2008-09 Pacific Basketball Preview: #99
Overall Rank: #99
Conference Rank: #1 Big West
2007-08: 21-10, 11-5, 4th
2007-08 postseason: none
Heading into the off-season, Pacific appeared to be the clear favorites to win the Big West Conference. That clarity has since become murky. Some off-court issues have resulted in a couple starters being removed from the team and that leaves space for teams like Cal State Northridge and UCSB to make a run at a title. The Tigers of Pacific and Coach Bob Thomason still have plenty of talent around to do plenty of damage.
It will not be easy without point guard Steffan Johnson and forward Michael Nunnally. Both were starters last year and both are off the team for at least this season. Johnson led the team with 14.5 points and 4.9 assists per game and his unexpected departure leaves a gapping hole. Nunnally was a decent scorer around the basket and was the team’s most prolific, which is not saying much, shot blocker. DaAngelo Garrett and Solomon Horsechief are not suiting up for the Tigers this year after playing in only a handful of contests during the 2007-2008 campaign.
With the unexpected departures of Johnson and Nunnally, and the suspension of Michael Kirby who will sit out at least the fall semester, the newcomers will play a bigger role than most had thought. Junior college transfers Lavar Neufville and Royal Edwards will carry the bulk of the load. Neufville is a fine scorer and could start at the point guard spot and provide valuable depth at shooting guard. Like Neufville, Edwards will have to fight off some returning players if he wants a starting gig, but the 6-6 small forward can score in a variety of ways. The rest of the newcomers are freshmen. Brandon Hawkins is the point guard of the future and Reed Kamler, Nick Peterson and Taylor Shipley could all provide emergency depth in the backcourt. Small forward Tony Cates finds himself at the deepest position on the team and will likely spend a year or two behind more experienced players before he is given much of an opportunity.
Who to Watch:
Despite the absence of Johnson, the backcourt still has some weapons. Chad Troyer is the most proven commodity. The 6-4 senior hit 2.7 three-pointers per game at a 44.3 percent clip last season. Troyer will not score too much around the basket, so it will be very important for the new point guard to get to the basket to free up Troyer. C.J. Morgan will get the first crack at being that guy. Morgan’s experience gives him the leg up over the newcomers for the time being, but he only averaged 10.7 minutes per game during the 2007-2008 campaign as a sophomore. He does not have much experience handling the ball, but he should be a capable replacement. If not, Neufville or Hawkins can handle the job. Sophomore Terrell Smith and senior James Doran have not seen much playing time during their careers in Stockton, but it would be beneficial for one or both of them to develop into a consistent scorer. Smith has the most potential and his athleticism could earn him a starting job. It will be even more important for Smith and Doran to have quality campaigns if Joe Ford’s knee injury keeps him on the sidelines more often than not. Ford started 25 games last year, but it remains to be seen if he can effectively shake off his injury and be a contributor on this team.
There is not much depth up front without Nunnally, but the frontcourt should still be the strength of Pacific. Anthony Brown, a 6-7 forward, is ready for a big senior season. He tallied 10.7 points and 7.2 rebounds last year and has the ability to dominate the paint. With 6-8 center Casey Neimeyer by his side, the Tigers have a formidable duo. Neimeyer has been quite productive when he has been on the floor and his minutes, and likely his production, will skyrocket this season. Bryan LeDuc and Sam Willard, at 6-8 and 6-9 respectively, are decent big men capable of filling in off the bench. Yet, if foul trouble or injuries strike, the lack of depth up front will be a big problem….a problem big enough to knock Pacific out of a conference championship.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
C.J. Morgan, Junior, Guard, 2.9 points per game
Chad Troyer, Senior, Guard, 12.8 points per game
Terrell Smith, Sophomore, Guard, 1.9 points per game
Anthony Brown, Senior, Forward, 10.7 points per game
Casey Neimeyer, Junior, Center, 4.1 points per game