Armed with one of the deeper backcourt rotations in the Mountain West, led by preseason Player of the Year Marvelle Harris, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry has enough options to provide flexibility within his lineups. That includes being able to go “small” at times, with a front court led by junior Karachi Edo being entrusted with the task of defending the paint and controlling the boards.
Fresno State’s available front court options have done well enough in the preseason to allow Terry to take the step of redshirting freshman forward Nate Grimes, with the decision being announced just before the Bulldogs’ 77-55 exhibition victory over Dominican College Friday night.
The 6-foot-8 Grimes, who spent his final season of high school basketball at Quality Education Academy in North Carolina, received numerous offers from Mountain West and Pac-12 programs before deciding to commit to Fresno State. He’ll be able to benefit from competing with Edo, sophomore Terrell Carter II and junior college transfers Torren Jones and Cullen Russo in practices this season, with an eye towards being a contributor in 2016-17.
Fresno State, picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West preseason media poll, returns their top five scorers from last season.
With four guards entering their final season of eligibility, Fresno State needed to add some bodies to its backcourt for the future. Head coach Rodney Terry and his staff took a step in that direction Wednesday, as former Colorado guard Jaron Hopkins has decided to transfer to the Mountain West program.
News of Hopkins’ decision was first reported by the Fresno Bee.
In two seasons at Colorado, Hopkins averaged 5.3 points and 2.9 rebounds in 19.5 minutes of action per game. As a sophomore the Arizona native made 17 starts, shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from beyond the arc. Hopkins will have two seasons of eligibility remaining after sitting out the 2015-16 season at Fresno State, where he reunites with former grassroots (Compton Magic) teammate Paul Watson.
Fresno State, which finished 15-17 last season (10-8 Mountain West), returns its top four scorers but three of those players are guards who will be seniors in 2015-16. Marvelle Harris, who averaged 16.4 points per game last season, is a senior as are Cezar Guerrero and Julien Lewis.
With those three, and reserve Darnell Taylor, due to move on there will be opportunities for Hopkins to be a key contributor when he’s eligible to compete in 2016-17. While Hopkins sits three other newcomers will be able to play next season for the Bulldogs: Washington transfer guard Jahmel Taylor (eligible mid-year), junior college transfer Cullen Russo and freshman Nate Grimes.
Two days after former Long Beach State, UNLV and Fresno State head coach Jerry Tarkanian passed away at 84, Fresno State announced on Thursday that it will honor the memory of its former coach in multiple ways over the next few days.
Beginning with Saturday’s home game against Boise State, uniforms will have a “Tark” patch and there will also be a moment of silence preceding the game and a video tribute at halftime. The school will also have cards that fans can sign before heading into Save Mart Arena for the game.
In addition to these measures, Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry will leave an empty seat on the bench in Tarkanian’s memory, with a white towel “occupying” that seat.
The white towel was something Tarkanian began to use as a high school coach in California, as it was easier to use a damp towel when thirsty as opposed to making frequent trips to the gym water fountain. And with his team winning a league title on that day, the superstitious Tarkanian continued to use the towel for the remainder of his career.
Fresno State will also lower its flags to half -staff on Monday, which is when a private service will be held for Tarkanian in Las Vegas.
“Jerry Tarkanian is one of the true legends in the coaching profession,” Terry said earlier in the week. “He was successful at so many different levels in college basketball. Coach Tarkanian welcomed me in from the first day I arrived in Fresno. He loved the Bulldogs and stayed connected with our program throughout the years.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Lois and family during this extremely difficult time.”
Fresno State has struggled to a 4-8 start this season as they’ve been without junior point guard Cezar Guerrero, who is academically ineligible.
According to a report from Robert Kuwada of The Fresno Bee, Guerrero is waiting for the grades for fall semester to post so that he can recertify his NCAA continuing eligibility requirements. The deadline for grades to post is on Monday, so it’s likely that the junior will miss his 13th game of the season on Sunday when the Bulldogs face St. Katherine College, a non-Division I opponent.
Guerrero should give Fresno State more scoring pop if he can return to the lineup as he averaged 13.1 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore. The 6-foot-1 native of Huntington Park, California also shot 87 percent from the free-throw line but was a little more limited from the field, as he shot 41 percent from the field and 34 percent from three-point range.
Fresno State opens the Mountain West Conference season on New Year’s Eve at New Mexico on Wednesday and it would be a big boost if Guerrero could re-enter the rotation.
Fresno State freshman guard Isaiah Bailey, the program’s highest ranked recruit in the Class of 2014, was dismissed from the team for violating a athletic department policy.
Fresno State head coach Rodney Terry confirmed the news to Robert Kuwada of the Fresno Bee on Friday night. The 6-foot-6 Bailey was ranked No. 125 overall by Rivals. He had yet to appear in a game for the Bulldogs due to a wrist injury sustained in the preseason.
“He’s a guy that we were counting on and could have helped us, but unfortunately he made a couple of bad choices that can’t be tolerated,” Terry told Kuwada.
Fresno State ends its non-conference slate against St. Katherine College (California) on Sunday. The Bulldogs open Mountain West play on New Year’s Eve at New Mexico.
With four starters returning from a team that won 21 games and reached the championship series of the CBI, Fresno State is expected to be a contender in a Mountain West race seen by many to have seven teams capable of winning the league. One of those starters is junior guard Cezar Guerrero, who averaged 13.1 points and 3.5 assists per game in 2013-14.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs Guerrero won’t be available when they open their season at Pepperdine Friday night, as the NCAA has declared him ineligible “for not meeting continuing eligibility standards” according to Robert Kuwada of the Fresno Bee. The Fresno State basketball program released a short statement on the situation via its Twitter account.
“Cezar Guerrero ruled ineligible by NCAA for not meeting the continuing eligibility standards & will not play during appeal process,” the program stated via Twitter. “Cezar continues to practice with the team and is in good academic standing with the university.”
How long this process carries on for remains to be seen, and as noted above the school is appealing the NCAA’s decision.
On the court Fresno State does take a hit with this loss, and they’ll need their other options to step forward while Guerrero sits. Marvelle Harris finished the 2013-14 season second on the team in assists, and sophomore Emmanuel Owootoah saw some time (9.8 ppg) as a reserve during his freshman year.
Fresno State also has 6-foot-3 combo guard Darnell Taylor, a transfer from Saddleback (California) College who averaged 11.3 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game in 2012-13. Taylor sat out last season to focus on his academics, ultimately landing at Fresno State.