A complete guide to CSU men’s basketball’s 2022-23 season

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Collegian | Milo Gladstein

Colorado State University basketball team players stand while the National Anthem is played in Moby Arena Feb. 4. CSU beat San Diego State University 58-57.

Braidon Nourse, Sports Editor

The long-awaited return of college hoops is finally over. 

Following an unprecedented 25-6 record last year capped by a trip to the NCAA tournament as a school-record 6-seed, Rams men’s basketball is set to return to the hardwood against Gardner-Webb University on their home floor in Moby Arena Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.

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“My whole career here has always emphasized ball movement. We’re just trying to keep that going, continue to get better at it every single day. … It’s definitely one of the staples of our brand of basketball.” -John Tonje, senior guard

The Squad

The Rams are boasting a revamped lineup this season following the departure of star forward David Roddy to the NBA, as well as the transfers of multiple previous starters, like Dischon Thomas, Kendle Moore and Adam Thistlewood, to new programs. As a result, head coach Niko Medved and the company had to get active in recruitment over the offseason.

One look at this year’s roster makes it clear the Rams have sacrificed physical size for a smaller team that can shoot and move the ball much more effectively than in years past. The acquisitions of Illinois State University transfer Josiah Strong and Hillsdale College transfer Patrick Cartier are stark improvements to the Rams’ 3-point shooting. In 2021-22, Strong shot nearly 43% from three, and Cartier shot almost 44%.

Standout point guard Isaiah Stevens will miss an undetermined amount of time battling a foot injury that required surgery, which he sustained during practice in mid-October. In his place will likely be true freshman Taviontae Jackson, a quick and athletic guard from Las Vegas. Jackson did not play in CSU’s exhibition due to a nonserious injury but has been practicing with the starters at full strength for the past week.

“You’re going to learn a lot more about yourself about 10 games into the season,” Medved said. “We’re going to have some different things with lineups and everything early in the year, but I think in the long run it’s going to make us a tougher team and it’s going to make us a better team.” 

Projected starting lineup against Gardner-Webb:

Guard: Jackson, Fr.

Guard: Isaiah Rivera, Jr.

Guard: John Tonje, Sr.

Forward: Cartier, Gr.

Forward/Center: James Moors, R-Jr.

The Schedule

The Rams’ nonconference schedule is complete with an in-season tournament, the Rocky Mountain Showdown and games against top programs in the country. 

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The Rams are scheduled to participate in the Shriners Children’s Charleston Classic, a weekend tournament lasting from Nov. 17-20. Then, for the first time since 2019, the Rams are set to play the University of Colorado, Boulder Dec. 8 in Boulder, Colorado. Finally, the team will travel to face off against two impressive teams in Saint Mary’s College of California and the University of Southern California before beginning their conference schedule shortly before the new year.

The Outlook

John Tonje, one of the only remaining starters from last season, exploded for 19 points, seven rebounds and six steals in the Rams’ exhibition against Metropolitan State University of Denver. As a senior, he will be tasked with showing newer and younger players the standards of Rams basketball.

“Defense is obviously one of the biggest things in college basketball — big games come down to defense — so I’m just trying to show leadership and show that defense is important at Colorado State,” Tonje said. “My whole career here has always emphasized ball movement. We’re just trying to keep that going, continue to get better at it every single day. … It’s definitely one of the staples of our brand of basketball.”

With the Rams missing so much firepower in Roddy and Stevens, the team’s success may not come straight out of the gate. The Rams will make up for any lack of experience playing with each other in work ethic and drive to improve.

“The guys who are out here, they battle their tail off,” Medved said. “They’ve been embracing that the whole time. … I love the energy and effort that the guys that are out here give.”

Reach Braidon Nourse at sports@collegian.com or on Twitter @BraidonNourse.