The Gauchos may not be in tip-top shape, but the kids are alright.

Freshman guards Cecil Brown and Josh Davis are the two shining stars of the UCSB men’s basketball team. For the future, that is.

Judging by the way these diaper dandies have inched their way into the rotation, the future is starting to take shape now for Santa Barbara.

“We’re just here trying to fit in and help the team when we can,” Brown said.

The freshman guards will try to boost the Gauchos past Cal State Northridge tonight at 7 in the Thunderdome. The Matadors, mired in a season-high five-game losing streak, are the only Big West team without a conference victory.

Brown and Davis will try to keep CSUN down a little longer while continuing to refine their own skills. The guards will try to help UCSB move over .500 in the Big West from 2-2 and improve on a deceiving 5-9 overall mark.

“With each game, I build a little more confidence,” said Davis, an Elk Grove High product born in Mobile, Ala. “Starting off early in the year, I was doubting myself. But with each game’s experience, I just build confidence and grow.”

Davis has shown some jitters offensively, but remains one of the most active Gauchos on defense with long arms and a jaguar-like quickness that allow him to reach into the passing lanes.

Since enjoying a 14 point night on 5-5 shooting against Riverside on Jan. 2, Davis has hit an iceberg, going 2-13 from the field. Yet he has averaged two steals a night, including three swipes against Idaho, while collecting 3.3 rpg in the last three games. He averages 3.4 ppg and has made 9-10 free throws.

“It’s been tougher for Josh in certain ways because he’s a true freshman and we’ve had him play as many as four different positions,” UCSB Head Coach Bob Williams said. “He’s really been asked to learn a lot of different things on the floor, and he’s just now getting caught up.”

Brown, a business economics major who prepped for two years at Canoga Park High, has struggled lately at knocking down shots but has shown flashes of brilliance. In his first collegiate game, Brown dropped 12 points off the pine in a loss to Weber State. Brown scored a season-high 13 points at Pepperdine in 15 minutes of action on Dec. 7.

“One thing Coach Williams has told him is, ‘Cecil, I won’t ever complain about your shooting unless you take bad shots.’ Coach wants him to shoot because he knows Cecil can knock them down,” UCSB Assistant Coach Marty Wilson said. “I’ll tell you what, he’s a good player right now, and he’s going to be a great player.”

Possessing a “fiery” attitude, according to Williams, Brown is fourth on the team in points at 5 ppg and has improved on his drives to the basket. The redshirt freshman also has a unique kink in his shooting form. When he goes up for a jump shot, sometimes Brown kicks his right leg up.

“When I played on the playgrounds back at home, I used to get tripped up a lot when I shot,” Brown said. “So my friend said, ‘Well, if they come at you, kick them.’ I just jump up when I shoot and if I see someone come at me, I stick my right leg out. Now it’s become so much of a habit that I try not to do it, but I just keep doing it.”

As long as Brown continues to gel into the Gauchos’ offense then he can shoot it any way he pleases. And both Brown and Davis are pleasing the UCSB coaching staff with athleticism and energy – traits that will be needed against CSUN (6-7, 0-3), NCAA Tournament participants two years ago.

“We definitely have to turn it around right now,” Brown said. “We haven’t been playing to our potential, and there’s no point in even trying to hide it.

“This is the perfect time to turn it around.”