After losing five seniors — including three starters — to graduation this season, the UCSB men’s basketball team is best described by two words: young and inexperienced.
This year’s crop of five recruits, following last year’s six-man recruiting class, will further serve to jumpstart the rebuilding process for the Gaucho program in the next few years.
“We wanted a nice mix, but we also definitely had goals,” Head Coach Bob Williams said of his 2012 recruiting class. “We wanted to add at least two bigs and toughness up front, with both Jaime [Serna] and [Greg] Somogyi leaving.”
Sam Beeler is a 6’10” 215-pound power forward/center from Poway High School in Poway, CA. Although extremely raw and immature physically, Beeler has shown great potential and is already a capable defender with great hands. According to ESPN, Beeler is the No. 131-ranked power forward.
“He can run and shot block at this level now,” Williams said of his tallest recruit. “He has got to get way more physical, but his upside is as good as anybody in this class — that is why we had to beat out Washington State and other bigger conference teams to get him, because it’s so hard to find bigs that can run at this level.”
Mitch Brewe, a 6’8” forward out of Seattle Prep in Seattle, WA, may have the best chance out of any Gaucho to make an immediate impact as a freshman. Brewe is the No. 65 power forward in this year’s class. The lack of depth in the UCSB frontcourt may allow this 230-pound power forward to contribute as a defender and high-energy post player off the bench.
“Brewe is very strong, very physical and ready defensively,” Williams said. “He is fundamentally sound and can make an immediate impact as a great screener, defender and ball movement guy.”
A 6’4” guard from Foothill High School in Sacramento, CA, Michael Bryson has the all-around game to make an immediate and lasting impact on the program in the coming years. Bryson, the No. 81-ranked shooting guard in his class according to ESPN, is known as a great shooter with range. Despite averaging just over 14 points per game in high school, Bryson attracted coach Williams with his all-around game.
“He is a good shooter but a better basketball player,” Williams said. “He has got a really good basketball sense and makes a great commitment to the defensive end of the floor. He is a complete player that will only improve.”
Dalante Dunklin is a 6’0” point guard out of Francis Parker High School in San Diego, CA. The No. 40-ranked point guard according to ESPN, Dunklin is an athletic beast. A strong and active player, Dunklin is a physical presence that can blow by a defender for a dunk or hold his ground defensively. With junior Nate Garth and freshman T.J. Taylor returning as point guards, it is unsure whether Dunklin will redshirt or not, and if he will be able to acquire playing time next season. “[Dalante] is way more of a physical presence than any point guard we have had recently,” Williams said. “I think he is physically ready to come in and play at this level. The adjustments will come within growing up and being a point guard in terms of leadership and all that.”
Coach Williams’ latest recruit, Aamahd Walker, committed to attend UCSB after signing a national letter of intent in early April. The 6’2” shooting guard from Culver City High School in Culver City, CA is a natural wing scorer in the mold of recently departed senior shooting guard Orlando Johnson or last year’s recruit, redshirt freshman John Green. According to ESPN, Walker is the No. 69-ranked shooting guard in the nation in his recruiting class.
Walker averaged 20.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, 3.5 steals, 3.0 assists and 1.1 blocked shots per game during his senior season. He also shot 46 percent from the field, 33 percent from three-point range and 76 percent from the free throw line. Walker’s outstanding performance led to a Second Team All-CIF selection and First Team All-Ocean League.
“He is really talented offensively — a natural scorer,” Williams said. “If we don’t redshirt him, I would expect him to make an immediate scoring impact. … He made such a commitment of wanting to be here. He really had to work and change certain aspects of his academics and he worked very hard to make it happen.”
In addition to the freshmen of this year’s class, UCSB will return three redshirt freshmen in 6’5” guard John Green, 6’8” forward Taran Brown and 6’1” walk-on guard Duke DaRe. The rest of the Gaucho roster is expected to be filled out by three sophomores, two juniors and a lone senior.
“A lot of how we play and determining which of our freshmen will redshirt next season will depend on our bigs,” coach Williams said. “In Big Al [Williams], we have a legitimate center, but with him off the court we have to play a smaller lineup. If Brewe or Beeler can come in and contribute right away, then we won’t have to worry about catering to our big lineup and our small lineup in different situations.”