With the graduation of arguably the best senior class in Ram Basketball history comes a crop of athletic newcomers who will look to keep the momentum rolling. You may not know the names of David Cohn, JJ Avila, and Marcus Holt yet, but you will very soon.
After losing 77 percent of the scoring from last year’s team, one of the biggest questions for the 2013-14 Rams squad is who will step in to fill the scoring void this season — that’s where Cohn comes in.
After a career at York (Ill.) High School, where he scored more than 1,500 points and was ranked as the sixth-best player in a state that produced five players in the ESPN 100, Cohn will look to continue that scoring prowess for the Rams. With such high praise comes high expectations, and Cohn isn’t shying away from the big role he is expected to play this year.
“That’s really something I pride myself on. It’s cool that people think that of me, but that just pushes me to work harder to get this team where we need to be,” Cohn said.
Also looked to as a big scoring option will be Avila, a six-foot seven transfer from Navy who is the projected starter at the power forward spot. After two seasons at Navy, where he averaged 13 points per game and was named the Patriot League Freshman of the Year, Avila spent a year away from basketball before he chose CSU in April over Tulane, Louisiana-Lafayette and TCU.
“CSU was just a great fit for me, my first two years at Navy we only won 14 games. Coach Eustachy has been a winner everywhere he’s went and I wanted to be a part of that,” Avila said.
After a 2012-13 season where the Rams ranked 101st in scoring defense, CSU will look to Holt to be the defensive presence in the middle that the team has lacked in recent years. The 6’10, 205-pound junior spent two years at Paris Junior College after a standout career at Rangeview High School in Aurora. In high school, Holt and freshman teammate Carlton Hurst played at rival schools Rangeview and Aurora Central, but one of the biggest draws for Holt was the friendship between the two.
“It’s great having him here, we played AAU together and he lives about ten minutes away from me. We go home to Aurora together and we really push each other to compete and go represent where we’re from,” Holt said.
CSU women’s basketball:
After a frustrating 11-19 campaign in 2012-13, the CSU women’s basketball team will look to rebound this season with the help of eight new players. This year’s Rams team will have a strong international flair, boasting seven players from countries that include: Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Belgium.
Although it has taken time for them to adjust to the more aggressive American style of basketball, Head Coach Ryun Williams has been very impressed with what Nystrom and Gustavsson have brought to the floor.
“They’re very competitive, they pass the ball well and they understand the game, they’re just very instinctive players,” Williams said.
Nystrom comes to the Rams by way of Lulea, Sweden. In 2013 she played in 29 games, averaging 7.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 2.3 steals per game and was named to the All-Star Team at the 2008 and 2012 Swedish Championships as well as the Scania Cup in 2010. For all seven international players learning to create their own shot instead of kicking the ball out to a teammate has been one of the biggest challenges so far.
“In Europe, it’s an up-tempo game with a lot of passing and here you have to take the ball and make plays yourself sometimes,” Nystrom said.
Gustavsson also comes to CSU by way of Sweden, but played for the Sandagymnasiet High School in Angelholm. As a member of the Sallen club program, Gustavsson averaged 6.3 points and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 47 percent from the field. As a 6’3 forward, Gustavsson brings an element of size and skill that the Rams have lacked with the exception of Martin.
“We’ve got kids with really versatile skill sets, our forwards can handle the ball and shoot as well as playing inside so that gives us a lot of different options,” Williams said.
With AJ Newton, the Rams get a scoring point guard with Division I experience on a team severely lacking in that area. After a freshman year at San Jose State where she averaged 8.8 points and 2.2 assists in 25 minutes per game, Newton transferred to Foothill College. In one season with the Owls, Newton was named the Conference MVP while averaging 20.7 points and 3.0 assists per game. Newton signed with the Rams in April after choosing CSU over the likes of Hawaii, Kent State and Pepperdine.
“I really liked the environment and facilities here as well as the way coach Williams likes to play. After being at the junior college level it’s nice to get back to Division I basketball,” Newton said.
Sports writer Keegan Pope can be reached at email@example.com.