth inside early.

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After three games in the three days in Oregon, the Aggies return home for a Wednesday contest with UC Santa Cruz and get Boise State at The Pavilion on Nov. 21.

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Notes: On Saturday, UCD meets host Portland (7 p.m.) and on Sunday its Wisconsin-Milwaukee (3 p.m.). The games are broadcast on KFSG (1690). … Florida Atlantic was 14-16 in 2009-10, but had a 10-8 mark in the Sun Belt Conference. The Owls return four starters, including sophomore Greg Gantt (15.6 ppg). .. Mike Jarvis, formerly of Boston University, George Washington and St. John\’s, coaches Florida Atlantic. … Calegari signed with Anwil Wloclawek in Poland, but hasn\’t seen action as he has shuttled back-and-forth between Europe and the United States seeking treatment for a preseason injury. Exhibition games were curious for both Florida and UCD. After stopping Menlo College, 84-78, the Aggies lost to Academy of Art (Pacific West Conference D-II), 67-62. Meanwhile, FAU split two — losing to Northwood of the NAIA. Rollie Massimino — who won the NCAA crown in 1985 while at Villanova — coaches Northwood.

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— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at [email protected] or (530) 747-8047. Comment on this story at www.davisenterprise.com

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