Men's Basketball Prepares For Exhibition Opener Against Team Concept On Friday, November 3 At The Thunderdome

Oct. 30, 2000

The Schedule
Exhibition Game No. 1
Friday, November 3, 2000 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. Team Concept
at UCSB's Thunderdome

Exhibition Game No. 2
Tuesday, November 14, 2000 at 7:00 p.m.
UC Santa Barbara Gauchos vs. California All-Stars at UCSB's Thunderdome

The Gaucho Record
UC Santa Barbara will enter its exhibition opener with a 0-0 overall record, a 0-0 record in Big West games and a 0-0 record in exhibition games. After a poor start, the Gauchos posted a 14-14 overall record last season and a 10-6 mark in Big West Conference games. They finished second in the league's Western Division. UCSB opened the season with an 0-4 record. Two games into the Big West season they were 0-2 in league and 4-13 overall. The Gauchos, however, closed the regular season by going 10-4. Despite a loss in the first round of the Big West Tournament, UCSB finished 14-14 and for the first time since 1993, they have put together back-to-back seasons of at or over the .500 mark.

Williams Enters Third Season
Bob Williams enters his third season as head coach at UCSB. Last year he guided the Gauchos to a 14-14 overall record and a solid 10-6 mark in Big West play. He is the first coach in UCSB history to open his career with back-to-back seasons of .500 or better. In addition, he has led the Gauchos to a two-year record of 22-10 in league play, a winning percentage of .687, the best two-year league mark in school history. In his first season, Williams led UCSB to the Big West's Western Division championship, a 15-13 record overall and a 12-4 record in league. He was named Big West Coach of the Year in 1999. In two seasons at UCSB, Williams has posted a 29-27 overall record. In his career, which includes stops at UC Davis and Menlo College, he now has a 218-127 record.

Difficult Preseason Opens With Pepperdine
UCSB will once again play a difficult preseason schedule. The Gauchos will open the regular season with a game at West Coast Conference favorite Pepperdine. Last year, the Waves advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In December of last season, they defeated UCSB 68-64. In addition to Pepperdine, Santa Barbara's preseason schedule includes road games at UCLA, BYU, St. Mary's and UC Riverside and home games against USC, USF, San Diego State, Loyola Marymount, UC Riverside and Westmont.

The Gauchos On The Tube
UC Santa Barbara will be a featured part of the Big West's television packages this year. The Gauchos will be on ESPN once, ESPN 2 once and Fox Sports Net 2 four times. The UCSB-Long Beach State game at the Thunderdome on January 18 will be an ESPN game. The Gauchos' home finale against Pacific on February 24 will be aired on ESPN 2. UCSB's four appearances on Fox Sports Net 2 will include road games at Pepperdine, UCLA and Long Beach State and a home game on January 25 against UC Irvine.

Possible Starters - Notes
I've gotta be honest with you folks, if injuries don't mess things up, we can be very sure about two of the starters, pretty sure about a third and then the other two are up in the air. So, here is how we will break it down:

Probable Starters - Notes
F - Adama Ndiaye - Top returning rebounder and shot blocker.
F - Mark Hull - Eye injury has sidelined him for a few days.

Highly Possible Starter - Notes
F - Juliano Jordani - If he can remain injury-free, he will start at the four spot.

Possible Starters - Notes
G - LaRon Bryant - Led the team in three-point percentage at 41.3%.
G - B.J. Ward - Has an opportunity to inherit point guard spot as a sophomore.
G - Jacoby Atako - Freshman has been one of the surprises of early practice.
G - Branduinn Fullove - Can play either wing position. Very tough player.
G - Nick Jones - Sore foot has kept him on the shelf early on.

Possible Reserves - Notes
F - Casey Cook - Freshman can shoot the ball. Will play at the four spot.
F - Mike Vukovich - Played well at the end of last season, could emerge at five spot.
F - J.J. Todd - Redshirt freshman is the tallest Gaucho player at 6-foot-11.
G - Chris Newell - Walk-on guard is the grandson of coaching legend Pete Newell.

Sure Thing One
Again, barring injuries, Adama Ndiaye will be inked, not penciled, into the starting lineup. At just over 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, he is bigger and stronger than he has been in his previous two seasons. He is the Gauchos' top returning rebounder and shot blocker and his 1999-2000 scoring average of 9.3 points per game is second among returnees. Ndiaye (pronounced knee-eye) Averaged 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots to go along with his scoring average of 9.3 points per game. He closed the season with a rush too, averaging 11.2 points. 8.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocked shots over the final 11 games of the season. In fact, while Ndiaye shot a solid 49.7% from the floor, he shot 53.0% over the final 24 games. If the native of Dakar, Senegal can make the same progress this year that he made last year, he has the chance to be one of the top frontcourt players in the Big West Conference.

Sure Thing Two
Mark Hull is Sure Thing Two. He is UCSB's top returning scorer at 10.3 points per game and he is its second-leading returning rebounder at 5.0 per game. Following his freshman season, the 6-foot-6 Hull was named to the Big West All-Freshman Team. In fact, he had one of the finest first seasons in Gaucho history. In addition to his scoring and rebounding numbers, Hull shot 46.3% from the field, 78.5% from the free throw line and 37.5% from three-point range. Despite the fact that he was a freshman, Hull was probably the most consistent player on the team in 1999-2000. He scored in double-figures 16 times in 28 game overall and 11 times in the last 16 games. Last season, Hull began the year at the three spot, or the small forward position on the wing. Due to a variety of injuries to teammates, specifically Juliano Jordani, he was forced to play the majority of the second half of the season at the four spot, or the power forward position. This year, depending on Jordani's ability to stay healthy, Hull will probably move back to the small forward position for the majority of his playing time.

A Healthy Jordani Could Be Another Sure Thing
If senior forward Juliano Jordani remains healthy, he could become the third sure thing in the UCSB starting lineup. The 6-foot-7 Jordani was a starter at the outset of the 1999-2000 season, but a variety of injuries sidelined him for four games and limited his effectiveness in several others. He finished the season with averages of 5.6 points and 3.8 rebounds per game. Jordani shot only 33.9% from the field overall and 37.0% from three-point range. Prior to his injury, Jordani was averaging 10.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game. He had produced games of 19 points and 11 rebounds at USC, 13 points and eight rebounds against USC and 13 points and eight rebounds against Pepperdine. In the 17 games after the first injury, he averaged 3.4 points and shot 29.0% from the floor. In the season finale at Nevada, however, Jordani showed new life, making all six of his field goal attempts and scoring 15 points. A healthy Jordani this year would make a major difference for the Gauchos.

Shootout At Point Guard Corral
Perhaps the most intriguing battle of the preseason has been the dual for the starting point guard spot between sophomore B.J. Ward and freshman Jacoby Atako. Ward has the advantage of experience. He played 372 minutes in 28 games last season, averaging 2.9 points, 1.9 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game. Ward had moments during the 1999-2000 season when he was outstanding and if he can become more consistent, he could earn the starting job. As for Atako, he has been very good in practices, showing the ability to create offensively and yet playing under control. The graduate of Santa Monica High School has also been solid defensively. Whether it is Ward or Atako in the starting lineup, both should play significant minutes.

Bryant Emerges
There are two major differences in senior off-guard LaRon Bryant this year. First off, he has a great deal more hair than he had last year. Secondly, and most importantly, he is more in tune with the Gaucho offense. Last season, Bryant led UCSB in three-point field goal percentage at 41.3% and, in fact, after opening the year 1-for-11 from three-point territory, he finished up by making 30-of-64, an outstanding 46.9%. But while he was the team's most deadly three-point threat, he did not have the all-around game to match. In the first couple weeks of practice this year, he has shown that he is more than a three-point shooter. Bryant is passing the ball better and just playing a more complete game. Defensively he still has some work to do, but he has made strides in that area as well. If the season were to tipoff this week, and it does, he would likely be the starter at the off-guard position.

More Fresh Faces
As mentioned above, Jacoby Atako should play an important role for the Gauchos this season, but he is not the only freshman with that distinction. Two and possibly three other freshmen will play important roles for UCSB this season. The two that are almost sure to be key players are redshirt freshman Nick Jones (Santa Clara HS in Oxnard) and true freshman Branduinn Fullove (Simi Valley HS). Jones got off to a late start in practice because of a foot problem, but all indications are that he is an outstanding player. As a senior in high school two years ago, he was California Division 5 Player of the Year. Fullove helped lead Simi Valley to last year's CIF championship game. While Jones is an off-guard, Fullove is expected to play at both wing positions. Another freshman who could have an impact for UCSB this season is 6-foot-8 Casey Cook out of El Camino High School in Sacramento. A good outside shooter, Cook will probably play a back-up role at the four spot.