Friday, December 19, 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.

Comments

comments

Bruce Gallaudet

  • Recent Posts

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

  • .

    News

    UCD, UC team up to study effects of climate change

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Teens’ goal? Helping other soccer players around the world

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    There’s a plate for you at the Davis Holiday Meal

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Feds release ‘framework’ to rate colleges

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Gunfire leads to DUI arrest

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Police seek suspect in hit-and-run collision

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

    Help sought in search for runaway Davis teen

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A2

     
    Konditorei presents free holiday concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Welcome 2015 with Mumbo Gumbo at a gala bash

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Luminaria display planned in West Davis

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Creative women share food, friendship

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Blue Christmas service planned at Davis churches

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Willett bench is a labor of love

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A4

     
    Author! Author! UCD hosts talks, Q and A on Asia-focused books

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    Libraries will be closed around the holidays

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    See diving ducks at city wetlands tour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Downtown gift cards get a new perk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

    Meditation, Buddhism classes offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    Nobel Prize winner will discuss research related to autism

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    A home for the holidays?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Explorit: Experience nano this spring

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A9 | Gallery

    Traditional carols service is Saturday at St. Martin’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9

     
    Supplies collected for victims of abuse

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Grandmothers support group meets weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11, 1 Comment

     
    Soup’s On will benefit NAMI-Yolo

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    Donate to STEAC at Original Steve’s

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Forum

    He needs them to pay up

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A14

    Cheers and Jeers: Have you ever seen the rain?

    By Our View | From Page: A14

     
    Defeating Ebola involves medicine, and prayers

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14 | Gallery

    Kudos to Central Park Gardens donors and volunteers

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A14

     
    .

    Sports

    Devil boys hold off scrappy Rio Linda

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Lady Blue Devils rout an undefeated Liberty squad

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    UCD RB coach Wright heads to Florida; what next?

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    Aggies nab junior college defensive lineman

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Cousins is back in lineup but Kings fall

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Nostra-Dunning makes his college bowl picks

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: B2

    Tennyson’s first goal is the difference in Sharks win

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B6 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    Name droppers: Trio elected to academy of inventors

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Arts

    Tom Rigney and Flambeau to play

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
     
    DMTC announces auditions for ‘Sweeney Todd’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
    ‘Before Midnight’ screening is tonight

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

    DMTC plans New Year’s Eve party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A15

     
    .

    Business

    After 19 years, Alfa Romeo returns

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: A16

     
    .

    Obituaries

    Rena Sylvia Smilkstein

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    .

    Comics