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UCI men’s basketball preview: Anteaters aim to be the best in the

West

Amara Aguilar

A record was broken.

Players were lost.

High expectations remain.

Last year, the UC Irvine men’s basketball team had its best season in

school history. The team won the Big West Conference for the first time

and set a school mark for most wins in a season with a 25-5 overall

record.

The team lost three key players from last year’s squad -- seniors

Malachi Edmond, Ben Jones and Sean Jackson. They combined to average 30

points and 11 rebounds per game last season.

“What we lost from last year was experience,” UCI Coach Pat Douglass

said. "(Edmond, Jones and Jackson) were four-year players. Most of the

year they played good defense. We won 15 games by five points or less, so

they came up with big shots.”

Although it may be challenging, the Anteaters still have the Green

light to go all the way again.

It flashes with brilliance on offense and shines at the free-throw

line. It fills fans and players with hopes that history can repeat

itself.

It is Jerry Green, last year’s Big West Player of the Year. Green led

the Anteaters in scoring and assists in his first three seasons at UCI

and will be a key to the team’s success this year.

Green, a 6-foot-3 senior guard, averaged 19 points and 4.8 rebounds

per game last year.

“We want to try to do better than we did last year,” Green said. “Now

it is going to be a challenge. We want to go farther, win the Big West

and make it to the national tournament.”

Last year the team did not advance to the NCAA tournament, but made

its third appearance in the National Invitation Tournament. The Anteaters

lost to the eventual NIT champion, Tulsa, 75-71, in the first round.

In addition to Green, returners include senior Dave Korfman, All-Big

West Freshman team selections Adam Parada and Stanislav Zuzak, as well as

senior J.R. Christ. Sophomore guard Aras Baskauskas is also a returner.

“We have better size, better ball handling and rebounding ability this

year,” Douglass said.

Korfman and Parada will provide the Anteaters with a sizable presence.

At 7-foot-2, Korfman is the tallest player on the team, followed by

Parada, a 7-0 sophomore center.

Korfman made only five starts and played in 21 games last season. The

center averaged 1.6 points per game. He sustained a head injury and had

surgery to remove fluid buildup around his brain that caused him to miss

eight games.

This season he has already shown he is ready for action. He had six

rebounds and scored nine points in the Anteaters’ 81-56 exhibition

victory over Cal State Bakersfield Saturday.

Parada contributed last season with 7.6 points per game as a redshirt

and averaged a team-leading 6.2 rebounds.

Another big player for UCI is Zuzak, a 6-10 sophomore forward. He

averaged 4.9 points per game last season and 3.3 rebounds.

Christ will also provide height and depth for the Anteaters. He

averaged 4.4 points off the bench. The 6-9 center also chipped in with

3.7 rebounds per game.

Baskauskas isn’t as tall physically as the other returners, but his

abilities are high on the Anteaters’ priority list. The 6-3 sophomore

guard played in all 30 games last season as a redshirt freshman. He

averaged 1.3 points per game, but is most important to the Anteaters for

his defensive ability.

In addition to the returning players, newcomers Matt Okoro, Jordan

Harris and Mike Hood will look to make an immediate impact.Okoro played

as a freshman in 1999-2000 and sat out last year.

Harris, a 6-5 junior, brings Division I experience, having played two

seasons at Colgate University where he earned second-team All-Patriot

League honors in 1999-2000 before transferring to UCI last year. Harris,

who sat out last season, was Colgate’s second-leading scorer with an

average of 14 points per game.

Hood, a 6-4 guard, transferred to UCI a year ago from the College of

Southern Idaho. After playing in three games last season, he was granted

a medical hardship because of knee tendinitis.

Rounding out UCI’s squad are incoming freshmen Jeff Gloger (Capistrano

Valley High), DeVaughn Peace (Bishop Montgomery High), Ross Schraeder

(East High in Denver) and Ryan Codi (Prairie High in Washington).

In addition, Jeff Hufford is a walk-on player who averaged 10 points

per game at Chaminade Prep.

Peace, a 6-3 guard, played on back-to-back state championship teams at

Bishop Montgomery and last year averaged 10 points, five assists and four

rebounds per game.

“We are a relatively young team,” said Douglass, last year’s Big West

Coach of the Year. “We are still dealing with the basics, but we have

lofty goals. We have to play at another level to fulfill the goals we

have for this season.”

UCI, ranked first by coaches and media in the Big West Conference

preseason polls, will begin the regular season with a nonconference home

game against St. Mary’s Friday at 7 p.m.


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