csub_basketball

CSUB head coach Rod Barnes talking to guard Damiyne Durham at practice during the 2017-18 season.

With Cal State Bakersfield men’s basketball starting its season at No. 20 Texas Christian on Wednesday, it’s time to look ahead at the new year.

For the first time in two seasons, the Roadrunners aren’t coming off historic postseason runs. CSUB went just 12-18 and lost in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament for the first time ever.

“We didn’t have a good year and that’s not CSUB basketball at all,” redshirt sophomore guard Taze Moore said. “We don’t want it to be like that again.”

Here are three keys for CSUB men’s basketball this season.

The second-year players

The Roadrunners have a large core of players in their second years with the team. Rickey Holden, Jarkel Joiner, Taze Moore, Justin Edler-Davis, James Suber, Greg Lee and Justin McCall each have a year of on-the-court playing experience at CSUB. That’s half of the 14 players CSUB has eligible to play this season.

The struggles and inconsistency of last year’s 12-18 campaign were due in part to the inexperience of those Roadrunners.

Holden, at point guard, has now had an entire summer to prepare for the starting job. Edler-Davis and Lee have both bulked up considerably in the weight room. McCall is one of the most offensively improved players on the team, Barnes said.

It’ll be on the second year players to take the pressure off newcomers like Darius “Day Day” Williams and Kevin McNeal. And considering they make up the bulk of the team, the majority of CSUB’s production and minutes should come from the second year guys.

Damiyne Durham needs to play

CSUB senior guard Damiyne Durham wasn’t present for the team’s Blue-Gold scrimmage this year and did not play in the charity exhibition against Long Beach State.

It’s not the first time the sharpshooter has been forced to sit out. He was suspended for two games last season because of leadership issues, head coach Rod Barnes said at the time. Durham was also suspended for the team’s exhibition in 2016-17 and the first half of its NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma during the 2015-16 season.

“Maybe one of these days we’ll tell the story about Damiyne and maybe I might become famous or something like that, but he’s in a good place right now,” Barnes said on Oct. 30.

Durham has the ability to be the most impactful player on the court for CSUB. He’s athletic and a dynamic scorer. He ended last season playing “his best basketball,” Barnes said, averaging more than 15 points and shooting better than 40 percent from the field.

Before CSUB’s first official practice at the end of September, Barnes said he thought Durham had permanently turned a corner at the end of the previous season in terms of the issues that kept him off the court.

That appears to not have been so. Durham has been practicing with the team, though. Barnes was not available for an interview prior to the team leaving for TCU to say whether or not Durham would play in the season opener.

“I think people were wondering whether he’s gonna be with the team or not,” Barnes said on Oct. 30. “That’s never been a question. It’s my job to protect our players and our program with what we’re trying to do. It’s nothing illegal, nothing that police are going pick him up or problems or issues like that. It never has and — I don’t think — it never will be. We’re working through the issues that we have.”

The Roadrunners can’t afford to not have one of their best and most experienced players on the court.

Better shooting

Part of having a smaller lineup will likely mean that CSUB will feed the ball into the post less. The Roadrunners aren’t going to neglect the post entirely but more of an emphasis will likely be placed on jump shooting.

CSUB’s 41.8 shooting percentage from the field last season was 314th out of 351 teams in Division I. Its 30.2 3-point percentage was 341st.

“I think we have a better shooting team,” Barnes said. “I think that’ll be the most improved (aspect).”

The Roadrunners scored 70 points in the Long Beach State exhibition, shooting about 43 percent, Barnes said. Two of the better shooters on the team, Joiner and Edler-Davis, didn’t even shoot the ball well during the game. The 43 percent is worse than the team had been doing in scrimmages in practice, Barnes added.

Jon Mettus can be reached at 661-395-7389. Follow him on Twitter: @jmettus.

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