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Strong Start, Strong Finish Lead to Rams’ 80-69 Win Over SE Louisiana

November 12, 2022

Coming off a nail biter in the season opener where the Rams had fallen behind early and given away a double digit lead late, it was obvious what the message was. Start fast and finish faster.

And that the Rams did as they opened a 23-10 lead midway through the first half as they were clicking on all cylinders. They were defending vigorously, running the floor, moving the ball and making shots inside and out.

But a funny thing happened on the way to what looked to be a blowout as the defensive intensity fell off, the ball handling became suspect, and the perimeter shots stopped falling. The Lions from Hammond, LA grabbed the opportunity and came roaring back by converting turnovers into easy points and making everything from the perimeter. Next thing you knew the Rams lead was only 42-40 at the half.

Both teams had shot 8-15 from beyond the arc when the horn sounded. The Rams advantage built at the free throw line through attacking the rim was negated by the Lions’ advantage at scoring off of turnovers.

The second half began much the same as the first half had ended with a subtle change. The Rams committed more heavily to attacking the rim and dominating the paint rather than settling for perimeter jumpers. They looked to be gaining some traction when they took a 60-51 lead midway through the half but once again the Lions clawed back to forge a 62-62 tie at the 7-minute mark.

Crunch time.

A thunderous two-handed dunk by CSU big James Moors gave the Rams a 66-62 and brought the crowd to its feet.

But the visitors weren’t going away as Sammi Pissis countered with a crazy tough 3-ball to bring them back to 66-65.And then the Rams took over. They were finishing defensive possessions with rebounds and executing smartly from the halfcourt offense, getting to the rim at will. Layups and free throws came in bunches. The five on the floor all scored down the stretch and the Rams pulled away in a way that was much different than in the opener. They were connected, they were efficient, they were ruthless.

They had learned the lesson from the first game in terms of the importance of starting fast and finishing strongly. And now the challenge will be how to continue the energy of a fast start so that they don’t produce a mid-game bagel.

Transfer big Patrick Cartier led six Rams in double figures with 17. Veterans John Tonje and Isaiah Rivera added 13 each, Moor had 11 on 5-5 shooting, and Jalen Lake and Tavi Jackson scored 10 each.

But in the end, it was a team performance. They call themselves Team Together. They won this game with a solid defensive effort with solid individual play and proper help. They finished with a 38-25 rebounding advantage through a complete team effort with six players gathering anywhere from 3 to 7 rebounds. They shared the ball to the tune of 20 assists. They ran their motion offense crisply with proper spacing and screening, allowing for effective rim attacks; 53% shooting and 27 trips to the free throw line.

They took another step or two forward.

Other Stuff

Bigs Were Big – The tandem of James Moors and Patrick Cartier were an efficient and lethal force against SE Louisiana. Combined they shot 10-14 from the field, 2-2 from beyond the arc, grabbed 9 rebounds, and delivered 2 assists against only 1 turnover in their 40 minutes on the floor. They were the Rams’ top performers from an Offensive Efficiency perspective.

Driving the Point Home – In the absence of consummate point guard Isaiah Stevens, Baylor Hebb and Tavi Jackson continue to have their moments good and bad. Not unexpected. Several creative assists for easy finishes at the rim, offset by sloppy turnovers leading to easy points for their opponents at the other end. Most importantly, both were targeted by the Lions’ iso offensive attacks and both handled their defensive business well, other than the odd defensive lapse in transition. It’s easy to forget that Isaiah Stevens wasn’t perfect when he was first starting out. Recency bias allows us to remember him only as the finished product. Both Hebb and Jackson are growing.

Lake Effect– Sophomore guard Jalen Lake played his most complete game as a Ram. 10 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists from his off-guard position. More importantly, he has become CSU’s most effective perimeter defender. His value to the team is reflected in his team-leading 35 minutes last night. The coaches know they need him on the floor in the absence of Stevens and Josiah Strong. He has always been a great perimeter shooter. He’s taking the next step this year attacking the rim and there’s no better example of that than his rim finish in the final minutes that effectively put the game to bed.

“There’s Only One Way To Get Experience and That’s To Get Experience”

November 10, 2022

If you watched Coach Niko Medved’s post Gardner Webb game presser, you would have heard him say this. And no truer words have been spoken.

There’s another expression you hear coaches around the college game use – “Get older, get better.” Its a strategy that have worked in the past for programs with strong LDS roots like BYU and Utah State. More recently, it’s a strategy that have been adopted by many D-1 programs.

With Fourth-year guard Isaiah Stevens out with injury and Fifth-year transfer guard Josiah Strong out with illness, CSU had a ton of experience on the bench. In their places, the Rams played Baylor Hebb for 20 minutes and Tavi Jackson for 26 minutes. Hebb had played a grand total of 142 minutes against Division 1 opponents in his previous two seasons. Jackson was making his Division 1 debut.

To add a little perspective, the opposing guards from Gardner Webb had either two or three seasons under their belts, averaging about 25 minutes per game in those season. Overall, Gardner Webb put a team on the floor that was the 89th most experienced D-1 team in the nation, averaging 2.15 years of experience.

And to give a little perspective how CSU compares to that, the Rams averaged 1.15 years of experience which ranks them 228th in the country.

To add another layer, here’s how fellow MWC teams looked in terms of experience on Opening Night:

SchoolNational RankExperience
Utah State212.81
San Diego State252.75
New Mexico702.35
San Jose State1072.02
Air Force2191.30
Experience – Source

Since Wyoming and Fresno State opened with non D-1 opponents, there is no data. Boise State opens tonight.

So you can see that given the current situation, Colorado State is the least experienced team in the Mountain West and well into the bottom half of the country.

Of course that changes dramatically when Stevens and Strong return. We’ll probably see a number more in the 2.5 range which puts them into the middle of the pack at the conference level and roughly into the Top 75.

So what we’re looking at is a short term challenge with a long term benefit. Jackson and Hebb get loads of playing time in the short term which can only strengthen the team when Stevens and Strong return.

They’re out there getting experience.

Rivera Buzzer Beater Completes 65-63 Comeback Victory Over Gardner Webb

November 8, 2022

An early deficit, an immense comeback that looked in jeopardy late, and finally a 15-foot jumper from the elbow by junior Isaiah Rivera to seal a season opening victory for the short-handed Rams.

A game that basically had it all.

A strong first half by the visiting Bulldogs had the Rams asking questions at the half as they went into the locker room trailing 36-25. The visitors had opened defensively with a 2-3 zone and switched in and out of that defense the entire half. They successfully flummoxed the Rams on the offensive end, taking them out of their rhythm and forcing 11 turnovers.

On their own defensive end, the Rams struggled to keep the Dogs from scoring at the rim. And struggled to finish possessions with rebounds. Gardner Webb ended the half with a double digit advantage in shot attempts which led to their double digit lead.

Halftime for the Rams meant time to regroup. Which meant how to stop the Bulldogs from scoring in the paint and taking care of the ball on the offensive end. Simple adjustments for sure.

The second half began and gradually the Rams crept back in the game. They were loading up the paint defensively and Gardner Webb struggled to generate any consistent offense. The Rams began to move the ball offensively, attacking the rim and creating open perimeter looks while protecting the ball. And the wave was beginning to gradually build up. The wave finally crashed on the visitors as transfer Joe Palmer banked in a three-ball and followed with a putback three the hard way to give the Rams a 4-point lead.

The wave continued to build as the Rams built their own 11-point lead inside the under 4 timeout. Important three balls from Patrick Cartier and Jalen Lake. The visitors looked to be put to bed.

Not so fast.

The Bulldogs clawed their was back into it as the Rams struggled with their slowdown offense and the visitors heated up from inside and out. A foul on a three point attempt, three makes, and all of a sudden the score was tied with 7 seconds remaining.

With the consummate closer Isaiah Stevens out with injury, the closing responsibilities have turned to Rivera. With more time left on the clock at the end of the first half, he patiently let the clock run down and then scored at the rim.

But now there were only seven seconds remaining and the Rams needed to go the length of the floor. Time for about seven dribbles and some kind of shot. Rivera attacked the forecourt from left to right, received a huge screen from forward Patrick Cartier that created space near the elbow. Rivera rose high and launched a high-arcing shot over the outstretched Dog defender and the ball fell through the net cleanly with less than one second remaining.

All that was left was for the Rams to close the game defensively and Rivera sealed the win when he intercepted a lowing that of court pass.

Celebration time!

For the game, the Rams shot their traditional 50% from the field, 40+% from beyond the arc. They struggled from the free throw line at only 14-21 but they had done enough. Senior John Tonje led the way with 16, Cartier came off the bench to score 12, and Rivera finished with 11. Individual heroics for sure.

But make no mistake about it. This was a program win. A poor first half, halftime adjustments, and a Team Together effort in a strong second half that produced enough for the Rams to get their collective noses home in front.

Other Stuff

What’s in a Name? – Once the season gets going, most of you know that I like to write a column on Monday titled Monday Morning Cup of Coffee. It’s origin was based on the “Coffee is for Closers” line from the move Glengarry Glen Ross and stems from Isaiah Stevens’ uncanny ability to close out halves and games. And now we have another Isaiah who is making his mark as a closer. It might be time for me to rename the column Morning Morning Cup of Coffee brought to you by guys named Isaiah. And even more importantly, it might be important for CSU to alway be recruiting at least one guy named Isaiah n every class.

Tonje and Finding Balance – With the absence of Stevens and Transfer Josiah Strong, the scoring leadership has been thrust John Tonje’s way. It is a role that he has not been asked to perform over 40 minutes since his high school,days in Omaha. He has the requisite skills in terms of perimeter shooting, shooting from the midrange, and scoring at the rim. His play on the court has mostly been defined as a 6th man energy kind of player and now his role has changed. It’s not an easy transition and there are times Tonje struggles with the Bull ina China Shop mentality that results in turnovers. As the season progresses, Tonje will need to learn how to best pick his spots with the appropriate style of play. His growth will be instrumental in the Rams success this year.

Cartier’s Second Half – Patrick Cartier came to CSU after an All-American career at the D-2 level. His has shown glimpses through practice and the exhibition season. He finally looked to be settling in during the second half of the Gardner Webb game after what looked like a nervy first half that included a surprising pair of misses from the free throw line. He was very good in the second half, scoring at the rim with crafty left hand finishes and draining an important three-pointer that came late in the shot clock. And he set the all important screen that freed Rivera for his gamewinner. He and James Moors are offering solid play at the center position to date.

Tavi’s Debut – Freshman point guard Taviontae Jackson entered the game at the under 16 minute timeout in the first half and he immediately showed his promise. A pair of slick assists, a finish at the rim and a three-pointer. He would finish with 7 points, 3 assists, 3 rebounds against only 1 turnover. In terms of advanced stats, he had the highest Offensive Efficiency Rating of any Ram last night. I spoke to a very knowledgeable basketball mind outside of the CSU program and he thinks Jackson will be starting fro CSU by Christmas if not we’ll before. Jackson is a little behind due to illness and concussion but is steadily catching up. The coaching staff will face a challenge in the short term relative to his playing time vs Baylor Hebb and another challenge with how to use Jackson when Stevens come back. That makes for a lot of fun for fans.

The Jalen Lake Foul Called at the End – That was as bad a call as I have ever seen. CSU works hard on their end of game three-point defense and as Coach Medved said post-game, they especially focus on not fouling a three point shooter. There was no foul on that play. There was no contact. It was an absolutely horrible potentially game-changing call by referee Eric Curry, who has spent many a night making himself the center of attention rather than the players. At one point in the game, Curry made an awful charging call on Lake. Next possession came a makeup call against Gardner Webb from none other than Curry himself. Incredible!

And While I’m on the Topic of Officiating. Who we’re those other guys? I have never seen those other two members of the crew in Moby Arena. And I doubt we’ll ever see them again. Their names were Matt Basham and Dan Nowatkowski. Neither was listed among the top 200 refs in any of the previous seasons on the website. It appears they typically work lower level games at the D-2 and D-1 level. Basically they were bodies two and three of a three-man crew that offered Eric Curry no help. And believe me, Curry needs all the help he can get.

Rams Cruise to 91-52 Exhibition Win in 2022-23 Opener

October 29, 2022

The opponent was Metro State. A new head coach and a slew of new players. Sometimes you see upsets in these types of matchups. But let’s be fair. David vs Goliath wasnt in the cards for the Roadrunners. In fact, this was a case of the Wily Coyotes, err Rams dropping the proverbial Acme anvil on the visitors heads over 40 minutes of play.

Veterans John Tonje and Isaiah Rivera led the scoring with 19 and 18 respectively while newcomer Patrick Cartier chipped in 13. The Rams shot 53% from the field, 41% from beyond the arc, and a stellar 16-16 from the free throw line. They outrebounded the Roadrunners 40-30 and used their speed to dominate in fast break points 29-4.

The Rams struggled with early turnovers (6 in the first nine minutes) which kept the game close. It was clear that the game plan was to attack the paint rather then settle from the perimeter and some of the early decision making was poor. Tentative shots, poor passes, soft ball handling. They finally found their stride midway through the first half as the turnovers went away and , led by Rivera and Cartier, finished at the rim.

They led 45-29 at the half.

The second half featured more of the same in terms of attacking the rim and the payoff came midway through the second half as the Rams went on an extended 22-0 run allowing them to clear the bench for the final four minutes.

It was what you’d expect for the first time out, spanning the spectrum from disjointed to connected. Just what you’d expect with a new squad at the start of a new season. Effective but not necessarily pretty. A lot like watching an anvil fall on someone’s head.

No Tavi

With the absence of Isaiah Stevens, Ram fans were looking forward to seeing the point guard duties being share by Baylor Hebb and frosh Tavi Jackson. Unfortunately, Jackson sustained a concussion during the week and was on the bench in street clothes. Not an ideal situation in terms of his development but good for Hebb to get minutes in his expanded role. Hebb started slowly but came on in the second half, ending with 9 points and 4 assists in 26 minutes. Fans will have to wait to get a look at the dynamic Jackson.

Big Man by Committee

Bigs James Moors and Patrick Cartier mostly shared the Center position as the Rams went primarily with a small lineup . There were instances of the two on the floor at the same time. Over a combined 39 minutes, they scored 19 points on 7-10 shooting and grabbed 14 rebounds. Cartier showed his quality interior finishing skills with a variety of crafty finished with either hand. They dominated the smaller bigs from Metro but there’s lots of room for growth as the two also combined for 7 turnovers.

Gardner Webb Next Up

The games are for real beginning on November 7th when Gardner Webb travels to Moby. Tavi Jackson is expected back and will probably be part of what looks like a 9-man rotation in the absence of Stevens. The Rams began the Metro game with a starting lineup of 5 holdovers – Tonje, Rivera, Jalen Lake, Hebb, and Moors. The bench is all newcomers and their development over the course of the season will be critical to the success of the team. Cartier, Josiah Strong, Joe Palmer, and Jackson all have important roles to play and Gardner Webb will offer a good opportunity for them to demonstrate their progress.

Moving Beyond the “Secret Scrimmage” vs Minnesota

October 24, 2022

Many of you might be aware that part of CSU’s preparation for the upcoming 2022-23 Mens basketball season included a scrimmage against the Big 10 Minnesota Golden Gophers.

These pre-season scrimmages are required to be behind closed doors. No fans. No media. Coaches are allowed to share the results but rarely do. Richard Pitino Jr of New Mexico was more than willing to share the results of his team’s scrimmage with Northern Arizona last weekend(a 69-67 loss). San Diego State’s Brian Dutcher did the same regarding their close loss to UCLA.

CSU Head Coach Niko Medved is one of those that chooses to keep the details of these secret scrimmages under wraps. So whatever you do, don’t ask me who won and who lost. Because I don’t know.

There was a report on a Minnesota fan message board ( that stated that Minnesota lost by 4 points. That I can neither confirm or deny. But here’s the post:

And somehow this video appeared on Twitter. I have no idea where it came from since both staffs are adamant about releasing any kind of tape from these closed door scrimmages:

Obviously games between two universities are competitive. Obviously, every athlete plays to win the game. But in the grand scheme of things, the outcome of the game on the scoreboard is secondary to what can be learned from the experience.

So what did the staff learn you ask?

My sources say that overall the staff was very encouraged by the experience. They were able to take a team with a lot of new faces on the road against a solid opponent and see how the offensive and defensive principles that they have been learning translated against someone other than themselves. Minutes were spread very equally among the entire squad to get a look at all of them.

It was an experience without the presence of Isaiah Stevens. Not just on the floor but off. Isaiah did not make the trip with the team. Don’t forget how important his presence is to the team, especially the pair of inexperienced point guards in Baylor Hebb and Tavi Jackson. The staff was very pleased with their performances. In Tavi’s case, double digit scoring mostly from getting into the paint and the free throw line. And some decent defensive contributions as well.

James Moors and Patrick Cartier were solid in the interior. Minnesota is loaded with talented bigs and both James and Patrick were able to score inside.

Offensively they moved the ball well and shot the ball well. Anybody who went to the intra-squad scrimmage could see that this team has all kinds of perimeter weapons. Illinois State transfer Josiah Strong is starting to emerge on the offensive side after suffering through recent illness that kept him out of practice for an extended period of time. Strong was, dare I say, strong against Minnesota.

I was told it was a very high-scoring affair. Realize that CSU did very little in terms of scouting their opponent and focused more on their principles. When I asked my source whether it was a poor defensive effort or a result of that lack of pre-scout, the answer back was “We’re going to look at the tape to figure that out.”

It’s all about the next steps and the Rams have a tremendous opportunity to grow over the next few days as they incorporate what they learned from the trip to Minnesota. Lots of encouraging signs. Balanced scoring and good shooting all over the court. A solid performance by the point guard tandem of Hebb/Jackson in place of the injured Isaiah Stevens. A fine performance by bigs James Moors/Patrick Cartier against a very big and physical Gopher forecourt.

Opportunities for growth and development. That’s why they play these games.

Reacting to the Stunning News of Injury to Isaiah Stevens

October 13, 2022

Quite simply, I felt absolutely awful when news came out regarding the foot injury to Isaiah Stevens via a tweet from DNVR’s Justin Michaels.

I was getting ready to watch the season opener of the defending Stanley Cup Champ Colorado Avalanche on TV when I saw the news.

My heart sank.

Because if you have followed my work for the last several years you know how much pleasure I get watching Isaiah Stevens lead the Rams on the basketball court. If you read my article last week, you know that.

Isaiah has been the centerpiece in CSU’s rise inside the Mountain West Conference and nationally over the past three years. His numbers speak for themselves. 15 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds. His leadership speaks in a record of 65-26 over his three years. The most MWC winning starts in the first three years of any player in the history of the MWC – that total is 39.

And in this day and age of easy transfers and NIL, an old school loyalty to the program that has given him the opportunity to display his talents and develop both on and off the court. Let’s be perfectly clear about this. Isaiah Stevens could have walked away from CSU this season to the tune of about 500k in NIL money if that was his priority. But he didn’t.

Sometimes life isn’t fair. We can bemoan injuries all we want in our own selfish ways because of our love for a team. But ultimately the burden of the pain falls onto the player himself and there is nothing we can do but let him know that we are thinking of him and pulling for him in his recovery. A little prayer here or there can help too.

The hope is for a recovery that will allow Isaiah to return this season in time for conference play. The truth is that foot injuries can be tricky and there are no guarantees of any return this season.

I subscribe to the belief that all things happen for a reason.

Maybe it’s a way of preparing the CSU program and us as fans for basketball life post Isaiah. Who knows?

But this I know.

Freshman Tavi Jackson and sophomore Baylor Hebb will be asked to man the point guard position by committee. They will be given opportunities to lead the Rams through the out of conference schedule and maybe more.

Neither is Isaiah Stevens. And it will not be fair to them to compare what they can do to what Isaiah has brought to the floor. Both offer skills that allowed them to star at the prep level and both are Division 1 athletes.

Jackson is a bit of an athletic freak who averaged nearly a triple-double as a prep in Las Vegas. It’s only a matter of time before these skills translate at the next level. This season was meant to be a way of easing him into the rigors of D-1 hoops as Stevens’ understudy. Now he’ll be drinking from a fire hose.

Hebb is a heady gym rat. Originally recruited by Loyola – Illinois, he transferred to CSU after his freshman season. He played minimal minutes last season and now will be asked to step in and play an integral role whether it be as starter or substitute.

The greater challenge is now for the staff to figure out a way to develop the proper chemistry in Stevens’ absence. As the quintessential point guard, Stevens’ knowledge of the offense is such that his game is built around using his skills to dictate the pace and flow of the game. He is easy for the other players to play off of and they know that if they are in the right spots, Stevens will get them the ball at the proper time for an easy look.

Can Stevens’ scoring skills be replaced?

15 points per game is a lot. Jackson and Hebb will score some but probably not as efficiently at Isaiah whose career numbers include 40% three-point shooting, 50% 2-point shooting, and 87% free throw shooting. The team will certainly suffer some on the offensive end but there are plenty of others available to step forward.

And then there’s the end of game prowess that Stevens has displayed over his first three years. Winning buckets, assists on winning buckets. There is no other player you want the ball in the hands of in the entire Mountain West Conference. I’m not sure CSU has had a better finisher in the last 20 years.

I even owe my Monday Morning Cup of Coffee column to Isaiah. It was born from the famous movie line from “Glengarry Glen Ross” that coffee is for closers. Isaiah is that closer.

There are no doubt challenges ahead for this years CSU Mens Basketball squad with the loss of Stevens. But the truth is that you can’t replace Isaiah Stevens. The challenge becomes one for how the team will re-invent themselves into a successful squad. That same challenge would have come next season after Isaiah had moved on. The timetable has been accelerated and there isn’t a heck of a lot of time before the 2022-23 season gets underway.

Yes there will be hiccups as the team searches for an identity without Isaiah. But the potential benefits are enormous.

Imagine how strong this team could become if and when Isaiah returns to the floor. Depth developed through the fire and intensity of real games, not practice and scrimmages. Not just Jackson and Hebb but the entire cast of players who will be asked to score that one extra basket, garner that one extra rebound, get that one defensive stop that will help the team win.

And on a grander scale, I end with this quote:

Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.

Roddyless But Not Rudderless: Commanding PG Isaiah Stevens Returns to Lead the Colorado State Rams in 2022-23

October 4, 2022

Hardly a day goes by when I’m not asked by a fellow Ram fan how the 2022-23 Colorado State Mens Basketball team will fare without the presence of David Roddy.

Legitimate question.

After all, Roddy had a season for the ages in 2021-22 as he led the Rams to a 25-win regular season and an at-large NCAA berth as a 6-seed, the highest in school history. Roddy was an Honorable Mention All-American, MWC Player of the Year, and an NBA first round pick, the programs first in 15 years.

But the Rams are not without as they return the talented and talismanic Isaiah Stevens, a Cousy Award Finalist in 2022 as one of the nation’s top point guards. He leads a solid group or returners and an exciting crop of newcomers as the Rams continue their journey at the top of the Mountain West Conference.

The journey began when CSU hired Niko Medved in 2018 as their head coach. A journey that has progressed from a 7-11 conference record in his first season to produce conference records of 11-7, 14-4, and 14-4. Now in his fifth season, there is every reason to believe that Medved and staff will keep the Rams competitive at the top of the conference.

The lineup in 2022-23 will look somewhat different as the Rams lost not only Roddy, but stalwarts Kendle Moore, Dischon Thomas, and Adam Thistlewood to the transfer portal and Chandler Jacobs to graduation. They do return veterans John Tonje, James Moors, Isaiah Rivera, Jalen Lake, and Baylor Hebb (returning big Jake Jennissen is out for the season with a knee injury). They add a talented group of transfers in Josiah Strong, Patrick Cartier, and Joe Palmer. And a solid group of freshmen recruits in Jack Payne, Tavi Jackson, and Kyle Evans.

The challenge for this team will not be how to replace David Roddy. Because there isn’t one player capable of doing that. Rather, it is how the newcomers can be integrated with the returning players to form a cohesive unit and hit the ground running. Its about the whole being greater than the sum of the parts through teamwork and chemistry. Its about making a fist out of five fingers.

A game that could be a bit of a foreshadowing for how this season might play out is last year’s season opener in Moby against Oral Roberts.

Early in that game, Senior guard Kendle Moore went out with a foot injury after only 8 minutes of play. And David Roddy went to the bench suffering from back spasms; Roddy would be limited to only 20 minutes and score only 7 points.

But up stepped the other players on the team. John Tonje with 31 points. Thomas with 16, Jacobs with 16, Rivera with 8, Lake with 8 in his very first D1 game.

So the challenge of playing without much help from Roddy was met for one night.

And you can see what the challenge for 2022-23 will be. First, how do you turn a one-off effort into success over 30 games. And second, how do you get the returnees like Moors, Rivera, and Lake to deliver more minutes at higher levels and newcomers to do the same?

It all starts with Isaiah Stevens running the show. Stevens has started every game for the Rams since he set foot on campus and by the time he’s finished his four years, he will go down as one of the all-time CSU and MWC greats.

Isaiah Stevens and family

His personal career numbers are solid. 14.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.0 steals per game. 50% shooting from 2-point range, 40% shooting from 3-point range, and 87% from the free throw line.

Stevens also possesses the uncanny ability to make winning plays at the end of games. He has scored game winners against Nevada,Loyola Chicago, and Buffalo. Game winning assists last season against San Diego State and Utah State. There is no one in the MWC more effective and dangerous in the end game.

He is also a winner, period.

Stevens has started in 39 MWC victories in his first three years. I haven’t completed all of the research but it appears he is on track to be the all-time leader in MWC winning starts. My preliminary research shows that Matt Mitchell made 48 winning MWC starts for San Diego State between 2018-21 and that SDSU’s Winston Shepard started in 47 MWC wins over the period from 2013-16. Once I get the research done, its a stat I will track as well as Stevens’ climb up all of the CSU career stat charts.

Will anybody on the roster make a leap in 2022-23 like David Roddy did in 21-22?


Roddys growth in his third season was phenomenal, as he expanded his ability to score at all three levels. He improved his finishing at the rim, expanded his midrange game with a variety of one footed fallaways, and nearly doubled his career shooting percentage from deep.

But the one thing we have been able to count on in the CSU program is the year to year development of individual players. So it is safe to expect evolutionary improvement out of the players returning.

John Tonje

John Tonje gave a glimpse of what he can do with that 31-point outburst in the opener against Oral Roberts. He started too many games to win the MWC 6th Man of the Year Award. And he dealt with a meniscus injury that slowed him down as the season progressed. At one time shooting 23-48 beyond the arc, he only shot 9-40 post-injury. Tonje still managed to average 9.1 points and 3 rebounds. After beefing up to 220 pounds last season, Tonje enters the season at a sleeker 210 pounds and looks to be ready for an even bigger breakout season than the previous one.

James Moors looks to be on his way to earning the role as starting big in replacement of Dischon Thomas. Off-season foot injuries hampered his development last season and pushed him into a secondary role. He looks strong and healthy and ready to provide the requisite paint presence in 22-23. Moors averaged 4 points and 2.5 rebounds in only 12 minutes last season. Not only will he be expected to increase those numbers but some of the scoring will have to come from the perimeter as he looks to replace the loss of Dischon Thomas’ outside game.

Jalen Lake

Wing Jalen Lake will be looking to improve on a solid freshman campaign that saw him average nearly 4 points per game in 14 minutes of action. A promising start was derailed with some health issues that minimized Lake’s contribution as the season progressed. 17-39 from beyond the arc through the first 14 games and 5-30 over the final 17 games. Make no mistake about it, Lake is an elite shooter with solid defensive instincts and will be expected to play a much bigger role this season.

The same is true for wing Isaiah Rivera. He averaged 3.5 points in 12 minutes of action last season. 50+ % shooter from 2 and a 42% shooter from beyond the arc, he showed the ability to score when given more minutes last season. Look for increases in scoring and rebounding as his minutes increase.

Guard Baylor Hebb saw limited action last season after transferring from Loyola Chicago. He will be given every opportunity to earn the backup point guard position behind Stevens. Not a heck of a lot of minutes as Stevens typically plays about 35 out of 40. But important minutes for the Rams offense to run like a machine when Stevens is off the floor.

Transfers Josiah Strong, Patrick Cartier, and Joe Palmer were brought in to contribute right away..

Strong has the strongest resume of them, having averaged 11.5 ppg, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.2 assists over 33 minutes with Illinois State last season. He’s a big guard at 6’4” and 195 pounds and an elite 3-point shooter with 83 makes on 200 attempts last season, a percentage of nearly 42%. By comparison, the Rams were led last season by Roddy with 45 makes and Stevens with 42. While he wont be as quick as Kendle Moore, Strong will offer size that will help the Rams keep bigger guards out of the paint.

Cartier was a D-2 All-American at Hillsdale College where he averaged 22 points and 6 rebounds per game last season. He’s a very deft inside scorer and possesses a solid touch from the perimeter. Its too early to tell where he’ll fit into this years squad. I can tell you that I think he would have been a perfect fit on last years team, offering Roddy a greater chance to take advantage of his wing skills. I do look for Cartier to get minutes at the 4 and as a 5 in a small ball lineup.

Palmer is a huge X-factor. He comes to CSU from D-3 Augsburg College where he averaged 21 points and 9 rebounds last season. At 6’4” and 200 pounds, he is a raw, athletic scoring beast both inside and out He will be given every opportunity to play minutes this season and he alone will determine how big his contribution will be depending on how fast he grasps the concepts required to be successful on both ends of the floor at the D-1 level. He will be one to keep an eye on.

Given the depth and experience of the returnees and transfers, its unclear how much of a contribution freshmen Jack Payne, Tavi Jackson, and Kyle Evans will make.

Payne has the best chance to earn minutes as he offers up a Swiss Army knife array of talent on both ends of the floor. He can shoot, pass, rebound, run the floor, and defend.

Jackson is the heir apparent to Stevens at running the show but its unclear just how much of a chance he’ll get this season. He has the genuine goods that not many have in terms of skills and athleticism. The kid can flat out play. But integrating those skills into the framework of a top D-1 program and especially an offense with the complexity that CSU runs is easier said than done.

Evans is the rawest of the all. A late addition to the squad after Jennissen went down with injury, Evans offers athleticism and some decent shotmaking ability. At 6’10” and 210 pounds, he looks more like a stretch 4 than a typical 5 but may be asked to play some minutes here and there at the 5 position.

SO how does it all come together?

I’m thinking that 4 of the 5 starting positions are virtually locked in. Stevens, Strong, Tonje, and Moors. The last spot is up for grabs and really dependent on the direction the coaches choose in terms of size vs speed at the 4 position. I personally lean toward the size of a Cartier but I can also understand a lineup that may feature either Lake or Rivera instead. I’m most concerned about replacing Roddy on the glass and I think Cartier offers a greater chance of success at finishing off a defensive possession with a rebound..

Regardless of who starts, there will be plenty of opportunity for players to come off the bench as Medved and staff have shown the ability to successfully manage a rotation as large as 10. Whether they start of come off the bench, Cartier, Lake, and Rivera are sure to play large roles. Payne too. Jackson maybe.

And then there’s Palmer. I’ll go out on a limb on this one. If this kid can somehow force his way onto the floor, he’ll be well on his way to becoming the Chandler Jacobs of this year’s squad. An impact bench player AND fan favorite. There’s just something about this kid that I really like.

I’m also excited to see if and how the coaching staff is committed to fielding a small ball lineup that can be impactful and change games. SO much of that was predicated by the presence of a unique player like David Roddy but there are enough pieces on this years squad to make it a distinct possibility. Stevens, Strong, Lake, Tonje, Cartier – all guys who can run and shoot the three.

I think the fun part is the anticipation of seeing how this whole thing unfolds. Every season has growing pains regardless of how strong the team looks on paper. How many remember that CSU trailed Bradley at the half in the first game of the Paradise Jam last season? Or that they trailed Northeastern by 21 in the championship game!

You just hope there’s enough to hit the ground running at the start of the season and that the program is committed to ongoing improvement. I think that Medved and staff have earned that trust. And I think this will be another memorable season.

Something like 23-8, 13-5 in the MWC. And a shot at another NCAA At-Large.

Regardless of how it goes, get ready to strap on those seat belts. We’re only a month away!

David Roddy’s Road Less Traveled

June 25, 2022

I like to write. I wish I could write poetry but that was always a skill/art that escaped me.

You’ll never see me turn a phrase like Keats “Beauty is truth, truth beauty. That is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”

I’ll do my best to capture David Roddy’s career at CSU as seen through my eyes. My words may not be a work of art but will be my best recollection of those three years that David has spent in Fort Collins.

I first saw David in the summer before his freshman season at CSU when I attended a summer workout. Those of us who follow CSU Basketball were made aware of him during the recruiting cycle and I, like my others, was elated when he announced that he would be attending Colorado State over schools like Minnesota and Northwestern.

The Rams had beaten out two Big Ten schools for the services of what was a very talented three-sport athlete. He had chosen to leave his hometown University of Minnesota and he had turned down a fantastic school in Northwestern. It became obvious to me that this was a unique individual who was mature enough to recognize an opportunity to do something more than play basketball.

It was obvious he was interested in building something bigger than himself.

Which is saying something because David was an immense man child when I first laid eyes on him. 18-years-old with a some baby fat. But the athleticism was apparent in his movement. I remember thinking it was only a matter of time before he would make the transition from prep player to Division 1 player.

Summer workouts prior to freshman season

Unlike fellow freshman and roommate Isaiah Stevens, David did not crack the starting lineup immediately. But he did deliverable a memorable performance in just his second game, a roadie at Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Roddy would produce a 12 point, 6 rebound, 2 assist game in just 21 minutes. Including a memorable steal near halfcourt followed by a thunderous dunk. Yes the Rams were blown out that day but it was obvious to anybody watching that Roddy belonged. It only took two games.

And I can remember meeting up with players, coaches and fans in the Cameron lobby post-game. There was David who was gracious enough to have his picture taken with my wife.

David in the Cameron lobby with my wife Robin

Next to us, Assistant Coach Dave Thorson’s phone was absolutely blowing up with text messages from other coaches around the country.

Thorson is a legendary coach from Minnesota and he was the main driver behind Roddy coming to Fort Collins. He was like a proud papa that night as the messages kept pouring in praising the exploits of Roddy in the toughest of college basketball environments.

It would take 11 more games before Roddy would crack the starting lineup. Senior Kris Martin graciously accepted his move to 6th man and Roddy’s ascension was accelerated. In that first start against Tulsa, David delivered his first double-double with 17 points and 11 rebounds in a memorable 3OT thriller against Tulsa.

Freshman year post-game photo

The 2019-20 team would go on to win 20 games and finish 11-7 in the MWC. CSU would have played in a post-season tournament had COVID not ended it.

Fast forward to the 2020-21 season. Three seniors gone in Nico Carvacho, Kris Martin, and Hyron Edwards. The sophomore class led by Roddy and MWC Freshman of the Year Isaiah Stevens would have to grow up immediately. CSU would have to replace the nation’s leading rebounder in Carvacho. Roddy would somehow have to pick up that slack.

The coaching staff recognized the unique abilities of Roddy and devised a small-ball lineup that featured Roddy at the center position where his speed, power, and vision could be exploited as a scorer and ball distributor.

COVID robbed the team of a meaningful out of conference schedule and also robbed fans of seeing in person the leap that Roddy was making. I was fortunate enough to witness it first hand that season as a member of the media

I can remember a bunch from that season but three moments really stand out.

The first was CSU’s extraordinary comeback in Viejas Arena against conference kingpin San Diego State. Having trailed by as many as 26 points, the Rams would somehow find a way to get their noses in front on a John Tonje 4-point play with about 12 seconds remaining.

The lead was a tenuous 68-67.

And there was Roddy in the end, switched defensively onto Aztec star Matt Mitchell (the 2021 MWC Player of the Year). Mitchell made a move down the left toward the hoop, Roddy walled up perfectly, the shot missed, the Rams rebounded. After a pair of free throws, the Aztecs attempted a long Hail Mary and Roddy intercepted it like a strong safety covering the middle of the field (did you know he played football as a prep?).

The second great memory that season was a late game sequence where UNLV’s star Bryce Hamilton had a chance to score a gamewinner. UNLV ran a set and Roddy was switched onto Hamilton. As the clock ran down, Roddy was all over Hamilton, keeping him on the perimeter rather than letting him move into then paint. At the end of the clock, Hamilton was forced into a long perimeter jumper which Roddy blocked. It would have led to a dunk at the other end but the refs blew it down for a shot clock violation. The Rams went on to win.

The third moment was in Logan, Utah against Utah State. The Rams were in a close one late in the second half. They missed a shot but somehow Roddy’s athleticism allowed him to move nearly 20’ to rebound the ball. He calmly made a pivot move, examined the floor, and noticed Adam Thistlewood wide open on the opposite side. Thistlewood would drain the three and CSU would leave with a victory.

And Roddy in that sequence would show the leap he had made in his sophomore year from young bull to complete player.

CSU-Boise State Pre-game During the COVID year

The Rams would once again win 20 games and finish 14-4 in the MWC. They barely missed on an NCAA Tournament bid and would advance to the NIT semi-finals. Roddy would be named First Team All-MWC.

Roddy was on the national radar now and much was expected for hs junior year. I stopped by a summer practice and talked off-the-record with David about his future and what his thoughts were regarding CSU and turning pro.

He was very candid. He made it clear that he had zero interest in ever exploring the transfer portal for a different and seemingly better opportunity at a bigger name school. Bottom line is that he absolutely loved his coaching staff and teammates at CSU and loved the culture. He basically said in so many words, “Why would I leave something so good at CSU for an unknown situation anywhere else?”

He also talked about exploring the NBA after his junior season but made it very clear that if he didnt have a strong guarantee from the league, that he would return to CSU.

David’s third and final season at CSU was a dream season. So many great moments but I only need to describe a few which highlight the development that had taken place between his sophomore and junior seasons.

The first was an early season tournament game against Big East power Creighton. Roddy would go on to deliver a career high 36 points that game but it was how he got it that was the story. 7-10 shooting from beyond the three-point line! He had been a 25% shooter from the perimeter in his first two years. All of 15 makes his freshman year and 20 makes in his sophomore year. And here he was making 7 in one game and making it look easy. He would go on to shoot 44% for the season and 48% against top teams.

Then came the home game against St Mary’s. CSU was in the process of blowing the game wide open in the second half. Roddy was leading the small ball lineup. CSU got the Gaels spread out and Roddy showed off the ball handling skills he had developed over the summer as he put his defender on skates on his way to a thunderous dunk.

And then a low point.

First a brutal home loss to UNLV. The Rams had lost two in a row and a dream season had shown its first crack.

David was disconsolate as he sat with his mom after the game. I walked by, put my hand on his shoulder, and said some kind of stupid platitude. It probably fell on deaf ears to David but his mom was kind enough to acknowledge it.

Darcy and David Roddy

After that game, the Rams headed to Laramie where they lost a tough OT game. David had a chance to win the game with a pair of late free throws but missed one of them, allowing the game to go into OT.

A season now on the edge but the perfect opportunity for Roddy’s leadership skills to emerge.

David led the Rams on a 9-1 tear over the next 10 games. Roddy delivered night after night. In that stretch drive he averaged 20.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.3 blocks.

It was that stretch that launched CSU into the NCAA Tournament as a 6-seed.

For his exploits, Roddy was named to the All-MWC for the second time and became the second Ram to be named MWC Player of the Year.

I didnt get a chance to talk with David after the first round NCAA loss to Michigan.

I did get a chance to spend some time with him at the basketball banquet in April and we talked primarily about his next steps in exploring a move to the NBA.

David with my wife Robin at the 2022 basketball banquet

He talked about the process of going to Phoenix to begin workouts and then the combine. But more importantly, he reiterated his commitment to CSU. He made it clear that if he didnt have a strong indicator that he would be drafted into some kind of contract guarantee that he would return to CSU.

He produced strong measurables at the combine. He received poor reviews in the combine games but those games are meaningless. Zero chemistry, zero teamwork. Scouts have already seen you play countless times in real game situations. “Draft Experts” put way too much into those combine games.

So when Roddy announced that he was foregoing his senior season and had signed an agent I knew that David had received some kind of assurance that he would be selected in the first round or early in the second round and guaranteed a contract. Mock drafts had him all over the place but those guys are just guessing.

I mentioned to a former D-1 coach that I’m sure David had some kind of guarantee. That coach thought Roddy had made a big mistake, that he wasnt NBA-ready, that if a guarantee wasnt written, it didnt exist.

It was my belief that some smart NBA organization would take a look at Roddy’s body of work over his three years at CSU and examine the development that took place over those years. That trajectory has been remarkable. From raw bull trying to transition to D-1 as a freshman. To incorporating his speed, power, and vision into his contributions on the court his sophomore season. To adding strong shooting skills and ball handling to his repertoire and translating them onto the court. Add all this to high character and competitiveness.

I knew sooner of later that David would build himself into an NBA level player. I believed he would somehow make it into the first round. I didnt know if it would be after his junior year or senior year.

But I knew that there would be at least one smart organization and it turns out that it was the Memphis Grizzlies.

And so I am sad that I will no longer be able to watch him play at Moby. But I am ecstatic that he has taken that next step in his young life toward his goal of playing in the NBA.

It was exciting on draft night when David’s name was called. It was exciting to see photos and videos of David with his family, coaches, teammate after he had been selected.

Its exciting to know that David is the highest pick out of the Mountain West since Boise State’s Chandler Hutchison in 2018. Its exciting to know that David is the youngest MWC player selected in the first round since UNLV’s Rashad Vaughn in 2015.

But to me the most important thing is laid out in this video where David talks about coming to Colorado State. It is a heartfelt and emotional look at the path he took to achieve his dream. Not the orthodoxy of taking the offer from the highest visibility school but one of finding coaches and culture that will allow you to develop at the highest level. Here’s that video.

And while I can’t pen a poem of my own, I leave you with this classic. No other words are necessary.

The Road Not Taken 


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference

Rams Tame ’Dogs 65-50

February 12, 2022

In front of an energetic Friday night sellout crowd, the CSU Rams delivered one of their better performances of the season as they smashed the Top 60 Bulldogs.

It was never going to be easy as the Bulldogs are a nationally ranked defensive team led by MWC Player of the Year candidate Orlando Robinson Jr.

Robinson is an NBA-level big who showed early why he is the focus of every opponent’s game plan as he was responsible for 16 of the Bulldogs 28 first-half points, scoring at will both inside and out. He was winning some very physical battles with CSU bigs Dischon Thomas and James Moors.

In the meantime, the Rams were struggling to find any kind of offensive consistency. They had jumped to an early 15-8 lead before going scoreless for over 5 minutes, allowing the visitors to jump back in the game. A late first-half surge pushed the Bulldogs lead to as many as 6 before they headed to the locker room leading 28-25.

The Rams were being outshot from everywhere on the floor and even the free throw line. They were being out-rebounded. The defensive effort was there but they lacked any kind of edge offensively as the ball movement was sluggish and some of the decision-making in transition was poor.

And then the second half began and it was obvious the Rams were ready to kick it up a notch. David Roddy had been the only first-half constant and the Rams needed to get others more involved.

John Tonje post-game

The person chosen was John Tonje. The Rams ran a play for Tonje who backed down a defender before scoring a 12-foot jumper. A simple play call that turned out to be the catalyst that launched the Rams to a near-perfect second half.

When Tonje followed shortly after with a three-ball from the corner off a feed from Isaiah Stevens, the Rams were back in the lead at 32-30 and it was a lead they would never relinquish.

And clearly it was time for the David Roddy Show. The 6’6”, 255 lb. junior, playing with great confidence and freedom, killed the Bulldogs as he iso-ed up defenders on the left wing and either finished at the rim or shredded the double-teams with passes to James Moors for easy layups.

David Roddy post-game; the smile of a winner.

Defensively, the Rams were all over the Bulldogs, limiting their scoring to mostly putbacks on the offensive glass.

Midway through the second half, the Rams made the second big decision as they switched from their sticky man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone. Or was it a match-up zone? Or was it a hybrid 1-3-1?

The Rams’ zone mastermind is Assistant Coach Ali Farokhmanesh. Post-game he described it as kind of a 2-3, kind of a match-up zone, kind of a fluid defense. Whatever it was, it worked as the Bulldogs struggled to find any kind of clean shots.

Misses on one end, enough makes on the other as Isaiah Stevens got heavily involved in rim attacks and the Rams were swimming with a double-digit lead that they would protect effectively over the final minutes.

David Roddy would finish with 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 8 assists. Isaiah Stevens had a very understated 14 with 3 assists. Tonje would finish with 10 second half points and Moors would finish with 11. Robinson would finish with 24 points and 8 rebounds for the visitors.

But it was team execution, spurred by a couple of simple coaching decisions, that led to the victory.

Check these second-half numbers out!

40-22 on the scoreboard.

12 assists against 0 turnovers! Are you kidding me?

58.6% shooting against a team with a stout defense! Only 27.8% shooting for the opponents.

In the process, the Rams handed the Bulldogs their largest defeat of the season. They held the Bulldogs to a season low offensive efficiency rate while scoring at the second highest level the Bulldogs have experienced.

8000+ went home happy for good reason.

More Dog Stuff…

I posted this on Twitter earlier in the week:

Well, today is the day we bring our puppy home. In terms of a name, he will be named after a current CSU player. We had hoped to do the name reveal at a CSU practice but thats not practical for a variety of reasons.

Instead, we will do the name reveal on Monday February 14th during my segment on The Brady Hull Show on 1310 KFKA. I hope you’ll join us.

Wyoming Scores Key 84-78 OT Win Over Rams

February 1, 2022

Im not going to spend a lot of time on this one because I wasn’t there. When I watch on TV I don’t feel like I can add a whole lot of insight.

But I have to tell you, I’m very disappointed in the outcome tonight. CSU was the better team. Period. They did what they needed to do to come away with a big win. But they inexplicably missed wide open three-balls from the wing and wide open layups. They easily left 10 points on the floor just shooting normal percentages.

And Wyoming made shots they normally don’t. Sure they had their lead duo of Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike scoring mostly in the paint. But 20% shooter Jeremiah Oden shot 2-3 from three point-range. And 70% free throw shooters Maldonado and Ike shot 16-18 from the stripe, a cool 89%. Wyoming did what they had to do. Play over their heads.

At the same time the combination of Dischon Thomas, Chandler Jacobs, John Tonje, and Kendle Moore, a group you’d expect to shoot 40%from the perimeter, shot 1-12. Tonje and freshman Jalen Lake missed 5 layups between them.

And inexplicably Isaiah Stevens turned a late possession that could have salted the game into a shot clock violation.

And yet the Rams still had a chance to win in regulation when David Roddy stepped to the free throw line trailing by 1. He made the first, missed the second, and the Rams went on to lose in OT.

They will be kicking themselves when they watch the tape. They will see just how well they actually executed a game plan against a very difficult opponent. And then they will see all the silly misses they had. And realize that the margin of error on the road is slim. On a night that the Rams got a poor whistle, they did more than enough to return to Fort Collins with a big win over a bitter rival. They just missed when it mattered.

I felt obligated to insert this to explain the “poor whistle” comment. This call by referee Mike Red should get him a ban.

Its time for the Rams to play to their capabilities. And yes, sometimes even play over their heads.