Khem Birch, Anthony Myles

The Mountain West: where transfers go to thrive

Leave a comment

Last Friday, Andy Glockner of posted a list of the transfers that will have the biggest impact heading into the 2012-2013 season.

It’s a thorough list, including just about every name you need to know that will be playing for a new team next season. There are four names, however, who didn’t get enough of a mention, in my opinion: UNLV transfer Bryce Jones, San Diego State transfers Dwayne Polee and J.J. O’Brien and Colorado State transfer Daniel Bejarano.

What do those four guys have in common?

For starters, all three play on teams that had a player mentioned by Glockner. UNLV’s Khem Birth, San Diego State’s James Johnson and Colorado State’s Colton Iverson all cracked the list. There’s more, however. All three of those schools happen to play in the Mountain West Conference, which is a league that has become arguably the nation’s most popular transfer destination.

Think about it:

– UNLV adds Birch (via Pitt) and Jones (via USC) this season to a team that already includes UCLA transfer Mike Moser and Kansas transfer Quintrell Thomas. UCLA transfer Chace Stanback graduated after last season and Marquette transfer Reggie Smith has transferred out of the program.

– San Diego State adds three transfers this season to a team that already includes two starters — Xavier Thames (Washington State) and James Rahon (Santa Clara) — that transferred in from a different school.

– Bejarano and Iverson aren’t going to be the only transfers on Colorado State’s roster. Leading scorer Wes Elkmeier arrived in Ft. Collins from Iowa State.

– New Mexico road the coattails of big man Drew Gordon, a UCLA castoff, last season while bringing former Arizona State guard Demetrius Walker off the bench.

– Nevada, who will join the MWC this upcoming season in hoops, has gotten in on the act already. Two key starters on last season’s team — Olek Czyz and Malik Story — transferred into the program from Duke and Indiana, respectively.

– Throw in Hank Thorns (TCU via Virginia Tech) and four of the MWC’s five first-team all-league players transferred into the conference. Leonard Washington (Wyoming via USC) was a second-team all-league performer.

Considering how good the MWC is expected to be this season, it’s amazing how much talent you can find on the scrap heap.


POSTERIZED: Wyoming’s Josh Adams takes flight

Josh Adams
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.

After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.

Video credit: Wyoming Athletics

Defensive progress will determine No. 4 Iowa State’s ceiling

Monte Morris
Associated Press
Leave a comment

Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.

Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.

Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.

Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.

Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.

But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.