With last season in the rear view mirror and all sites set on the 2016-17 season, the Colorado State men’s basketball team eagerly awaits the season when they open up with an exhibition matchup against Regis at Moby Arena Nov. 8.
The new season brings a new look for CSU, as the team returns just two starters from the 2015-16 season (Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo). Both of which will be expected to lead the team in the upcoming season.
Replacing players like Antwan Scott, Joe DeCiman, John Gillon, Fred Richardson and Tiel Daniels will be tough, considering most of them were multi-year contributors, but the coaching staff has brought in multiple players that are immediately eligible to play and the consensus around the locker room is that this team is going to surprise some people.
The Rams added a trio of junior college players, Braden Koelliker, Che Bob and Devocio Butler, and all three are expected to play large roles this season.
Along with the new JUCO guys, sophomore guards Prentiss Nixon and J.D. Paige are expected to see increased roles after contributing as freshman. Both players averaged around 16 minutes per-game last year, but those totals will probably double going forward and the duo will need to elevate their game this season.
The return of Clavell will be a huge boost to the backcourt, providing a threat on both ends of the court and always having the potential to put up massive numbers. Rams forward Emmanuel Omogbo explained how losing Clavell last season resulted in the team losing their roles. Clavell opens up the entire offense and his presence on the court will be big for a team that is still learning how to play together.
Omogbo is a guy that the Rams will count on both offensively and defensively. The big man averaged just shy of a double-double last season, scoring 10.9 points and bringing down 8 rebounds per-game and is one of the most important contributors on the team.
Omogbo believes this team is stronger mentally and better prepared to compete in some of those tough games that resulted in losses last season. He felt that the Rams gave away multiple games last season, especially against Kansas State and the two matchups with San Diego State.
The 6-foot 8-inch 210 pound forward believes the team will be prepared in those tight games and is fine-tuning his own game to ensure he can stay on the court during those crucial moments.
“My effort is going to be there every night,” Omogbo said. “I am going to get offensive rebounds. That is what my game is built on, but I am going to be better defensively. I was terrible defensively last year.”
Omogbo explained how teams would go small with their lineups and it would limit how many minutes he could play because he was not able to match up defensively. This season, Omogbo is determined to be stay on the court and shut down those types of players that bothered him in the past.
The Mountain West projections tabbed the Rams to finish sixth in the conference for a second consecutive season. Omogbo is not buying it.
“You guys might think our team is pretty young, but I feel like we had a lot of mature guys come in,” Omogbo said. “This will be a surprising year for you guys. A lot of people said said that we are going to struggle because a lot of guys are gone and some of the stuff that happened in the offseason, but I think this going to be a special year.”
Omogbo emphasized that although CSU only returns two starters, the team is filled with experienced basketball players.
“We have versatility, which we did not have much of last year,” he said. “Che (Bob) can play three positions. Braden (Koelliker) can play three positions. Voc (Devocio Butler) and Gian (Clavell) can both play three positions. There are a lot of guys that can do different things.”
The players that returned from last year are not content with how the season went in 2015 and are determined to produce a better result. The new guys have embodied the same mentality, Omogbo has made sure of it.
Collegian sports reporter Justin Michael can be reached by email at email@example.com or Twitter @JustinTMichael.