The Aggies were two wins from the NCAA Division I Basketball Tournament last year.
This season, coach Gary Stewart believes UC Davis can reach the final 64.
“We’re deeper, we’re more versatile, more skilled and we can play in a variety of different ways,” Stewart said.
When talking about his fresh roster, Stewart is referring to the whole spectrum, ranging from the three seniors – Mark Payne, Joe Harden and Todd Lowenthal- to the nine new roster spots that have been filled since the end of the 2009-2010 season.
For the new-look Aggies, depth will not be an issue, especially with the leadership of the veterans.
“I think everybody just has to mature and take on different roles,” Payne said. “[As for] the guys that have been here for a couple years, we just have to make more of an effort to lead the young guys and bring them along.”
UC Davis may be a young roster, but Payne is by no means concerned with its skill.
“We have 12 guys that can really play,” Payne said. “We’re going to sub a lot and get a lot of guys in and out when they get tired. Every day, everybody competes and plays hard. That’s something we haven’t had in the past.”
The Aggies’ depth was first shown in two exhibition games at the beginning of November. UC Davis topped Menlo 84-78 and dropped a close one to Academy of Art 67-62.
The experience will also serve UC Davis well in a tough preseason schedule which features both California and UCLA.
Ultimately, facing two high-caliber teams will help boost the Aggies’ play in the Big West Conference.
“Those are definitely good games,” Payne said. “That’s what it’s going to be like when we play at UC Santa Barbara, and it’s on TV and there’s a lot of energy. You have to figure out how to stick with it and stay focused and not let adversity or the crowd get to you. Those games are a great test for that setting.”
Stewart looks to brush past the most recent loss to the Urban Knights as the Aggies head into the Athletes in Action Classic in Portland, Ore. this Friday.
“Every day the goal is to get better,” Stewart said. “On both sides of the ball we want to see how consistent we are with good play. We have to value the ball better than we have been, but we’re going to approach the games in the way that gives us the best opportunity to have success.
“We have an opportunity to improve, and we’re excited about that.”
What excites Payne about the new season and fresh team is the simple idea of getting on the court again.
“It’s a mini Big West Tournament,” Payne said. “We definitely need to be really focused. We play three games in three days, and that’s tough on the body. It’s a pretty intense weekend, but you just have to be concentrated on the scouting reports.”
GRACE SPRAGUE can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Correction – Nov. 17, 2010: Men’s basketball coach Gary
Stewart was misquoted.
He actually said, “This
team is potentially better than the team that we’ve had in the past.”