What did we learn from Cal State Bakersfield’s season opening drubbing of Division III Whittier College? Not a whole lot.
It was the first step in a long journey. A tune-up, if you will.
There were a few things observed: The Roadrunners have talent and length. They should be able to score (although head coach Rod Barnes and the team’s leaders were lamenting the need for improved defense and rebounding moving forward).
Eleven players took the court, a healthy number during the 88-66 victory.
And freshman Jarkel Joiner doesn’t look like your average first-year player. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound guard was fourth in the nation last year in high school scoring, averaging 36.5 points per game at Oxford High School in Mississippi. Yes, the young man can get buckets, and he should get a lot of ‘em over the next four years with the Roadrunners. Go to the gym and check him out. He’s worth it.
And, of course there was head coach Rod Barnes, coaching every little detail from the opening tip. Barnes was on his team from the start, including meeting Joiner on the court when a timeout was called to get on the freshman for what the coach deemed to be an error.
And it’s understandable why. One would think Barnes is trying to set the tone entering the new year. Yes, the Roadrunners have had two straight successful seasons — a WAC Tournament championship, along with an NCAA Tournament berth two years ago; then last year’s conference regular-season title and NIT final four run.
But those accomplishments are in the past. And things are about to get very real, very quickly. A road game at Georgia Southern is on the schedule Monday. Then another one, at No. 3-ranked Arizona, on Thursday. Talk about a week of work ahead.
The WAC will be no cake walk either. Grand Canyon will bring it under Dan Majerle this season, and is eligible for the postseason. Utah Valley lost by 10 to No. 5 Kentucky to open its season Friday. And New Mexico State, as we know, is the conference’s established program. The top-four spots in league appear to be up for grabs.
“Coach Barnes gave us a little speech. Right when we get the rings, last season’s over with,” said senior guard Brent Wrapp. “We’ve got this season to look forward too, and we need to do some new things this year. Last season’s in the past and we can’t be dwelling on that. This is a different team, and a different year, with different guys. We need to establish ourselves.”
Barnes pointed to Moataz Aly (senior center), Fallou Ndoye (senior center), Shon Briggs (senior small forward), Rickey Holden (junior guard) and Joiner as players with either new roles on the team or playing their first year of Division I college basketball.
“It’s been in practice that I’ve been just telling them, trying to prepare them with the urgency that you have to play with. My kids play hard. And I’m proud and thankful for that. Man, it’s just details,” Barnes said following Friday’s win. “You can’t make that mistake. We can’t run a play and you not be in the right place. Or, we can’t be in the wrong place on defense.”
A process to be sure. It started Friday, in a tune-up. It will continue this week, and well through the new year.