Basketball season officially underway

Matthew Roberson | Sports Editor | The USD Vista | @mroberson22

The men's basketball team lines up for sprints in a practice held at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Oct. 2. Photo Courtesy of USD Men's Basketball/Twitter

The men’s basketball team lines up for sprints in a practice held at the Jenny Craig Pavilion on Oct. 2. Photo Courtesy of USD Men’s Basketball/Twitter

The end of the month of September serves as a benchmark for college students. For first year students, it signifies the end of their first month away from home. It can be a chilling reminder of both how long you’ve been on your own, as well as how much longer you have to go. When September comes to its conclusion, students also usually see an increase in their workload. Gone are the days of showing up to class, going over a syllabus and leaving. With midterm exams being administered and essays being assigned, it can feel as though the semester truly begins when September ends.

For the University of San Diego men’s basketball team, the tidal wave of academia must be balanced with the start of their season. The first official practice of the 2015-16 season was held on the morning of Oct. 2, which could be seen as a new dawn for the entire basketball program.

That practice was the first one conducted by new head coach Lamont Smith, a USD graduate who spent the last two years as an assistant coach for the New Mexico Lobos. He is very familiar with the West Coast Conference, both from his time as a player for the Toreros and from his time as assistant coach for the St. Mary’s College Gaels and Santa Clara University Broncos.

Smith has been very vocal about the excitement that comes with returning to the Linda Vista area. Not only is he returning to his alma mater, but this will also serve as Smith’s first stint as a head coach. While he was only hired five months ago, Smith has already seen his vision start to take shape.

“There has been great attention to detail [at practice],” Smith said. “The attitude here has been outstanding. Every single day we are trying to get better.”

This year’s team will face an uphill battle, as the WCC continues to improve from top to bottom, and the two best players from last year’s team have graduated. When the season tips off on Nov. 7, fans will not be cheering for former guards Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson. Instead, this year’s backcourt will likely feature a heavy dose of sophomore guards Vasa Pusica and Marcus Harris. Along with those two, who each played in every game for the Toreros last year, the roster also contains familiar faces like senior center Jito Kok, senior guard Duda Sanadze, and junior forwards Brett Bailey and Brandon Perry.

However, there are several newcomers to the program who will likely be asked to play big minutes at the Jenny Craig Pavilion. During the recruiting process, USD was able to poach four standout high school guards from the state of Texas.

Tyler Williams, Olin Carter III, Hunter Summy, and Ryan Woolridge arrived on campus this summer after averaging over 13 points per game each in their senior seasons of high school basketball. Coming from the crazed environment of high school sports in Texas, their head coach believes that the boys will be well-adjusted to the style of play they will face in college.

“All of the freshmen have transitioned well,” Smith said. “The freshmen, as well as everyone on the team, have gotten stronger from our summer workout program and these early days of practice.”

In addition to the freshmen foursome from Texas, the squad has also added forwards Alex Floresca and Christian Oshita. The first freshman class of Smith’s head coaching career come to him from different regions of the country. Floresca finds himself in San Diego after a stellar high school career in Webster Groves, MO. He stands at 6 feet 8 inches tall, weighs in at 230 pounds, and will compete for playing time at the power forward position this winter. Oshita is the only California kid from the high school class of 2015 to choose USD. He is a product of Bishop Montgomery High School in Torrance, CA, a school he led to a 30-1 record during his senior year.

This should be an exciting season for the Toreros in terms of player development. With a huge part of last year’s offense now gone, players will have to step up to fill the scoring void created by Dee and Anderson’s departures. This next month of practice leading up to the season will be crucial in determining player roles and substitution rotations. But as Smith noted, the main goal for his team right now is to simply get better every single day. If they can do that, there’s no telling what can happen on the court this year.