New year, new faces for the men’s basketball team

Tyler Meguire, Bailey Bassett, and Jack Taylor

After an underwhelming season in 2018, the Colorado State men’s basketball team is welcoming nine new faces to the program. Each player offers their own skill set to help the Rams improve on last year’s record. 

David Roddy, guard/forward

Out of Minneapolis, Minnesota, freshman David Roddy is a 6-foot-5-inch guard/forward. Roddy is a big body who will bring versatility to the Rams squad this season. At Breck School in Minnesota, Roddy was second in the state in scoring with 29.7 points per game. He increased this number to 31 points per game in the postseason. Roddy also averaged 16.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists per game and 2.2 blocks per game.

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Roddy was a finalist for Minnesota Mr. Basketball and the McDonald Award in his senior season. Roddy is built like a tank and can battle with taller opponents down low. A sharpshooter from the outside, Roddy shined as one of the top contributors in the green vs. gold inter-squad scrimmage. Roddy shot incredibly efficient from deep and around the rim against his teammates in the scrimmage. 

“I think we will improve; we just have to go into each game with that all-in mindset every game,” Roddy said. “We are thinking about baby steps toward the bigger picture, which is later in the season, and we are trying to develop by then.”

In Class 2A, Roddy put up monster numbers, and adjusting to playing with and against better players may be Roddy’s biggest change.

“It’s a completely different game, but just adjusting and learning how to play with people who are as good or even better than I am is important,” Roddy said. “So I just have to know my role on the team.”

P.J. Byrd, guard

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Nico Carvacho (32) and P.J. Byrd (5) joke around before the scrimmage. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

P.J. Byrd is a 6-foot-1-inch guard out of Houston, Texas. He is a transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU Rams), which went on a run to qualify for NCAA tournament but suffered a first-round exit against the University of Central Florida. In the 2018 season, Byrd averaged 1.2 points and 1.1 assists in 33 games, averaging 9.2 minutes per contest.

Byrd will wear number five and hopes to provide a key role as one of the only members of CSU to participate in the NCAA tournament.

I love the team,” Byrd said. “We got a good group of guys, a lot of good people on this team who care about each other and make it a family.” 

Dischon Thomas, forward

A freshman from Phoenix, Arizona, Dischon Thomas started his high school career at Cesar Chavez High before transferring to Hillcrest Prep for his junior and senior seasons. He averaged 15.2 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 blocks and 1.6 assists a game. Thomas played a crucial role at his high school, leading the squad to a 35-5 overall record. Standing at a towering 6-feet-9-inches, Thomas will be the third tallest player on CSU’s roster and can help the team improve their interior defense and rebounding. 

“I feel like I’m going to come off the bench with a lot of energy and a lot of effort and just points, rebounds, whatever I need to do to contribute,” Thomas said. “I’m probably most excited for just seeing how we’re going to get better as time goes on throughout the season.”

James Moors, forward

The only incoming Ram from overseas this season, freshman James Moors hails from Auckland, New Zealand. Moors comes with experience playing for his high school team, the Westlake Boys, as well as being a part of the FIBA U19 World Cup team.

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Moors said, “Playing in FIBA gave me the opportunity to play against many different styles.” While on the U19 team, James averaged 10.9 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game.

Standing at 6 feet, 10 inches, Moors uses his height to shoot over defenders, without the risk of getting blocked. Moors posted a 40% shooting percentage, but more impressively, Moors recorded a 3-point shooting percentage of 52.6% throughout his FIBA career.

Moors said there are some facets of the game that he wants to improve.

“I will continue to improve my outside game this season, but I want to become a better player in the post,” Moors said.

Moors was enthusiastic to be able to play alongside a dominant center in Nico Carvacho, saying, “I look to learn from Carvacho. He’s a great leader and a great post player.”

Moors draws mismatches throughout the game with his height and shooting efficiency. The CSU men’s basketball team will benefit from Moors’ ability to stretch the defense and create a nightmare for smaller forwards within the key. 

John Tonje, guard

A midwest native, John Tonje comes from Omaha, Nebraska. Tonje posted a Nebraska Class A best with 23.8 points per game. Along with John’s impressive scoring ability, he also tallied 1.8 steals per game, an important defensive statistic at the guard position. Tonje is impossible to stop once he drives toward the rim, with a 50% shooting percentage and an 82% free throw percentage.

With this dangerous ability to finish within the 3-point line, Tonje also leads Class A Nebraska basketball with an impressive 73 3-pointers. When asked what the biggest challenge of transitioning to college ball has been, Tonje said, “I’ve always been the tallest player on the team. Now that I am not, I gotta stay in the gym to stay big.”

The CSU Rams are gaining a key offensive star in Tonje, a player who will be treacherous for any team to scheme against.

Isaiah Stevens, guard

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Isaiah Stevens (4) and David Roddy (21) run down the court. (Luke Bourland | The Collegian)

Isaiah Stevens is a freshman coming out of Allen, Texas. Stevens went to Allen High School and was a three-star recruit. He is a 6-foot guard who has proved himself to be a viable scoring option.

“(I’m most excited) just to play, just to go out there with my guys, like Nico (Carvacho) and Kris (Martin),” Stevens said. “It’s Hyron (Edwards’) last year, and I just want them to go out with a bang and just start this journey.” 

In high school, Stevens averaged 21 points a game and shot a little under 60%. He proved he could score at all levels of the floor, shooting just under 50% from behind the 3-point line and 90% from the free-throw line. Stevens will wear number four and look to piece together his role with this year’s team.

Kyle Lukasiewicz, guard

Colorado native Kyle Lukasiewicz played high school ball at Arapahoe High School in Centennial. “Luka” spent his first two years of college ball at junior college Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. In his final season at A&M, Lukasiewicz led the Golden Norsemen to a 27-7 record along with an NJCAA Division I tournament spot, while averaging 13.4 points per game.

Lukasiewicz has started 62 of 63 collegiate games thus far. For a crop of young new players, Lukasiewicz brings some vital experience and leadership. The transfer is excited to be back in his home state and is grateful for the opportunity to wear the green and gold. 

“Coming back home and being able to play in your home state, you can’t beat that,” Lukasiewicz said. “It will be a fun opportunity to be able to play in front of my family and friends.”

Lukasiewicz is a three-level scorer with size. He is a 6-foot-6-inch two guard. At NEO, he shot 39.9% from the field and 31.4% from the three. Expect those numbers to increase this year as Lukasiewicz grows more comfortable.

“My game is pretty smooth,” Lukasiewicz said. “If I had to describe my game in one word, that would be it.”

Ignas Sargiunas, guard 

Ignas Sargiunas is from Kaunas, Lithuania. He won four medals for Lithuania, including gold in the 2015 U16 European Championships. The 6-foot-5-inch guard is a sophomore who spent his first season at Georgia University.

Sargiunas will sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules but should be a key piece to CSU’s long-term plans. Sargiunas is a shooting specialist. In limited action at Georgia, he shot 85.7% from the free-throw line and 40% from the field.

Jack Taylor can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @j_taylr.

Bailey Bassett can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @baileybassett_.

Tyler Meguire can be reached at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @TMeguire