Chapman 2011-12 men's basketball preview
ORANGE, Calif. - Chapman University men's basketball coach Mike Bokosky may well have had all of his players wearing name tags with the imprint "Hi, My Name Is:" to speed along introductions during their first week of practices this season.
That's because the Panthers – coming off back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances for the first time since 1982-83 and '83-84 – have turned over more than 77 percent of their roster from a year ago. Four of Chapman's 18-man roster played in the Hutton Center last season and none of them are named Riley or Ramme, one of the most prolific scoring tandems in Chapman history, both of whom graduated in May.
"I don't know if I'd call it a rebuilding year yet, I guess we'll see how we do first," says Bokosky with a smile on his face. "It is a team that hasn't developed its own personality yet.
"We don't have a 'Wow' guy on this team, but we have a lot of guys that are very talented."
That said, the few experienced players the Panthers have will play an integral role in the development of this year's squad, half of which (nine) is freshmen. Leading the way will be the senior trio of G Brandon Lin, F Ben Ricard and PG Andrew Avalos. In particular Lin, who has played big minutes for the Panthers during each of their playoff runs the past two seasons.
"His leadership has been solid in practice," says Bokosky, Chapman's all-time winningest coach who embarks on his 20th season at the helm on Tuesday night. "Lin can be an interpreter for the younger guys because he's heard me say the same things for four years."
Lin's versatility, as well as his leadership, will be on display this season. Last year, as a junior he started all 29 games at the point, but this season he will move to the wing because of Chapman's roster depth at point guard. The senior is no stranger to the No. 2, having backed up three different positions as a sophomore. And there's no question he can shoot, making over 42 percent of his three-point attempts last season (36-for-84) and scoring 8.1 points per game.
"You want to have your best players on the floor, so moving (Lin) to the 2 allows us to do that," says Bokosky. "He's just going to be a taker more than a giver this year."
Chapman's other four-year player is Ricard, a guy Bokosky calls a typical 'program player' who has matured with each season he has seen his role grow. Last year Ricard emerged as a starter down the stretch and scored 10 or more points in six of the Panthers' final 10 games, including an 11-point, eight-rebound first round playoff performance against Redlands.
"Ricard has had some big games in his career," says Bokosky. "He's not a true 'banger', but he's learned to use his finesse and his height."
Bokosky will hand the keys to the offense to Avalos, who spent last season backing up Lin at point guard. And while he only totaled 33 assists in 29 games last season, the junior managed a team-best plus-1.8 assist-to-turnover ratio.
"He's deceptive," says Bokosky. "The more you watch Avalos, the more impressed you become with him. He doesn't make bad passes and he doesn't turn the ball over."
A strong season for Chapman in 2011-12 will bode well for the Panthers' future because of the expectations of a freshman class Bokosky calls "very talented" and "saavy". Among them, G Colin Zavrsnick (El Toro HS), G Taylor Hamasaki (Capistrano Valley HS), C Greg Watson (Sonora HS) and twin brothers G Jordan Young and F Justin Young (Mark Keppel HS) could make the most immediate impact.
If the Panthers are going to make it three consecutive playoff berths (they haven't accomplished that in 50 years), they'll have to do so once again as an 'at-large' pick and against a schedule front-loaded with tough opponents, including a rematches with both of last year's playoff matchups: Redlands and No. 12 Whitworth (Wash.,) which has knocked the Panthers out of the NCAA tournament the past two seasons.
"We thought (making the playoffs) this year would be tough, but you see what happened this year with our volleyball and soccer teams and maybe Pool 'C' (at-large) gives us a better chance," says Bokosky.
Rebuilding or not, Chapman's veterans and youth eventually will develop that identity Bokosky says the squad is currently lacking. Panther fans hope that personality comes with a little playoff swagger.