SoCalHoops College News
UC Riverside: Inside Stuff
From Riverside P-E:--(Oct. 18, 2001)
UCR basketball sets alarm for 6:45
By JIM ALEXANDER
RIVERSIDE - Last season, UC Riverside's basketball team received a figurative wakeup call, in its first season of Division I competition. This year, at least for the first couple of months, it's literal.
The Highlanders are on the practice floor by 6:45 a.m. every morning, in preparation for their first season as members of the Big West. They're practicing early, Coach John Masi said, because he wasn't crazy about the other option: 6 p.m. They'll go back to afternoon practices when volleyball season ends.
In the meantime, it behooves the Highlanders' players to be up to speed quickly at these morning practices. The competition for playing time figures to be spirited before the Nov. 17 opener at Portland.
"I have 10 players, and I have two guys at every position," Masi said. "And it's pretty cut and dried who they are."
The X factor at this point is the point guard ability of Jake Wessel, a transfer from Indian Hills (Iowa) Community College. If Wessel can play the point, he will share playing time there with sophomore Kevin Butler. If not, he'll compete with Ted Bell at off guard. Freshman Rickey Porter from Santa Ana Mater Dei can play both spots.
Mark Miller, last season's leading scorer at 13.2, is being pressed for playing time at small forward by Lloyd Cook. Masi said Cook has improved significantly over a year ago.
At power forward, Aaron Hands -- a backup to Steve Clayton last season -- is up against newcomer John Galbreath, who averaged 30 points a game and shot 65 percent for Big Bend (Wash.) CC. Sophomore Vili Morton at center is the only sure starter, with Mike Zepeda backing him up.
"The 11th man on paper is Jason Perkins, and everybody else is probably not going to see much time," Masi said, "although Kellen Dixon (a guard who redshirted last season) has a chance.
"The starting lineup is probably going to be based on defensive effort and the ability to attack the basket."
The latter will be a particular emphasis in practice, in an effort to improve on UCR's miserable .386 field goal shooting last season. Masi said his players settled for the perimeter shot too often, instead of driving or looking for Morton in the post.
Masi said the goal will be to get Morton at least 10 shots per game, up from six a year ago.
"If he doesn't (get 10), something's wrong," he said.
Morton shot .582 last year but averaged only 8.5 points per game (and 7.2 rebounds).
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