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SDSU BASKETBALL : There’s Not Yet a Lot to Say About Team With Many New Faces

TIMES STAFF WRITER

There is no team overview in San Diego State’s 1990-91 pre-season men’s basketball prospectus.

As for Coach Jim Brandenburg’s biography in the publication, there is plenty of material relating to his years at the universities of Montana and Wyoming . . . but not a word about his three years at SDSU.

Things have been quiet at SDSU. The Aztecs, who open practice today, lost four players who were starting at the end of last season, including their leading scorer, as well as an assistant coach.

Low-key? If things were any lower, the season might just slip by unnoticed.

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The Aztecs were 13-18 and 4-12 (eighth) in the Western Athletic Conference last season, and beginning today, Brandenburg will have about a month to mesh last year’s holdovers and several newcomers. A new full-timer on his staff is Greg Graham, who was a part-time assistant last year. Graham replaces Maury Hanks, who moved on to become an assistant coach at Drake.

“We think we have to really emphasize several areas,” Brandenburg said. “Perimeter shooting, improved defense, improved rebounding. I think we probably need a little bit better team approach to some offensive schemes, a concentrated effort of 40 minutes of basketball.”

Brandenburg said he does not have a tentative starting lineup going into practice, although he said center Marty Dow likely will start “if he picks up where he left off,” and guard Arthur Massey “is one of the mainstays at the guard line.”

Dow, 7-foot-1 and 240 pounds, was becoming one of the better big men in the Western Athletic Conference last season before a torn tendon in his foot prematurely ended his season. In 23 games, he averaged 12 points and six rebounds a game.

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Massey (6-2) played in 31 games last season and started 16. He averaged seven points.

Otherwise, there will be a free-for-all to get into the lineup. The only other two players returning who had any significant playing time in 1989-90 are swingman Vern Thompson (five points a game) and center Neal Steinly (1.6 points, 1.1 rebounds).

Steinly started six games after Dow’s injury, which depleted the Aztecs in manpower as well as talent. Without him, SDSU finished the season with just nine available players. Three return--Massey, Steinly, and Thompson.

Two redshirt freshmen--Courtie Miller of Torrey Pines High and Terrence Hamilton of Patrick Henry--are seasoned and might make a move for the lineup, as might guard Ray Barefield, who sat out a year ago because he didn’t meet Proposition 48 requirements.

As for new faces, the most eagerly awaited is Joe McNaull (6-10, 220), who averaged 21 points and 17 rebounds a game at Monte Vista High School last winter. He will join Mark Pollard, a 6-10 sophomore center who returns to the Aztecs after a two-year Mormon mission to Australia, to give SDSU good size. Two community college transfers will also join the team--forward Keith Balzer (6-8) and guard James Lewis (6-2).

The big blow is that Shawn Jamison, a 6-foot-8 forward-center who led the Aztecs with 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds a game, was declared academically ineligible in July and dropped out of school. Jamison was a second-team All-Western Athletic Conference pick and took charge when Dow’s season ended. From that point on, Jamison averaged 20 points and eight rebounds for the last eight games.

Also gone is Michael Hudson, who, like Jamison, left school after being declared academically ineligible. Hudson started 10 games last season and averaged seven points a game.

Guards Michael Best, who was a huge disappointment last season, and Rodney Jones, who wouldn’t take any shots, both used up their eligibility.

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Still, Brandenburg thinks the departure of Jamison may, in the long run, turn into addition by subtraction.

“I think we have a chance to be a better basketball team than a year ago,” Brandenburg said. “I think the esprit de corps is very good.”

As for the pre-season conditioning program, Brandenburg likes what he has seen.

“The guys worked very hard with the weights and running program,” Brandenburg said. “I’m very pleased at this point in time.”

Whether he will be pleased on Nov. 24, when the Aztecs open the season at the University of North Carolina, remains to be seen.


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