Washington State transfer Valentine Izundu will be visiting San Diego State after all.
Coach Ernie Kent has rescinded his restriction on the 6-foot-10 graduate transfer from visiting the Aztecs, according to a report from the Spokesman-Review, citing an anonymous source. Izundu will also be reportedly visiting Fresno State and UNLV.
Izundu had previously been barred from considering the Aztecs by Kent because of suspcisions of tampering. Izundu vigorously denied that was the case as at the center of the dispute was a trip he made to San Diego for spring break. He publicly said he did not have any contact with the SDSU coaching staff , though he attended an Aztecs NIT game.
Kent, though, appears to have relented, as many coaches who have similarly faces public pressure in such situations before him have. In this era where so much attention is being paid to player rights and welfare, there only seems to be growing public sentiment against programs restricting transfers beyond the absolute bare minimum is rarely going to go over well. It may make things more difficult for coaches and programs, but it’s the deck is largely already stacked in their favor in most every other instance.
“Offense sells tickets, but defense wins championships.”
Whether or not you agree with the statement made by the late Paul “Bear” Bryant, there’s no denying the importance of defense when it comes to winning games. Teams can score as much as they want, but if they can’t get stops on the other end they’ll be in trouble. Ahead of the start of the 2015-16 season, we’ve put together our picks for the best defensive players in the country. Some will be shot blockers and others masters of the steal, and there will be a couple strong positional defenders as well.
Who’d we miss? Who should they replace? Feel free to leave your answers below.
G Kris Dunn, Providence
As a redshirt sophomore the 6-foot-4 Dunn averaged 2.7 steals per game, with his length and athleticism allowing the national Player of the Year candidate to make life difficult for opposing point guards. He can be a bit of a gambler at times, but overall he’s a very difficult matchup at a position where many point guards hover around the 6-foot mark.
G Ron Baker, Wichita State
If you don’t know Baker’s résumé by now, that’s on you. Baker is one of the nation’s top on-ball defenders, keeping his man out of the paint while also challenging scoring opportunities on the perimeter. As a junior Baker led the Shockers in both defensive rebounds (157) and blocked shots (27).
G Gary Payton II, Oregon State
Payton’s selection as Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year was a controversial one, with many believing that Arizona’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson should have been the choice. But neither that nor the fact that Oregon State relied on a matchup zone to mask its lack of depth should not overshadow the impact “The Mitten” had defensively as he led the Beavers in steals (95) and was second in blocks (39).
F Hassan Martin, Rhode Island
The 6-foot-7 Martin became just the second player in URI history to record 100 blocks or more in a season, tallying 103 (3.1 bpg). The Staten Island native is also a good rebounder (7.7 rpg), and his length and athleticism allow Martin to play “bigger” than his height in the paint.
C Amida Brimah, Connecticut
The 7-footer from Ghana led the nation in blocked shots a season ago, recording 121 which was good for an average of 3.46 rejections per game (second nationally). Having a rim protector the caliber of Brimah helps teams be more active on the perimeter, as they have a big man capable of cleaning up mistakes.
SECOND TEAM ALL-DEFENSE
G Tyler Ulis, Kentucky
The 5-foot-9 Ulis is an absolute pest defensively, thanks to a combination of effort and quickness. Ulis played in a reserve role last season, which somewhat explains the average of just one steal per game. But defending isn’t all about impressive stats, and with Kentucky’s shot blockers Ulis can afford to be aggressive in defending the ball. We’re betting that his reputation grows in this area in 2015-16.
G Malcolm Brogdon, Virginia
Virginia’s pack line defense doesn’t lend itself to eye-popping individual stats. But that shouldn’t be used as a reason to overlook what the fifth-year senior does on the defensive end of the floor. One of the top players in the country, the 6-foot-5 Brogdon was also named to the ACC’s All-Defensive Team in 2014-15.
G Rapheal Davis, Purdue
Last season the Boilermakers’ team leader was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, winning the honor despite finishing the year with eight blocks and 28 steals. He isn’t going to dominate those statistical areas, but that doesn’t mask his ability to make life difficult for whoever head coach Matt Painter asks him to guard (usually the opponent’s best perimeter player).
F Skylar Spencer, San Diego State
Spencer is the rim protector on one of the nation’s best defenses, averaging 2.5 blocks per game as a junior. The 6-foot-10 Spencer finished the year with an individual block percentage of 12.7 per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers, a figure that ranked seventh nationally. Teams don’t get many chances to penetrate the SDSU defense, and once in the paint Spencer serves as quite the deterrent.
C Vashil Fernandez, Valparaiso
Fernandez receiving his fourth year of eligibility was a big boost to a program expected to make a return trip to the NCAA tournament. Last season the 6-foot-10 center earned Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year honors, as he ranked 11th in the country with an average of 2.9 blocks per game and sixth in block percentage (13.0).
Also considered: Anthony Gill (Virginia), A.J. Hammons (Purdue), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Brice Johnson (North Carolina), Jameel McKay (Iowa State), A.J. West (Nevada)
VIDEO: San Diego State dedicates ‘Steve Fisher Court’
When Steve Fisher took over as the head coach at San Diego State in 1999, to say that he was faced with a difficult rebuilding project would be an understatement. Prior to Fisher’s arrival the program produced just two 20-win seasons, with Smokey Gaines responsible for both in 1981-82 and 1984-85. To go from those lean years to now, with the Aztecs expected to not only be a perennial NCAA tournament team but win once there, speaks to what Fisher and his staff have managed to do.
Thursday afternoon the school honored Fisher for his achievements, naming the court at Viejas Arena “Steve Fisher Court.” A fitting honor for the head coach who has done so much of the school since he arrived on campus. And he’ll have another good team this season, as the Mountain West coaches picked San Diego State to win the conference in their preseason poll earlier this month.
San Diego State has made six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, winning at least one game in each of their last five trips.
Video credit: San Diego State Athletics
Aztec transfers Gill-Caesar, Hoetzel recovering from knee surgery
While the year in residency required of transfers serves as a time when newcomers can get acclimated to a new program, system and campus, it can also be a time when players can address medical issues. In the case of two San Diego State transfers, knee issues have resulted in them undergoing surgery this week.
According to the San Diego Union-Tribune wing Montaque Gill-Caesar and forward Max Hoetzel both underwent knee surgery. While Gill-Caesar had a cyst removed from his knee, Hoetzel’s procedure was to repair some cartilage. Both players are expected to be sidelined anywhere from four to six weeks.
With both players having to sit out this season anyway, this isn’t going to impact San Diego State’s rotation heading into the start of the upcoming season. But it does leave the Aztecs a couple bodies short in practice for the time being, which could make things difficult at times for a group that had some roster depth issues to address this summer.
Joining Gill-Caesar and Hoetzel as redshirts this season is freshman forward Nolan Narain, originally a 2016 commitment who decided to reclassify in the summer.
San Diego State commit discusses negative recruiting
There’s no denying that negative recruiting occurs in college basketball, with some taking the approach of convincing recruits what another school lacks while also selling their own program’s positives. And when the possibility of an NCAA investigation comes into play, chances of negative recruiting taking place increase a great deal.
In a story written by Mark Zeigler of the San Diego Union-Tribune, recent SDSU commit Jalen McDaniels discussed what’s changed in his recruitment since the reports of a possible NCAA investigation surfaced. McDaniels, who hails from Federal Way, Washington, remains a firm San Diego State commit and he took to Twitter to make this clear on Tuesday.
The text was from a Pac-12 program. It was a screen shot of the story outlining the allegations.
“They were like, ‘It’s gonna get crazy,’ ” McDaniels said. “I was like, ‘No, it’s not.’ ”
Oral commitments are not binding. Only national letters of intent are, and high school seniors can’t sign them until early November. In the meantime, McDaniels continues to stand by his new family.
“10 toes down out here #Aztecs,” he tweeted before he went to bed Tuesday night.
“It was just showing that I’m loyal to the program,” he explained. “I chose the school for a reason. I’m not going anywhere.”
Given how long SDSU head coach Steve Fisher and his staff have been in charge, this likely isn’t the first time that they’ve had to deal with this scenario. However the unpredictability of this current situation, beginning with the question of whether or not the NCAA will make a formal inquiry, can make dealing with negative recruiting a bit more difficult.
The best the staff can do right now is keep their commitments and recruits up to date on the developments consistently, thus limiting the impact that the “rumor mill” can have in such situations. And with San Diego State in the running for talented players such as T.J. Leaf, M.J. Cage and Trevor Stanback (all 2016), this becomes an important move for the coaching staff.
Three-star power forward commits to San Diego State
With Winston Shepard, Angelo Chol and Skylar Spencer all being seniors, adding depth to the front court is a key for San Diego State in the 2016 recruiting class. Wednesday night Steve Fisher’s program picked up an important commitment on that front, as three-star power forward Jalen McDaniels verbally committed to San Diego State while hosting them on an in-home visit.
The 6-foot-9 McDaniels announced the news via his Twitter account, and with another forward in Nolan Narain reclassifying to 2015 the Federal Way, Washington product becomes SDSU’s first 2016 commit. Among the other programs to have offered McDaniels, who took an official visit to SDSU in late August, were Arizona State, Boise State and Washington.
As a junior at Federal Way HS, McDaniels helped the team win the Washington Class 4A state title with Washington State signee Viont’e Daniels also a member of that roster. McDaniels played for the Seattle Rotary grassroots program this past spring/summer.
While McDaniels is slight of build, his length and athleticism make him a good fit for San Diego State. The Aztecs have had success with this mold of player under Fisher, and will look to continue that with McDaniels when he arrives on campus in 2016. At that time he’ll join the likes of Narain (who’s redshirting this season) and redshirt freshman Zylan Cheatham in competing for front court minutes (sophomore Malik Pope is a player some consider capable of making the leap to the NBA after the 2015-16 season).