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Fresno State Preview

October 22, 2012

2011-12 Season Record: 13-20
Conference Record: 3-11 (WAC)
Key Returning Players: Kevin Olekaibe, Jerry Brown, Tyler Johnson

Fresno State will play their inaugural season in the Mountain West in 2012-13 in the midst of a massive rebuild. Second year coach Rodney Terry took over a program that had gone as far as it could under Steve Cleveland; Terry was brought in to bring Fresno State to a historical level where they challenge for conference championships. A program that can brag about head coaches like Boyd Grant and Jerry Tarkanian.

The Bulldogs struggled in Terry’s first season. They shot the ball poorly, they rebounded poorly, and they fouled too much. On the positive side, they were very good about not turning the ball over and they did a good job creating turnovers defensively. Basically they were a version of TCU under Neal Dougherty.

They are led by high-scoring (and high-volume shooting) guard Kevin Olekaibe, a slight but very athletic player who can score from anywhere. Olekaibe averaged over 17 points a game but needed almost 20 shots per game to get his points. He’s one of those guys that can miss for 35 minutes and then get hot and score in bunches. He brought his team back late against Manhattan with a pair of 4-point plays and has scored more than 40 points in a game.

Olekaibe will be joined in the backcourt by guards Tyler Johnson and Jerry Brown who both averaged about 9 ppg. Johnson is more of a distributor and Brown led the Bulldogs in rebounding last season.

The biggest impact newcomer is expected to be 7-foot center Robert Upshaw, a high profile big who will be expected to shore up the Bulldogs weaknesses defensively and on the glass.

Missing this year are a pair of influential seniors who graduated – guard Steve Shepp and win Jonathan Wills. Sheep played a lot of minutes and was the primary ball handler averaging about 5 assists per game. Wills was Fresno’s jack-PF-all-trades delivering about 10 points, 5 rebounds.

Also missing is one of the best bench coaches in the country who goes by the name of Jerry Wainwright. Wainwright had head coaching experience at programs such as UNC-Wilmington, Richmond, and DePaul. Lot of wins and NCAA and NIT post-season appearances. Don’t underestimate Wainwrights influence on the Bulldogs. Head Coach Rodney Terry is a career assistant known for recruiting. Wainwright was the guy making a lot of the tactical decisions last season for the Bulldogs. He will be missed. His loss is Marquette’s gain as Wainwright accepted a job there as Director of Basketball Operations.

I’m trying to find ways to feel more positive about the Bulldogs chances in the MWC. But much like Boise State last season, they look to be overmatched in terms of both depth and experience. I think they’ll play hard. Under Coach Terry and find ways to keep game’s competitive but the outlook is certainly a finish in the bottom half of a very strong MWC.

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