Friday, July 25, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Les looks back at UCD men’s long season

By
From page B1 | March 16, 2014 |

Not much went according to plan.

When forward and All-Big West hopeful J.T. Adenrele went down with a knee injury before the season even started, a chain-reaction of adjustments began in the UC Davis men’s basketball program.

Forward Josh Ritchart would have to be more of an inside presence.

For the first nine games, that looked like it might work out — Ritchart was the team’s leading scorer and had just been named conference Player of the Week. The Aggies were finding themselves at 3-2 after Ritchart scored a career-high 35 points in a win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

But Ritchart felt pain in his leg. He had been rolled in a Nov. 11 loss at Utah and — despite the big outing — was suffering.

By December, Ritchart was on the bench, not to return (medically redshirted so he didn’t lose his senior eligibility).

UCD’s once-formidable inside duo of Adenrele and Ritchart was but a memory.

Major adjustments continued as three freshmen — Georgi Funtarov, Darius Graham and Brynton Lemar — were “thrown to the wolves,” as Aggie head coach Jim Les told The Enterprise in January.

With players learning on the court, the locals struggled — eventually finishing 9-22, missing the Big West Conference tourney with a 4-12 league mark.

What was a nine-game improvement in the win column the season before (from five wins to 14), became a setback this winter.

While there were those injury excuses, Les would have none of it …

“I was pleased with the steps forward we took last year. This year was a step backwards — and it’s on me,” the third-year Aggie mentor explained. “This was more of a life’s lesson than basketball. We were thrown a curveball … the unexpected happened.”

Les talked with each player last week at his UCD office.

“Dealing with a year of adversity … I’m pleased with the attitude of the guys,” Les said, hoping his players will put the year behind them. “Closure is a valuable lesson, (talking about) what it takes to deal with cards you were dealt and a season you didn’t expect.”

With Adenrele and Ritchart watching from the bench, the patchwork Aggies struggled on defense. And there was more lost playing time …

Lemar, the solid first-year guard from San Diego, would miss almost five weeks with a knee injury, and Australian wing Iggy Nujic walked away from basketball.

Standout Corey Hawkins became the point guard, Justin Dueck became a defensive inspiration and Clint Bozner was called on to be muscle in the paint.

With Graham, Lemar and Funtarov learning on the job, opponents zeroed in on stopping veterans Hawkins and sharpshooting senior Ryan Sypkens.

Still, both crashed through the 1,000-point barrier for their careers and Sypkens became the Big West’s top 3-point shotmaker of all time (315).

Sypkens’ 1,275 points put him just ahead of Dominic Calegari (2006-10) at No. 12 among the top Aggie scorers.

Sypkens’ 10 treys in a game is a school record and his 106 for a year is a new standard.

But defenses came hard after ex-Franklin High star Sypkens, whose 11.4 points a game were lower than expected.

“He is really talented. An elite-level shooter,” Les said. “It’s unfortunate that he had to deal with this during his senior year. Everything got magnified … we had to change who we were individually and collectively.

“I am appreciative of Ryan’s contributions — this season wasn’t for a lack of hard work or determination. What he has in the record books will be tough to beat.”

Meanwhile, Hawkins — last year’s top Big West scorer — was asked to be Atlas; to carry Aggie Nation on his shoulders.

Hawkins finished with an average of 18 points per game (down from 20.3 as a sophomore). He was banged around as opposing defenses threw everything at him.

“I thought it was a credit to him to be able to produce in the manner he did,” sad Les, the former Bradley coach and NBA player.

Hawkins was the team’s leading rebounder (135), second to Graham’s 93 assists with 89 of his own and sank 75 percent of his 210 free throws.

“Night in, night out, he was not only drawing teams’ best defender, they were running two or three guys at him. Still, we’d ask him to rebound and guard the other team’s best players,” added Les.

Hawkins was accorded second-team all-league honors. (He was Big West Newcomer of the Year and a first-team selection in 2012-13.)

“Second team, in my opinion, was not indicative of where he should have been,” Les continued. “But I understand. Coaches look at rewarding teams with winning records.”

And about those three freshmen forced into extensive action:

“I couldn’t be more pleased with those guys. We asked everybody to do more, but the game is physical and speeds up if you’re a freshman.

“I really believe things happen for a reason. Georgi, Brynton and Graham were thrown into situations that will pay dividends in off-season workouts … pay dividends especially for next year.”

With a week of finals followed by spring break, Les says his team is getting a rest from basketball. Adenrele and Ritchart are expected back in the fold — healthy and determined — and a new class of Aggies will be announced next month.

“Now it’s time to have everyone work on getting healthy, work throughout the offseason to get better and return with a vengeance next year,” Les concluded.

Notes: Les’ son Tyler redshirted this season and will return to the roster as an Aggie playmaker and long-range threat. … UCD already has a new recruit committed: Elyria High (Ohio) guard Isaiah Walton. The 6-foot-4 senior averaged 21.8 pgg for the 14-9 Pioneers this season. “As a staff, we couldn’t be more excited to have Isaiah join our basketball family,” Les said in November. “He is an explosive scorer who can make plays for himself, as well as others. Isaiah also has tremendous character and is a motivated student.”

— Reach Bruce Gallaudet at bgallaudet@davisenterprise.net or 530-320-4456.

Bruce Gallaudet

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 3 comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • March 16, 2014 - 11:40 am

    This is a superficial analysis, the little man lineup doesn't work. The Big West Conference knew we were weak inside, and our off season plan was to recruit more little guys. Not a good approach. Then we lost or chased off center Spencer Clayton (6'10"). You can't win in Division I with one forward who is 6'7" (JT). We were one of the worst rebounding teams in all of Division I basketball, and we are again recruiting more guards.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Bruce GallaudetMarch 17, 2014 - 1:12 pm

    It's been sometimes interesting to read your perspective on UC Davis men's basketball season. In sports, it's always fun to have a good argument. However, your comment on Sunday's "superficial analysis" of the Aggies' rough season made me chuckle. Thanks for validating my point when saying "the little man lineup doesn't work," which UCD was forced into by the injuries to their 6-9 (Josh Ritchart) and 6-7 (J.T. Adenrele) inside powers. Again you say "the Big West Conference knew we were weak inside." The people on Mars knew we were weak inside without Josh and J.T. And finally -- yes, we are recruiting more guards (the pick up of Isaiah Walton from Ohio was brilliant). But you'll find in just a couple of weeks what Les has in mind to help get those elusive rebounds. Oh, and about guards... Cal Poly just won the Big West with NINE rostered guards. How did that tournament work out for UC Irvine, a school with two 7-footers and two 6-10 forwards?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • March 17, 2014 - 9:19 pm

    Bruce, thank you for replying, and I apologize for my lack of clarity. We had a guard-heavy, little man lineup even before JT Adenrele or Josh Ritchart were hurt; the whole league knew we were already thin (and weak) in the post. Not after the injuries – before. Several of our forwards are not known for rebounding, and Coach Les hesitated at effectively using 6’8” bruiser Clint Bozner. Rebounding and defense are critical factors in basketball, and our lack of depth inside killed us. According to the NCAA, we were 343rd (out of 345) in rebounding differential; 339th in defensive rebounds per game; 325th in scoring defense; 335th in field goal percentage defense; and 329th in three-point field goal defense. Alums have also noticed a high turnover rate with our student-athletes (9 with our current coach), which is much higher than Bradley University (6) and Cal Poly (3). The late-season departures of Carlos Mancasola (a legacy) and Iggy Nujic are puzzling. With ramped up recruiting of more guards (Verbal Commits has us talking to ten), my fellow alums wonder about more departures as we believe we only have one scholarship available. Yes, phenom Yante Maten of Bloomfield Hills High School in Michigan would be a substantial addition, but he has plenty of suitors. Daniel Amigo or Lawrence Fejokwu would be nice. A more in-depth analysis might probe Coach Les’ 4-guard system, and why this approach never resulted in a league finish higher than 4th at Bradley, if I’m correct. P.S. Speaking of the Anteaters, their turnaround looks looks solid with two consecutive 20-win seasons, a program second-best 23 wins this year, and an NIT berth.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Tech Trekkers boldly go into STEM fields

    By Amy Jiang | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Decoding breast milk secrets reveals clues to lasting health

    By Pat Bailey | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    California climate change policies to hit our pocketbooks

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A1

     
    Carwash raises funds for funeral expenses

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    Appeals court upholds high-speed rail route

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Artists, photographers invited to support Yolo Basin Foundation

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A3 | Gallery

    Unitarians will host summer camp

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Sudwerk’s sales grow, floating on a sea of dry hop lager

    By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A4 | Gallery

     
    Wetlands visitors will see migrating shorebirds

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6 | Gallery

    ‘Bak2Sac’ free train ride program launched

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Explorit: Wonderful wetlands right at home

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Recycle old paint cans for free

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Where your gas money goes

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A12

    STEAC needs donations of personal care items

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16, 1 Comment

     
    Americans, internationals make connections

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16

    Can you give them a home?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A16 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Trio disagrees on best option

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Thanks for emergency help

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Commenting system to change

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10, 24 Comments

     
    Support these local restaurants

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Let’s get the bench repaired

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Predicting climate changes

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 1 Comment

    Clinton’s book is worth a read

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10, 2 Comments

     
    .

    Sports

    Enriquez brilliant, but Post 77 season ends with Area 1 loss

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Hudson solid, Hamels better in Giants’ loss

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Petrovic, Putnam share Canadian Open lead

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Moss powers A’s past Astros

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    The un-Armstrong? Tour ‘boss’ Nibali wins Stage 18

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘A Most Wanted Man’: Superb espionage drama

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

     
    Clyde Elmore: Art in the Wild

    By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Musicians perform at Sunday service

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A17 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Accord’s latest model is most fuel efficient

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Mary Lita Bowen

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    James Thomas Feather

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Richard ‘Dick’ Robenalt

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, July 25, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: A13

     
    .

    Real Estate Review

    Featured Listing

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER1

    Professional Services Directory

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER2

    Remax

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER3

    Tracy Harris

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Vaughan Brookshaw

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Sherman Home

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER4

    Julie Leonard

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER5

    Ciana Wallace

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER6

    Melrina A Maggiora

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Joe Kaplan

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER7

    Jo Vallejo

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER8

    Jamie Madison

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9

    Karen Waggoner

    By Zack Snow | From Page: RER9