Rod Barnes’ most anticipated day of the year is almost here.
The Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball team will start its 2017-18 regular season against Division-III Whittier College at 7 p.m. Friday in the Icardo Center.
The team will celebrate last season’s Western Athletic Conference regular season championship team with a pre-game ring ceremony and championship banner. Then Barnes, the head coach of the team, will finally get to put last season behind him. His group is on edge for the first game of the year and Barnes isn’t taking the D-III Poets lightly.
“They play a style that could cause us some problems,” Barnes said. “There’s some urgency there. They’re not your typical team that you play. They play a lot like Utah Valley. They’re up and down. A lot of passing and cutting and shooting and trying to play at a fast pace, trying to outscore you so we can't come in lackadaisical and expect to perform well.”
From there, the level of competition will escalate dramatically with a road game at Georgia Southern — picked to finish fourth in the Sun Belt by the coaches — three days later and then another road tilt at nationally-ranked No. 3 Arizona three days after that.
What concerns Barnes the most prior to the start of the year is the team’s defense and rebounding due to inexperience. They’ve been inconsistent through practice and the two exhibitions.
“Throughout our team it’s a lot of ‘I don't know. I don’t understand what to do,’” Barnes said regarding defensive adjustments.
Starting point guard Brent Wrapp is still battling through a foot injury and hopefully, Barnes said, about a week away from returning to full health. He is healthy enough to play and felt good after the most intense practice of the fall on Monday, Barnes said. It was the first time Wrapp participated in an entire practice, too.
Junior college transfer Rickey Holden has stepped up in Wrapp’s absence but can’t help others on the team as well as Wrapp could, Barnes said. While Barnes could focus on improving one player at a time in practice a year ago, he’s making adjustments with the entire team each day this season.
Barnes won’t be too concerned with the team’s performance in terms of wins and losses until conference play, he said. He expects to have the year’s rotation set after the team returns from the Great Alaska Shootout the last weekend in November. He hopes the team will maintain a consistent level of play its performances by about the first week of December.