October 17, 2008

Gauchos Open Basketball Practice in Preparation for 2008-09 Campaign

Oct. 17, 2008

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It won't be midnight madness, but the UC Santa Barbara men's basketball team will begin preparation for the 2008-09 season with its first regular practice of the year at 5:00 p.m. on Friday afternoon.

The Gauchos, who will play their only exhibition game at the Thunderdome on Nov. 8 and will open the regular season against Cal State Los Angeles on Nov. 14, will begin practice with a handful of key returnees and a host of newcomers.

"I'm excited to get out there and start seeing how the pieces fit," said 11th year head coach Bob Williams. "We've only been able to see the players together for very short periods of time, so this will be our first real opportunity to start putting things together."

UCSB returns two of its top three scorers from a 2007-08 team that won the Big West's regular season title and set a school record with 23 wins. Senior forward Chris Devine and junior guard James Powell each averaged 12.3 points per game last season and they will be leaned on to once again shoulder a major part of the scoring burden. Devine, the team captain this year, also averaged 5.4 rebounds per game as a junior, tops among returnees. For his par, Powell led the Gauchos with 79 three-point baskets in 2007-08, and in the process a setting school record for three-point field goal percentage at 46.7%.

While Devine and Powell are pretty well set at the four and two spots, five newcomers are expected to compete for significant playing time, and in some cases, spots in the starting lineup.

Junior forward Jesse Byrd, a transfer from the University of San Francisco, is expected to battle with freshman Jaime Serna (Laguna Beach, Calif./Santa Margarita HS) for the starting nod at the five spot. Another freshman, 7-foot-2 Greg Somogyi (Budapest, Hungary/Woodside Priory), could also be part of the mix.

Depending on the health of Justin Joyner's wrist, the point guard spot could be a dual between junior Paul Roemer, who played in all 32 games last year, and freshman Will Brew, Jr. (Oakland, Calif./St. Mary's HS). Roemer made solid progress between his freshman and sophomore seasons and seems equipped to take the next step. Brew will have to figure out the offense, but he has the physical and mental abilities to do so.

At the three spot, senior D.J. Posley will be given a long look. A strong defensive player, Posley will need to emerge more on the offensive end. Another freshman, James Nunnally (San Jose, Calif./Weston Ranch HS) will compete at the three spot. He could see his role increase as the year evolves. Nunnally is an outstanding athlete who needs to continue working on his perimeter shot.

Other players expected to be part of the regular rotation are sophomore forward Sam Phippen and sophomore guard Jordan Weiner. At 6-foot-9, Phippen is a very good perimeter shooter, and if he steps up it will allow the Gaucho coaches to play Devine some at the three spot. Weiner is also one of the team's best shooters and for that reason alone, will get a look.

Both the men's and women's teams will be introduced to the media and public at the first annual UCSB Basketball Media Preview Luncheon on Thursday, Nov. 6 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Cabrillo Arts Pavilion in Santa Barbara. Coaches and players from both teams will be on hand for press conferences, as well as a meet and greet period. Appetizers will be served and there is no charge. Anyone interested in attending is asked to RSVP by calling Laura Shepard at 805-893-8613 or via email at Laura.Shepard@athletics.ucsb.edu.

Gaucho basketball season tickets and special five-game Cinco Packs are available via walk-up at the Athletics Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus, or by calling the Ticket Office at 805-893-UCSB and selecting option 2. Information can be obtained online by going here.

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