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Herz: CSU basketball can survive without Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo

There is a popular skeptical opinion circulating that Colorado State cannot survive in the Mountain West without Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo.

The departure of the senior duo presents the Rams with the most significant loss they have had to deal with in quite a while.

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After all, Clavell’s 20.4 points per game last season led the conference, to go along with his 6.3 rebounds per game as a guard. Omogbo paced the conference in rebounds with 10.4 points per game and his 13.6 points per game made him CSU’s second-leading scorer.

Paige yelling
Junior guard J.D Paige (22) celebrates after an offensive basket during the first half of the Rams’ 83-79 exhibition win over Northern Colorado. Paige finished with 18 points. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

It’s evident that Clavell and Omogbo were a dominate duo. Clavell won Mountain West Player of the Year and was a member of the All-Mountain West Defensive and First teams. Joining him on both of those teams was Omogbo.

Undoubtedly, there will be growing pains for the 2017-18 team. However, the new faces of CSU, Prentiss Nixon and J.D. Paige, are beyond ready to lead CSU.

Nixon and Paige were the Rams’ third and fourth leading scorers last season. They averaged 13.2 and 8.8 points per game, respectively.

By looking at the numbers, one can clearly see they didn’t put together the historic seasons that Clavell and Omogbo did. But, part of the reason for that is because Clavell and Omogbo were there, leading the Rams. The two guards now have their chance to make their mark on the history of CSU basketball, and they are ready for it.

It’s not as if their newfound leadership comes as any surprise to either of them. Nixon and Paige, who both were three-star recruits coming out of high school that drew interest from many programs, chose CSU under the impression that they would one day be called upon to take the torch. And luckily for them, they’ve had plenty of time to prepare for that day.

Losing 46.6 percent of their scoring and 43.9 percent of their rebounding from the graduations of Clavell and Omogbo, the Rams were picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West this season. Additionally, many players who figured to contribute this season have transferred. Devocio Butler, Kevin Little, Kimani Jackson, Kevin Dorsey and Braden Koelliker are all no longer with the program, and Alonzo “Zo” Tyson will miss the entire season with an injury.

But as they proved last year, the Rams can exceed expectations. It’s as if the Mountain West media only evaluated what CSU was losing, and not what they are gaining and still have this season. 

Nico Carvacho has nearly as much experience as the two guards. More importantly, Carvacho’s size helps fill the void that Omogbo left.

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As a redshirt freshman last season, the 6-foot-11 forward picked up two double-doubles in addition to scoring in double figures on five other occasions and collecting 10-plus rebounds four other times.

Finding the floor so much as a raw, inexperienced player last season (21.9 minutes per game) allowed Carvacho to grow into a player capable of significant contributions this season. In fact, Carvacho collected 16 rebounds in each of CSU’s two exhibition games this season. The forward also scored 20 points over the two games, proving he is a valuable asset.

Nixon dribbling the ball
Colorado State Junior guard Prentiss Nixon (11) calls out a play against Colorado Mesa during an exhibition game on Nov 3. (Javon Harris | Collegian)

Aside from the big three of Nixon, Paige and Carvacho, it’s pretty up in the air as to who will be able to step up and contribute consistently. But, two players who Larry Eustachy is confident will do so are Che Bob and Raquan Mitchell. If this is the case, that would round out a solid potential starting five for CSU.

Bob averaged 9.7 points over the Rams’ first 14 games last season before only playing a combined nine minutes the next two games, and then getting suspended. Bob recorded double-digit point totals in six of those games and also averaged 5.3 rebounds in that time.

Given that success last season, it’s no shocker that Bob scored 28 points and collected 13 rebounds in CSU’s first exhibition game. He followed that up with a 25-point, 9-rebound performance in the next game.

As for Mitchell, the guard may have no Division I experience, but his showings in the two exhibition contests are extremely promising. Mitchell displayed efficient shooting, going 6-9 from the floor in those games for 18 total points.

Sure, the Rams have lost a significant amount of talent and experience from last season. However, the bottom line is that if everything plays out how it should, CSU will once again be right in the thick of the Mountain West race during the 2017-18 season.

Collegian sports reporter Eddie Herz can be reached by email at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @Eddie_Herz.

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