Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball started the 2018-19 season with its first official day of practice on Wednesday. The newest version of the Roadrunners features a smaller but deeper and more versatile roster.
Here’s what to look out for as CSUB heads into the new year.
How will CSUB’s smaller, faster team pan out?
Gone are centers Fallou Ndoye and Moataz Aly, 6-foot-11 and 6-foot-10 respectively, leaving the Roadrunners without a bruiser or long-armed shot blocker on the inside. Instead, CSUB has a host of athletic forwards that stand just a few inches shorter.
If you had to pick an area of concern, that would be it.
“We’re not as big. We don’t have that 6-(foot)-10 guy that’s a power player in a sense or a guy that can just rassle in the post on a consistent basis,” Barnes said. “But we have guys that can really get up and down the floor.”
Quickness was a point of emphasis for Barnes within the first few minutes of practice on Wednesday as he yelled “We need that speed,” and “Give me speed.”
Darius Williams, Darrin Person Jr. and Cartrell Thompson — all in their first playing seasons at CSUB — fit into the athletic forward role along with returners Justin Edler-Davis, Greg Lee and James Suber.
Which Damiyne Durham will show up?
Durham showed his ability to be one of the best offensive threats in the conference late last season, averaging 15.1 points and 3.5 rebounds in the final 11 games (10 starts) of the year. He shot 40.1 percent from the field and 30.1 percent from 3-point territory in that span.
But directly before that, there was turmoil. In the four games prior, he averaged 3.25 points and made just four of his 24 shots (21 were 3s). Barnes thought he was not getting the best of Durham and that Durham was not moving forward.
More importantly, Barnes needed Durham to turn into a leader and suspended Durham for two games. Only afterward did Durham come back playing “his best basketball,” Barnes said, on both ends of the floor.
“He’s anticipating, which we are, he’s going to have a really good season,” Barnes said. “He’s seen this summer how important he is to our team, as I think he realized last year. But also I thought he took some ownership in it down the stretch.
“I think our younger guys got a chance to see his change in his approach and I think it’s helped many of them to understand what they need to do and what we need to do as a team to get better.”
Can CSUB stay healthy?
This season is already off to a better start than last year considering everyone was on the court and able to practice on Wednesday. The injuries to Brent Wrapp and Taze Moore in 2017-18 forced new guards Rickey Holden and Jarkel Joiner into large roles immediately. Losing go-to forward Shon Briggs late in the year was another hindrance.
“You have all the pieces that you would like to have together as you go into the season and then you end the season and it’s almost a different team,” Barnes said of 2017-18. “... To finish like that doesn't leave a good taste in your mouth. ... There were so many questions that were left for me, personally, as a coach. And I think even for our players it was the same thing.”
Barnes believes his group has plenty of depth this year and plenty of room to grow.