Depth, competition key for new-look CSU men’s basketball team

Keegan Pope

Colorado State forward JJ Avila (31), is expected to play a key role yet again this season for the Colorado State men's basketball team.
Colorado State forward JJ Avila (31), is expected to play a key role yet again this season for the Colorado State men’s basketball team.

Senior point guard Jon Octeus is gone, off to supposed greener pastures at Purdue.

Senior forward Dwight Smith has gone down the road as well, 30 miles southeast to the University of Northern Colorado.

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David Cohn, a sophomore guard, also left the program and is now enrolled at William and Mary.

And Chane Behanan, once considered the Rams’ prize recruit of the 2014 offseason, is currently playing pickup games at a YMCA in Bowling Green, Kentucky after failing to catch on with any NBA teams over the summer.

The Colorado State men’s basketball team has seen a whirlwind of change this offseason, and we haven’t even talked about the six new faces that have joined the team since they left Las Vegas last March following a stunning late defeat to Utah State in the first round of the Mountain West conference tournament.

To counteract the aforementioned losses, the Rams have added Grambling transfer Antwan Scott, former Oregon reserve Fred Richardson III, sharpshooter Gian Clavell, local high school product Toby Van Ry and prep scoring machine Jeremiah Paige along with walk-on Dakota Patten.

Team that group with three Division I transfers who sat out last season, Stanton Kidd (North Carolina Central), Tiel Daniels (Southern Illinois) and John Gillon (Arkansas-Little Rock), and you will likely be checking the team’s roster for quite a while to familiarize yourself with all the new faces.

Kidd, the most notable of the three transfers, believes his time off a season ago will be key to team’s success, as well as his own personal growth.

“I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Kidd said last week. “I got a chance to see how this program is run, how all of the coaches coach and how my teammates play. I got a chance to see where I can fit in, as a leader and a guy people can depend on when things do go bad.”

For most programs, shuffling ten players in and out over an offseason would be a huge detriment to the team’s growth, yet despite all of the turnover, head coach Larry Eustachy believes this team may be one of the deepest he’s had to date.

“The term I used with our guys before we started practice, is that we did a lot of pacing last year,” Eustachy said after Wednesday’s practice, the Rams’ first official practice of the season. “We weren’t overly detailed and I didn’t have a lot of control of that because we just had to play tired guys. If the games were 30 minutes, we probably would have won 20-some games. But we just ran out of gas.”

And run out of gas is exactly what the Rams did.

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After starting 10-4 last season, CSU stumbled to a 6-12 finish in its final 18 games, losing five of their final seven to end the year, including a confounding defeat to the Aggies where the Rams lost an eight-point lead in the final two minutes.

Much of that ineptitude can be attributed to the Rams’ lack of depth, which forced players like Daniel Bejarano and JJ Avila to log nearly 35 minutes per game during conference play. But with all 13 scholarship players eligible to play this season, Bejarano expects his workload to decrease with the increase in depth.

“The competition has been great,” Bejarano said. “It’s even pressure on me because I know I won’t be playing 35 minutes a game. There’s a reason coach brought in these guys. No one is safe, but we’re all willing to work and we all want to play. Every day I have to go into practice knowing that my spot could be taken at any given time.”

Colorado State kicks off its 2014-15 season Monday, November 10 at home against Division II Fort Lewis College at 7:00 p.m.

Collegian Sports Editor Keegan Pope can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.