2002-03 Geoducks - Men's Basketball Team Preview

OLYMPIA, WA -- Last year the Evergreen State College men's basketball team put together a championship run which was the best season performance by any Geoduck team in the school's history. A 26-7 record, a Cascade Conference championship and a trip to the NAIA National Tournament turned a relatively successful program into a program that is expected to win. After graduating six of seven seniors many people believed that it was time for Evergreen to rebuild, that last seasons team was a 'one year wonder'.

This year's team has been perceived, by many, as a rebuilding season, especially after only returning one lone starter (five players overall), and recruiting eleven newcomers. However, Head Coach John Barbee sees the challenge differently, "It's not rebuilding, it's reloading and that's what we did...we reloaded!"

After having the success the Geoducks had last season, expectations will be high, and with that comes pressure. Coach Barbee describes this year's pressure as internal, "People said we're a one year wonder, but the pressure is not external...the pressure will be based on expectations...what the coaches expect, what the players expect, and what the seniors expect. That's where the pressure will come, that's how you develop."

With eleven new faces you can bet that this year's team will be different from last seasons, however, there are many qualities that can set this team apart from those in the past.Barbee describes the team as, "A very solid incoming group. This group is hungry to compete and dedicated to continue what last year's team built. This may be the hardest working group I've had since I've been here." Coach Barbee knows that this team doesn't have the two or three star players like the teams in the past, he believes that people will see a much more balanced attack with four or five guys scoring in the teens night in and night out.

This years squad has all the tools needed to defend their conference championship and contend for a national title. All eleven recruits averaged more than 10 points per game at their previous school, five of which averaged better than 15 points per game. The lone returning starter is none other than last seasons Cascade Conference Newcomer of the Year, Mike Parker. Last season Parker averaged 15 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks per game, and broke school records for blocked shots in a season (69) and blocked shots per game (2.1). "Mike can hurt teams in many ways," explained Coach Barbee, "he's not one dimensional, there's so many ways that he's affective that it's difficult for teams to stop him...his defensive presence causes problems for a lot of teams." A senior, and team co-captain, Parker will be looked at to carry this team, but he won't have to do it alone.

Another returning senior, and also this year's team co-captain Devin Jones, along with 14 other dedicated teammates, will help carry the load through the long season ahead.Jones played in 27 games last season for the Geoducks, and had a season high 14 points and 7 rebounds in a 98-82 win over Walla Walla College. "Jones started last year behind the 8-ball because he started off the year injured, he was about 4-6 weeks behind and just never caught up," says Barbee, "I'd like to see him come in and be a leader. I look for Devin to have a big year because teams overlook him and that's going to cause problems for people. Devin can play a variety of positions and we're going to look to utilize that...his toughness and savvy are definitely going to contribute to this team.

"The surrounding cast is an extremely quick and athletic group of guys. Karriem Fielding, a point guard transfer from Sacramento City Community College, will bring to the table speed that the team hasn't had...his ability to get the ball up the court will contribute to the run and gun style the Geoducks like to play.

Tremendous athleticism comes in the form of Marvin Isaac. Isaac sat out from playing basketball last season and is anxious to get on the court and compete, his athleticism will make it extremely difficult to stop him in the open floor.

Toughness, versatility, and range will be brought by a variety of players including Tygan Billow, Haikima Moore, Ben Riipi, and local transfer Adam Laneer. Billow transferred from Bellevue Community College where he averaged just over 11 points per game. His abilitiy to play a variety of positions will help contribute to the teams success.

Haikima Moore a 6'5 quick shooter from Texas can also play a variety of positions and can really be a factor on the boards. Ben Riippi, a transfer from Centralia College is "more of a scoring point guard," says Barbee, "I thinks he can be a tough match-up if we an get him the ball at the right time, I think he can score some points for us."

Laneer, the local transfer from South Puget Sound Community College, is a tough competitor who is an offensive threat and can score when he gets the ball inside. His 17 points and 5 rebounds earned him 1st Team All-League honors at SPSCC last season.

Rounding out this years team are returners Allen Thomas, Dennis Flynn, and Chris Ferguson, along with senior transfer Kashief Nurridin, and red shirts Walter Tucker, Will Walker, and Troy Gwynn.

Thomas, a senior, played in 15 games last season, and earned the team's Most Improved Player of the Year award. Flynn also played in 15 games last season as a true freshman. Both players, along with Chris Ferguson (a redshirt last season) will contribute through their experience of playing on, and being a part of, a championship team and will be looked upon to utilize their experience and knowledge throughout the season.

Kashief Nurridin, a transfer from Community College of Southern Nevada, will play his first season of college basketball. His hard work and dedication to the team's system will be a factor in pushing his teammates to become better players.

Redshirts Walter Tucker, Will Walker, and Troy Gwynn complete this year's squad. With their mere presence on and off the court these three will challenge other players day in and day out. All have exceptional abilities and knowledge of the game, their leadership and dedication will help hold this team together.This combination of players has the coaching staff believing that "this is as good a team as you're going to find in our conference".

Coach Barbee expects the team to come out and compete right from the beginning. "I expect us to struggle a little early, but not in terms of losing, I expect us by mid December, when the first league games roll around, that we have a good rotation going...guys that are healthy, guys that understand the system, and guys that understand what it takes to do well at this level.

"As a coach, Barbee knows what it takes to win the conference. "I expect us to go back to the national tournament this year...I'd be disappointed if we didnt, even a year ago I didn't say that 'cause I didn't know what it took. But knowing what it takes and knowing what we have, I think we'll be a very solid team!"

One things for certain, you can expect Evergreen to compete night in and night out, and by late February when the seasons winding down...look out because the Geoducks will be around.