After the end of an up and down exhibition season, it is finally time to see how the UCSB men’s basketball team fares when the games actually count.
The Gauchos had trouble holding a lead against UC San Diego and taking the lead against Westmont last week, but they came away from the exhibition season with a 2-0 record and will now face San Jose State in Friday’s season opener. The Gauchos also came away from the exhibition season with a new go-to scorer as junior guard Alex Harris has averaged 29.5 points per game. With the arrival of three new point guards and the injury to senior guard Cecil Brown, Harris has flourished in his move from point guard to shooting guard.
“The transition from high school point guard to college point guard was very difficult. I worked really hard this summer so I’m just looking forward to the season to start,” Harris said. “I’m looking forward to showing off what I can do and hopefully getting a lot of wins this year.”
Redshirt freshman James Powell has taken over as the starting point guard, and will be backed up by a pair of high school teammates. Freshman Justin Joyner comes to UCSB as a highly touted recruit from De La Salle High School after he helped the Spartans to a California State Championship. Powell and Joyner were expected to split the majority of the playing time at point guard, but against Westmont it was Joyner’s high school teammate and fellow Spartan, freshman guard Paul Roemer, who was in the game at crunch time.
As a walk-on, Roemer has come out of nowhere – his picture is not even on the team’s website yet – to become a valuable backup. With good decision-making and a deft shooting touch, he has forced himself into the Gaucho rotation.
“A scholarship doesn’t make a player, and not getting a scholarship doesn’t make you a non-player,” Head Coach Bob Williams said. “We always welcome and treat non-scholarship players the same as anybody. The best players are going to play.”
Sticking to that mantra, Williams gave significant playing time to newcomers in the exhibition season.
Junior transfers like forward Ivan Elliott and guard Trevor Bing played important roles in the exhibition games with Elliott providing a strong inside defensive presence and Bing showing off his outside shooting touch. Sophomore transfer forward Beau Gibb played 23 minutes off the bench against Westmont, adding 10 points and five rebounds. Overall, the Gauchos have seven new players in their rotation, a group that will need to show consistency with the injuries to Brown and senior forward Glenn Turner.
“We’re going to get sporadic play at times. I know [junior forward Chris Devine and Harris] are going to bring it and I know when [Brown] is back healthy, he’s going to bring it,” Williams said. “Everyone else, we might get some sporadic play out of them.”
While the Gauchos played in front of sparse crowds in the exhibition season, the team is excited to get things under way Friday night at the Thunderdome.
“Once we get the UCSB on our chest and put that jersey on it’s a thrill,” Harris said. “We’ve gotten two good wins under our belt. They were ugly wins, but good because we pulled them out. We’ll be ready to go and mentally prepared.”
Friday night’s game will tip off at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome.