Asbury ready to make Waves again
Coach back with Pepperdine men's basketball team in hopes to restoring once-proud tradition
By Jon Gold, Special to the Daily News
Article Last Updated: 11/17/2008 10:20:47 PM PST
Tom Asbury was not lured back to Pepperdine by the beautiful beaches or an eight-figure salary or a team loaded with NBA prospects.
His once mighty Waves had fallen, fallen to further depths than he could ever have imagined when he departed in 1994 after 15 years, including six as head coach.
Back then, Pepperdine was a team on the rise, the class of the West Coast Conference, the Gonzaga before, well, Gonzaga.
Fast forward to the 2007-08 season.
"It was a train wreck," Asbury said of the Waves' recent history, which included an 11-21 record last season, "this program was a train wreck. We had guys in the program that had no business being here. We had guys who, academically, could never perform here. We had to purge ourselves of all those guys. Either they did it themselves, or we did it for them. I had to get guys here who are committed."
That was Step Three - getting in "Asbury" guys, players who are committed defensively and tough, players who will grab a rebound from another player's hands, but won't necessarily windmill dunk.
Before accepting the job - vacated when former coach Vance Walberg resigned in January and interim coach Eric Bridgeland was not retained - Asbury set a deal in place for his associate head coach, Marty Wilson, to take over the program upon his retirement.
That is the kind of continuity that has been sorely lacking at Firestone Fieldhouse, where seven different head coaches have manned the sidelines since Asbury's departure in 1994, when he took over the head coaching job at Kansas State.
Steps Three and Two - cleaning house of nondesirable players and guaranteeing the services of Wilson - might have been most important to Asbury the Coach, but Step One in the reclamation of Tom Asbury was definitely most important to Asbury, the husband.
Asbury "retired" from coaching after the 2006-07 season, his fourth as an assistant at Alabama, and moved with his wife, Carlie, to Tucson. They bought a house. They set up roots. They lived.
Then, a phone call from Pepperdine athletic director John Watson in January changed things.
"I wouldn't have gone to any other school but here," Asbury said. "There wasn't any question in her mind about what the situation was here. If it was, `Go to St. Mary's,' or something, there would've been a lot of question marks. Here, being familiar with people, knowing who she did, it was not that difficult. If she'd have said, `Nah, let's not do this,' it would've been pretty easy to say no."
Her call might end up paying dividends for the Waves - in a few years.
With nine new players, including eight freshmen, and only five returning players, Pepperdine will not likely be in the running for the WCC championship.
Seniors Ryan Holmes and Mike Hornbuckle will man the backcourt until returning leading scorer and assist man Rico Tucker (10.7 points, 3.2assists) is fully healed from a knee injury suffered late last season. Sophomore Mychel Thompson returns at small forward after averaging 8.1 points as a freshman.
From there, things get murky.
The two other spots up for grabs - power forward and center - will likely be handled by junior college transfers Jonathan Dupre and Denis Agre, respectively.
Asbury said many of the team's freshmen will be relied upon heavily, particularly guards Keion Bell and Lorne Jackson (of Simi Valley) and forward Taylor Darby.
"I know we can do the job here, but it's going to take time," Asbury said. "We've got a long ways to go. We've got a young team - a long, long road to go. But we'll get there. We've got good, smart kids - a good nucleus of kids. We'll get there."
Asbury, though, does have some specific goals for this season. He is committed to instilling a defensive mind-set that will become the foundation for the team, for this year and years to come. But with so many freshmen and games against BYU and Georgia Tech this season - not to mention the twice-a-year tilts with Gonzaga, San Diego and St.Mary's, to name a few - Asbury will not judge this season by wins or losses.
"Whether it's when I'm here, or when Marty takes over, it's going to happen. We have too many things going for us for it not to happen."
Blue Ribbon Preview - Pepperdine
COACH AND PROGRAM
Tom Asbury has returned to Pepperdine in an attempt to restore order to a program that has gone off the rails since he left in 1994. The Waves burned through seven head coaches in the next 14 years, and it left a bad taste in the mouth of the coach who led Pepperdine to three NCAA Tournaments and two NIT appearances in his six years there.
"There's just been no continuity, and there hasn't been a great deal of success, and I just got kind of disappointed in seeing this program where it was, to be honest," said the 62-year-old Asbury, who was a Waves assistant under Jim Harrick from 1980-88 before taking over as head coach.
Asbury succeeds Vance Walberg, who resigned last January in the middle of his second season as the Waves' head coach. Walberg's innovative dribble-drive motion offense, which John Calipari has used so successfully at Memphis, never quite caught on with the Waves, who won only 14-of-49 games under Walberg and were 6-12 last year when he resigned under the cloud of accusations that he had verbally abused his players.
Assistant coach Eric Bridgeland served as interim head coach for the remainder of the season, then accepted the head-coaching job at Division III Whitman College. Meanwhile, Asbury -- who left Pepperdine for the head job at Kansas State and also served as an assistant at Alabama -- was lured back to Malibu to get the program back on track.
The task will be a challenge, no doubt, because the roster was decimated when eight players decided to transfer during or after last season, and a couple of highly regarded recruits who had signed under Walberg decided to head elsewhere. But Asbury indicated that most of the decisions were mutual, based either on the players' academic deficiencies or an inability or willingness to play in Asbury's more conservative system.
Among the defections were guard Tyrone Shelley (15.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg), the Waves' leading scorer last year as a freshman, and forward Malcolm Thomas (12.5 ppg, 8.8 rpg), who made the WCC All-Freshman team last year. The other major loss was center Daniel Johnson (9.4 ppg, 3.8 rpg), who left the program midway through his freshman season.
Tom Asbury (Wyoming '68)
Record At School
125-59 (6 years)
210-147 (12 years)
RPI Last 5 years
PLAYERS The top returning scorer is 6-0 senior guard Rico Tucker (#14, 10.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 3.2 apg), but he's coming off a blown ACL suffered late last year, and his return is in doubt.
"I think he'll be back to some degree during the course of the season," Asbury said. "Now, how much he can contribute is anybody's guess coming off one of those and the possibility of recurring injuries."
Also back in the fold is 6-7 sophomore forward Mychel Thompson (#15, 8.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg, 2.6 spg), the team's top three-point shooter with 56 threes and a .373 percentage from behind the arc. The son of former NBA great Mychal Thompson, he finished fifth in the WCC with 1.8 three-pointers a game.
"He's going to be a really good player -- very versatile, very athletic," Asbury said. "He's kind of a two-three type of guy. When he gets stronger and gets some weight on, I think he has a chance to be a very good defender and a nice player in this league."
The only other players with any collegiate experience are 6-6 sophomore forward Gus Clardy (#23, 1.3 ppg, 1.3 rpg), a walk-on who plays tough as an under-sized power forward, and 6-3 senior guard Mike Hornbuckle (#24, 5.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 1.0 spg), who started the final 12 games of last season after transferring from Asuza Pacific.
"He's a good program guy, a hard worker and good shooter who plays hard and really wants to win, a leader type," Asbury said.
Asbury and his staff scrambled to sign eight players to fill out the roster last spring and summer, and he focused on players who could handle the rigors of Pepperdine's academic environment as well as succeed on the court.
In the backcourt, 6-3 freshman Keion Bell (#3, 22.0 ppg) from Pasadena (Calif.) High School will push for time at shooting guard.
"He's probably our best athlete," Asbury said. "He's a big-time scorer, a slasher type. He's been so athletic and can get to the rim so easily that he's got to work on his shooting. He really hasn't had to shoot because he could get to anywhere on the floor that he wanted to in high school."
Bell is joined by 6-2 guard Lorne Jackson (#20, 22.9 ppg), the Ventura County Star Player of the Year from Simi Valley (Calif.) High School.
"He's going to be an excellent point guard. He will play immediately and he may start," Asbury said. "He's going to be an excellent, versatile guy who can score, shoot it, and he can also slide over and play the shooting guard."
Pepperdine fans will welcome the addition of 6-6 swingman Dane Suttle, Jr. (#1, 12.0 ppg), a Los Angeles native who played at Westchester High School and Summit College Prep and was the L.A. City Player of the Year as a junior, when he averaged 22.0 points per game. Suttle's father is the school's all-time leading scorer with 1,702 points and played when Asbury was an assistant at Pepperdine.
"Dane is like his dad; he's got that scorer's mentality," Asbury said. "He's an active defender, a good shooter, and he's got a lot of his dad's instincts. He's proba-bly a little bit farther ahead offensively than he is defensively. He's very good with the ball and is a big, tall, rangy guy."
At forward, 6-8 sophomore Jonathan Dupre' (#22, 5.5 ppg, 4.0 rpg at Collin County [Texas] Community College) joins the program after taking a roundabout path after leaving Marshall High School in Houston.
"He signed at West Point, went to West Point prep school and realized that the military wasn't the direction he wanted to go, so he went back to Texas and went to a junior college in Dallas," Asbury said. "Obviously he's a bright, brilliant kid. Kind of a swingman who can shoot the ball well, and as he gets stronger he'll play a lot of minutes for us."
Another 6-8 forward, freshman Taylor Darby (#32, 20.3 ppg, 11.8 rpg) was an All-CIF San Diego selection after his senior year at Mission Hills HS in San Marcos, Calif.
"Taylor is a prototype three and is an excellent shooter and scorer," Asbury said. "He's a very good athlete. He'll need to get stronger, but I expect he'll play a role right away as a freshman."
On the inside, the Waves added 6-10 post Corbin Moore (#44, 15.8 ppg, 12.7 rpg), the all-time leading rebounder at Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School, and 6-10 center Andy Shannon (#45, 11.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 5.0 bpg) from El Camino High School in Carmichael, Calif.
"Andy's pretty much a perimeter post player right now, Asbury said. "If we can get away with playing him at the four and Corbin at the five, as time progresses and we continue to recruit guys, I think these young kids have a good chance to be pretty good up-front players over time."
The final recruit signed was 6-8 sophomore post Denis Agre (#50, 8.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg, 3.0 bpg), a native of Sofia, Bulgaria, who played last year at Central Arizona Junior College.
"He's the prototype four man -- about 240 pounds, a rebounder, a banger, a defender," Asbury said. "He can step out and shoot the 10- to 12-footer. I'd be pleasantly surprised if he can score much past that, but we don't really need him to score. We've got enough guys who can score from the perimeter. We need some guys who can score inside and defend."
BLUE RIBBON ANALYSIS BACKCOURT:
C-BENCH/DEPTH: D FRONTCOURT: C INTANGIBLES: C-
The Waves have just too many hurdles to clear in order to make any kind of an impact on the WCC this season.
Inexperience will be an issue at every spot on the floor, but at least the bulk of the roster will be learning a new system together for the first time, rather than trying to adapt from Walberg's system to Asbury's.
The light at the end of the tunnel is the hope that Asbury brings as the program tries to recover from the upheaval that has been its trademark for the last 14 years.
Pepperdine picked 7th
For the last ten years the WCC national storyline has read “Gonzaga and the seven dwarfs.” However, as many have learned, Grumpy and Sleepy are finally growing up. Saint Mary’s and San Diego, both of which made the Big Dance last season, return 88% of their scoring and are primed for return trips to March Madness. Saint Mary’s is lead by lightning quick Aussie Patrick Mills and All Conference Defensive Player of the Year Diamon Simpson. Down south, the Toreros return forward Gyno Pomare and guard Brandon Johnson, both of whom made the All-Conference team a season ago. Don’t be fooled however, Gonzaga still has the bullets to defend their conference crown as they return WCC player of the year Jeremy Pargo and potential lottery pick Austin Daye. Aside from the “three wise men,” the remaining teams in the conference are rebuilding. Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and USF all have new coaches, while Santa Clara’s Kerry Keating is only in his second year as the head man of the Broncos. Portland looks to build on a young cast which includes Nik Raivio (brother of former GU All-American Derek) and Luke Sikma (son of Sonic great Jack Sikma).
Predicted Champion. Gonzaga (NCAA #3). The Bulldogs’ strength this year will be in its backcourt where they figure to go with three guard sets quite often. This team will go as far as Conference POY Jeremy Pargo will take them. After flirting with the NBA this summer, the Chicago native decided to return for a final year to hone his outside shooting skills. His backcourt mate Steven Gray is the sharpshooter of the bunch. The third guard for the Bulldogs is Matt Bouldin. After a stellar freshman campaign two seasons ago, Bouldin had an up-and-down year as a sophomore. Demetrius Goodson, a super athletic freshman point guard and Micah Downs, a former Kansas Jayhawk capable of playing the 2, 3, and 4 positions add significant depth to the GU backcourt
The frontline, though stellar on offense, lacks proven depth and a real defensive force. Austin Daye, the silky forward from Irvine, can shoot it from anywhere on the court and provides GU with a real mismatch when he plays at the 3 spot. The only true experienced big man on the GU roster is senior Josh Heytvelt. Injuries and personal problems have nagged at his career, however, but if he can bounce back from a constant foot problem and returns to his sophomore form, GU should have a solid post threat to go alongside their outstanding perimeter shooting. The depth for Gonzaga has potential, but right now it is unproven. The best of the bunch is 7-footer Robert Sacre, but last year Few used him in limited action on tips-offs. Another 7-footer, Will Foster, may provide some defensive minutes, but to date has not shown any offensive prowess. Coaches like Ira Brown’s toughness, but against a Diamon Simpson or Gyno Pomare, he will have a tough time. Freshman Andrew Poling and Iowa POY Grant Gibbs may end up redshirting this season.
Saint Mary’s (NCAA #10). Although the Patty Mills story is the biggest news around in the picturesque campus of Moraga, CA, the Gaels have more to be excited about than Kobe and Chris Paul describing Patty as “lightning quick.” Not only do the Gaels return last year’s freshman of the year (Mills) and Defensive POY (Simpson), but also two other starters and almost all of their scoring. However, what could put the Gaels over the top in the WCC is their depth. Unlike other WCC teams, the Gaels are arguably ten deep. The front line returns all three starters (Simpson, Omar Samhan and Ian O’Leary). Of the three Diamon is the most polished. His game can be described in one word - relentless. Already the senior from Hayward, CA, has broken the career blocks record at SMC and is currently in the top ten all-time in rebounds for the Gaels.
Samhan, the only true center on the team, has a nice offensive skill set and has steadily improved his defense over the last two seasons. As mentioned, the bench provides the Gaels with a wealth of experience. Returners Yusef Smith and Lucas Walker, as well as 7-foot Indiana transfer Ben Allen provides the Gaels with true backups for Samhan and Simpson. In particular, Ben Allen’s shooting ability should allow Coach Randy Bennett to use some of the high post offense that got the Gaels to the Dance in 2003-04. In the backcourt, aside from Mills, the Gaels return redshirt junior Wayne Hunter to the lineup. The 6-2 guard would have been Bennett’s best on-ball defender, but because of the logjam last year, Bennett could not find a place for him. Should Hunter’s offense regress, expect the Gaels to go Aussie Carlin Hughes. Even if he doesn’t start, Hughes will see significant minutes as he is the best returning shooter on the Gaels roster. One guy to keep an eye on is freshman Clint Steindl. Another transport from down under, he may take minutes from O’Leary if the senior swingman’s offensive game goes cold. There is talk that Collin Chiverton, fellow teammate of UCLA recruit Drew Gordon, may also see time, but with the depth the Gaels possess, he may end up redshirting.
San Diego (NIT). Seniors Brandon Johnson and Gyno Pomare took the WCC by surprise last season with a strong finish, winning the conference tournament at home, then knocking off UConn in the first round of the NCAAs. The question now is whether their “one shining moment” will catapult the Toreros to the top of the WCC. The good thing for the Toreros is they return their entire team from a year ago. While Pomare and Johnson are the headliners, guards Dejon Jackson and Tremaine Johnson will have to continue their growth in order for their team to reach the Dance. Forwards Chris Lewis and Rob Jones also saw significant action next year and should also to continue to improve. However, in order to have a real shot at the Gaels or Bulldogs, USD will have to get some major contributions from some young players, most notably Brazilian transfer Roberto Manfra and Nathan Lozeau. The two are USD’s biggest bodies and must be able to hold their own against the likes of Josh Heytvelt, Omar Samhan, and Diamon Simpson. Another factor for the Toreros is that the tournament moves from the friendly confines of Jenny Craig Pavilion to a neutral site this year. The last two times USD made it to March Madness, they hosted the WCC Tournament. Here’s an audience-eye view of the big upset over UConn.
Fighting for Fourth.
Santa Clara. Center John Bryant, perhaps the best center in the conference, is a load. But aside from him the team is thin and unless junior guard Calvin Johnson and some transfers step up, the Broncos will only be a .500 team at best.
San Francisco. With the return of all conference forward Dior Lowthorn and former Rutgers guard Manny Quezada, USF has the offensive weapons to upset anyone in the conference. But if new coach Rex Walters wants to play with the big boys he will need to find some other pieces to go along with these two studs.
Portland. Quietly former Stanford assistant Eric Reveno has built a solid team in Portland. Most of his team returns, including guards Taishi Ito and Nik Raivio and forwards Luke Sikma and Robin Smuelders, but they don’t match up well with the likes of Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s and San Diego.
Pepperdine. After the Vince Walhberg debacle, Pepperdine went to the archives and dug up former coach Tom Ashbury. With a promising but young team, Ashbury will need to teach these guys how to win so they have a chance in years to come.
Loyola Marymount. Like Pepperdine, Coach Bill Bayno is counting on next year when he brings in Seton Hall transfer Larry Hughes and Oregon Transfer Drew Viney.
All Conference Team
Patrick Mills, St. Mary’s (POY)
Jeremy Pargo, Gonzaga
Austin Daye, Gonzaga
Diamon Simpson, St. Mary’s (DPOY)
Gyno Pomare, San Diego
Prediction. Until another team proves otherwise, the Gonzaga Bulldogs remain at the top. However GU is not a unbeatable as some think (Sporting News ranks them #4 nationally). The Bulldogs can shoot the lights out with the best of them, but their frontcourt remains a huge question mark. On the other hand, Saint Mary’s can bang with anybody, but until someone can prove to be their go-to deep shooter, the Gaels will have a difficult time matching up against upper echelon athletic teams, especially those with great shooting guards. San Diego is the darkhorse, but to this analyst they look like a poor man’s Gonzaga. In order for all three to make a return appearance to the NCAAs they will have to perform well in brutal preseason schedules and manage the expectations. This shouldn’t be a problem for Gonzaga, as they are used to the pressure which comes from being the top dog, but as for Saint Mary’s and San Diego, it will be interesting to see what how they will respond as the hunted.
65 Team Era. The WCC is 20-34 (.370), but let’s not kid ourselves, the majority of those wins (12) are from Gonzaga during the last decade (4 others are from the run-n-gun LMU teams in the late 80s/early 90s). Still, in five of the last nine seasons, the WCC has been a multiple-bid league, including the best-ever showing of three bids in 2008. How interesting is it that the lowest seed, #13 San Diego, was the only team to win a game in the Tourney, while higher seeded #7 Gonzaga and #10 St. Mary’s were sent packing in their first game. With the collective strength of the top half of this conference this year and potentially into the future, there should be numerous opportunities for the WCC to have multiple teams advancing very soon.
College Basketball Preview - West Coast Conference
The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Basketball Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - OUTLOOK: The West Coast Conference will look to build off a successful 2007-08 campaign, which saw it send three teams to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in the 56-year history of the league. The San Diego Toreros won the conference tournament, unexpectedly, last season and the experience they gained should only make them stronger for the upcoming campaign. Gonzaga was another team that earned a spot in the Big Dance after if captured the regular season crown with a 13-1 ledger. The Bulldogs are the most recognizable team in the WCC and they figure to be as strong as ever heading into this season.
Saint Mary's-CA gave Gonzaga a good push this past season and its efforts landed the program an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Much like the prior two teams mentioned, the Gaels return a solid group of experience and talent and will be contenders for the WCC title once again. Santa Clara and San Francisco have some talented players returning to the roster and could be considered the darkhorses of the league. The University of Portland welcomes back most of its starting lineup, but that group must improve dramatically for the Pilots to compete for a winning campaign. Both Loyola-Marymount and Pepperdine have some rebuilding to do, so expect each program to have its share of struggles this season.
CONFERENCE CHAMPION: Gonzaga
PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH: 1. Gonzaga, 2. Saint Mary's-CA, 3. San Diego, 4. San Francisco, 5. Santa Clara, 6. University of Portland, 7. Pepperdine, 8. Loyola Marymount
TEAM BY TEAM ANALYSIS:
GONZAGA: The Bulldogs have been a dominant program in the WCC over the past decade, winning the last eight regular-season titles and eight of the prior 10 tournament championships. Last season, Gonzaga won 13 of its 14 league bouts and went 25-8 overall en route to its 10th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance. With three starters back in the fold and several key reserves, the Bulldogs are expected not only to be one of the top teams in the WCC, but the entire nation.
SAINT MARY'S-CA - The Gaels put together a great campaign in 2007-08, finishing second in the conference with a 12-2 mark. Overall, Saint Mary's went 25-7 and even climbed as high as No. 20 in the national rankings. Four starters return from last year's team that earned an at-large bid to the Big Dance and that should have the program on pace for another 20-win campaign. One of the biggest reasons for the Gaels' success last year was the play of Patrick Mills, who took the conference by storm as a freshman. The 6-0 Aussie earned first-team all-league accolades last season, leading the team in scoring (14.8 ppg), assists (3.5 apg) and steals (57). He only shot 32.3 percent from long range, but a summer with the Australian Olympic team could help him improve in that area and more. Saint Mary's graduated a pair of guards last season, so it was good news to see that Wayne Hunter is ready to make his return. The 6-4 Hunter redshirted last season, but made 24 starts for the Gaels in 2006-07. Hunter is a solid defender who can also get to the hoop and finish, averaging 8.8 ppg two seasons ago. Up front, the Gaels are stacked and welcome back a trio of starters in Diamon Simpson, Omar Samhan and Ian O'Leary. Simpson, the reigning WCC Defensive Player of the Year, is already the Gaels' all-time leader in blocked shots and he can do much more than that. With 13 double-doubles to his credit last season, the 6-7 Simpson showed he can be effective in a variety of ways, averaging 13.4 ppg and 9.6 rpg for the year. Speaking of double-doubles, Samhan has the size at 6-11, 265 pounds to average one every night. Last season, Samhan put forth 10.5 ppg and 7.3 rpg and with a little more consistency he should be one of the elite big men in the conference. As for O'Leary, he produced 7.6 ppg and 4.8 rpg and often did the dirty work for the Gaels, who have one the strongest starting lineups around.
UNIVERSITY OF PORTLAND - For the second straight season, the Pilots managed just nine wins, but with the return four starters, they could have enough to improve greatly under third-year head coach Eric Reveno. Seven of the top eight scorers from last year are welcomed back and that includes Nik Raivio. The 6-4 guard, whose brother is former WCC Player of the Year Derek Raivio (2006), led the team with 12.6 ppg and he should only be better in his second stint with Portland in 2008-09. Taishi Ito (5.5 ppg, 3.2 apg) will accompany Raivio in the backcourt, but he will be pushed by junior college All-American T.J. Campbell, who should make an immediate impact in some way. Up front, the Pilots are set to field one of the biggest teams in the league with four players standing at 6-9 or taller. Luke Sikma falls just short of that height, but at 6-8 he has plenty of length to be effective. Son of former NBA standout Jack Sikma, Luke came on strong as a freshman last season and led the Pilots in rebounding with 7.3 ppg. He also pitched in with 6.1 ppg and that number should improve greatly with a year of experience now behind him. Robin Smeulders, a 6-9 forward, provided a spark off the bench last season, as he ranked second in scoring with 9.9 ppg. He should once again flourish in that role.
PEPPERDINE - The Waves turned to a familiar face to help restart this struggling program, as Tom Asbury is back at the helm following an 11-21 finish a season ago. Asbury had a 125-59 record in six seasons (1989-94) at Pepperdine and he led the program to three NCAA Tournaments and two NIT berths during that stretch. Unfortunately for Asbury, he steps into a tough spot, as the Waves have a lot of rebuilding to do. Pepperdine welcomes seven new faces this season and that is only one of several issues. The Waves don't have much size, so expect them to use pressure to compensate. That should benefit guard Rico Tucker, who led the conference with 2.24 steals per game last season. The 6-0 Tucker is also the team's leading returning scorer (10.7 ppg) and he will be expected to produce above that number with the team's lack of experience. Forward Mychel Thompson is a player to keep an eye on and could emerge as the future of this program. The 6-7 Thompson, who is the son of former Los Angeles Laker Mychal Thompson, started 24 games as a freshman last season and averaged 8.1 ppg. He led the Waves with 56 long-range buckets and that is important because Pepperdine has no other proven three-point threat.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT - The Lions were simply dreadful last season, posting just five wins against 26 losses. The team went only 2-12 in conference play and was outscored by nearly 18 ppg in league action. With the dismal showing, Rodney Tention was dismissed as head coach and Bill Bayno was brought in to turn things around. Bayno, a one-time UNLV head coach, has a lot of work in front of him, as five players transferred, including the team's top two scorers, this past year. There is a foundation to build on however, and that comes from Tim Diederichs. The 6-9 forward averaged 8.2 ppg last season, as he became the first player in program history to start every game as a freshman. With that kind of experience gained, Diederichs could emerge as a big threat in 2008-09. Marko Deric, a 6-9 forward, has participated in 82 games over his career and he will be counted on to provide leadership for this young team. At the perimeter, the Lions will rely on Corey Counts, who started 22 games at the point last season. Counts averaged 6.1 ppg and 2.8 apg and will be counted on to run the show once again.
Sophomore forward Mychel Thompson throws down a dunk for the Waves.
Photo by Sam Rubinroit
By Seth Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 1:51 PM PST
The young Pepperdine University men's basketball team had a successful opening to its season, coming away with a win and a tight one-point loss in the first two games.In the season opener on Friday night, the Waves defeated the Cal State Monterey Bay Otters, an NCAA Division II school, 91-82, at home. The game provided Tom Asbury with a win in the first game of his second stint as the Waves' head coach. Asbury was also the head coach at Pepperdine from 1988 to 1994,"It feels good to start the season the right way with a win," said senior guard Mike Hornbuckle. "Between now and the exhibition season, we have gotten a lot better, which is always a good sign."The Waves got off to a quick 13-2 start, and had a commanding 41-28 lead at halftime. However, in the second half, the Otters came back, taking the lead late in the second half behind the three-point shooting of Steve Monreal, who scored seven three-point baskets, and finished with a game-high 28 points. With 3:45 left in the game, the Waves' Mychel Thompson hit a deep three-point basket to beat the shot clock, returning the momentum to the Waves, who held on to win.
Thompson led the Waves with a career-high 25 points. Senior guard Ryan Holmes added a career-high 22 points, and freshman guard Keion Bell had 14 points in his first official college game. Freshman Dane Suttle Jr. led the Waves with eight rebounds. Neither team seemed bothered by the new NCAA rule that extended the three-point line by a foot. As Thompson, who made three three-point baskets for the Waves, said, "If you can shoot, you can shoot." The Otters made 47.1 percent of their three-point shots in the second half, and the Waves were successful on 52.9 percent of their three-point attempts in the game.On Sunday, the Waves narrowly lost to the experienced University of Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (2-0), 66-65, in a thrilling game at home.Pepperdine came back from an eleven-point deficit in the second half. With 20.8 seconds left in the game, Bell hit two free throws for the Waves to cut the deficit to one point. After the Trojans missed two free throws, the Waves got the ball with a chance to take the lead. However, Thompson missed a jump shot, and, after Holmes grabbed the offensive rebound for the Waves, sophomore forward Jonathan Dupr� missed a contested jumper.The Waves were led by Bell, who had a game-high 17 points against the UALR Trojans. Suttle Jr. added 12 points, Holmes had 11 points and 5 assists, and Thompson had 10 points. The Waves continued their hot three-point shooting, hitting 50 percent of their attempts.The Waves struggled to stop Trojans' forward Mike Smith. At 6 feet, 7 inches and 295 pounds, Smith outweighed the Waves' heaviest player, center Corbin Moore, by 55 pounds. Smith finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Overall, the Trojans outrebounded the Waves, 39-31, which allowed them to have 24 second-chance points, compared to only 7 for the Waves. Matt Mouzy led the Trojans with 16 points, and Shane Edwards and John Fowler each had 13 points.UALR is the first of two schools the Waves will face this season nicknamed the Trojans. On December 15, Pepperdine will face the USC Trojans. The next game for the Waves is Friday at New Mexico State. The next home game is on Nov. 29 against Cal State Bakersfield.
Young Waves seek to flourish under experienced leadership
Wednesday, November 19, 2008 1:51 PM PST
Tom Asbury, who coached the Pepperdine University men's basketball team during a successful stretch in the 1980s and '90s, returns to the school to turn around a team that finished 11-21 last year.
By Seth Rubinroit / Sports Staff Writer
The Pepperdine University men's basketball fans know that this is likely going to be a tough year for the young, rebuilding team. The Waves have had four different head coaches in the last four years, finished with a record of 11-21 last season, and were picked to finish in last place this season in the West Coast Conference Men's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll. However, Waves fans can be excited about the future of the team under the guidance of new head coach Tom Asbury. Asbury, who has been the head coach at Kansas State and an assistant coach at Alabama in recent years, returns to the Waves after being an assistant at Pepperdine for nine seasons, and a head coach for six more from 1989 to 1994. During that time, Asbury led the Waves through one of the most successful stretches in their history. While he was the head coach, the Waves had a record of 125-59, made the NCAA Tournament three times, and won the West Coast Conference Tournament three times. Asbury was named West Coast Conference Coach of the Year two times, and helped develop All-American Doug Christie into a successful NBA player."One of the reasons we had so much success was we had continuity," Asbury said. "I was here for 15 years, so we had a lot of carry-over and familiarity. The system basically stayed the same. [The Waves] have had seven coaches since I left, in 14 years, which does not lend itself to much continuity."To ensure that there is continuity for the Waves in the future, Asbury, 63, hired former Pepperdine player and assistant coach Marty Wilson to be the associate head coach, and eventually Asbury's successor. Wilson was an assistant coach at Pepperdine for six seasons, and has spent the last four years as an assistant at Utah. In addition to Wilson, Asbury hired Damin Lopez and Will Kimble to be assistant coaches. All three played basketball for the Waves."I was a big fan of having the homegrown coaching staff with everybody coming from Pepperdine," said senior guard Mike Hornbuckle. "Coach Asbury is one of the best coaches in Pepperdine's history, and coach Wilson and coach Lopez are some of the best players in the program's history. They know how to win, so they show us the ropes."From the moment the new coaching staff stepped foot on campus, they have preached the importance of playing defense to their players. Asbury, whose Kansas State team led the nation in defensive field goal percentage while he was the head coach, has spent at least one hour out of every practice on defense."[Coach Asbury] is definitely a defensive coach," Hornbuckle said. "Last year, we scored a lot of points, and, in exchange, we gave up a lot of points. This year, we are getting back to the defensive fundamentals."Added Asbury, "A lot of coaches tend to sub for what guys are doing offensively, but I tend to sub for what guys are not doing defensively, or what they are doing defensively."Waves fans should also be pleased with the fact that Asbury has graduated nearly 90 percent of his players who completed their eligibility."That is one of the reasons they brought me back," Asbury said about his emphasis on education. "They know that we emphasize education, and that we expect our guys to go to class and take care of business, and that they get punished when they do not."To prepare his team for the future, Asbury has put together a tough schedule. After playing only three non-conference home games last season, the Waves will play eight this season, including home games against quality teams such as Brigham Young and Georgia Tech. On the road, the Waves will face fifteenth-ranked Arizona State, and eighteenth-ranked USC. The Waves will also have to compete in a much-improved West Coast Conference, playing against teams like tenth-ranked Gonzaga, Saint Mary's and San Diego, who all made the NCAA Tournament last season."My philosophy is to always schedule tough teams," Asbury said. "We may have overscheduled ourselves a little bit this year, but I am glad we did. We are going to play people that are a lot bigger, physical, and more experienced than we are. We will take our lumps in the pre-season, there is no question, but we are building this program for the future, not building it for this year."The team relishes the opportunity to prove themselves against tough competition. "When we see good competition early, that means that we will be better prepared when we see better competition later in the season," said freshman guard Keion Bell. However, the players are most excited about playing in the Rainbow Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii at the end of December."It will be my first experience there," senior guard Ryan Holmes said about the trip to Hawaii. "I have always wanted to go. I want to see the island and try the food."
Tom Asbury returns to Malibu to guide the Waves
Nov. 5, 2008
When searching for a new head coach, the Pepperdine Waves looked to the past to help build their future. The architect of one of the best stretches in Pepperdine men's basketball history, Tom Asbury returned to Malibu to take over as the Waves' head coach in 2008-09.
Asbury was at Pepperdine for 15 seasons, the first nine as an assistant coach (1980-88) and then the next six as the head coach (1989-94). Asbury went 125-59 (.679) in his six seasons with the Waves, posting four 20-win seasons, including a high of 24 wins in 1991-92, a season in which Pepperdine also went a perfect 14-0 in the WCC. In fact, Pepperdine established a conference record by winning 32 consecutive league games from 1991-93 (38 straight including WCC Tournament games). The Waves went to the postseason five times in six years with three NCAA Tournament appearances (1991, '92, '94) and two berths in the NIT (1989, '93). Pepperdine won three regular-season WCC titles, finished no worse than second in any of his six seasons and compiled a league record of 66-18 (.786). Pepperdine's only three WCC Tournament championships have come under Asbury.
The Waves will have a much difference look this season as they return just five players from the 2007-08 squad that underwent a midseason coaching change and ended with an 11-21 record and a sixth-place finish in the West Coast Conference. The Waves welcome in nine newcomers, seven of whom are true freshmen, and two junior college transfers who will be sophomores. With only three upperclassmen, it's a team that will learn and grow together over the next three to four seasons.
Jahvid Best Rushes for a Career-High 201 Yards
Nov. 22, 2008
BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) -Jahvid Best rushed for 201 yards and scored three touchdowns in the second half, and California kept archrival Stanford out of the postseason with a 37-16 victory Saturday in the 111th Big Game.
Kevin Riley threw three touchdown passes for the Golden Bears (7-4, 5-3 Pac-10), who scored 27 straight points after halftime to beat the Cardinal for the sixth time in seven meetings under coach Jeff Tedford.
Cal emphatically reclaimed the Axe with a victory that carried an extra measure of sweetness because it ensured a seventh straight losing season for Stanford (5-7, 4-5), which fell apart defensively in the second half of its third consecutive loss.
Tailback Shane Vereen and tight end Cameron Morrah caught scoring passes from Riley, and Best got credit for another TD catch on a clever lateral from Verran Tucker. Cal pulled away with four consecutive touchdowns in the first 16 minutes of the second half.
Best, who had scoring runs of 45 and 3 yards, became Cal's seventh consecutive 1,000-yard rusher under Tedford, who has beaten Stanford more times than any Cal coach except Pappy Waldorf. Cal's student section stormed the field after the final whistle, and the Bears paraded the Axe around the turf.
Tavita Pritchard passed for 306 yards with two interceptions for the Cardinal, whose 20-13 win over Cal at Stanford Stadium last year snapped a five-game losing streak in the rivalry. Stanford managed 435 total yards this time, more than any other Cal opponent this season, but didn't score a touchdown until the fourth quarter.
Stanford trailed 10-3 at halftime despite controlling much of the first half, and the Bears' offense quickly took charge. Best's 6-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter put Cal up 37-3.
Linebacker Zack Follett's relentless pass-rushing led a strong second-half defensive effort for the Bears, who improved to 6-0 at Memorial Stadium this season. Cal finishes its regular season at home against winless Washington in two weeks.
Toby Gerhart rushed for 103 yards and a score at the close of his own 1,000-yard season, and Doug Baldwin caught a 34-yard TD pass in the fourth quarter for Stanford. The Cardinal still took another step forward this fall under second-year coach Jim Harbaugh, who's close to signing a contract extension.
Stanford had little trouble moving the ball in the first half, but remained scoreless when Aaron Zagory missed a short field goal attempt in the first quarter and Gerhart fumbled at the Cal 10 after a 70-yard drive in the second.
Cal also struggled on offense until Vereen slipped behind Stanford's defense and caught a perfectly thrown pass from Riley for a 59-yard touchdown shortly before halftime. The Cardinal made yet another long drive, but Cal stopped Gerhart for a 2-yard loss on a play from the Cal 1 with 9 seconds left, forcing Zagory's 20-yard field goal.
Cal linebacker Eddie Young made an interception on Stanford's first possession after halftime, and the Bears drove to the 1, where Harbaugh infuriated Cal's fans by calling timeout an instant before Best scored on a third-down run. But the Bears called a misdirection play that left Morrah all alone in the end zone to catch a lob from Riley.
Sophomore Rushed for a Career-High 201 Yards vs. Stanford
Nov. 24, 2008
BERKELEY - Sophomore tailback Jahvid Best, who rushed for a career-high 201 yards in Cal's 37-16 Big Game victory over Stanford, has been named Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Week, the second time this season he has earned the honor.
Best averaged 10.6 yards on his 19 carries in the game, which included touchdown runs of 45 and 3 yards. He also had a 60-yard dash on Cal's first drive. In addition, Best added three receptions for 35 yards, including a 14-yard touchdown reception off a hook-and-lateral play with wide receiver Verran Tucker.
Best claimed his first Pac-10 award after gaining 200 yards and scoring three times in a 66-3 win over Washington State Sept. 6. For the season, he is 18th in the country in rushing yards, averaging 108.3 per game. Best is also fifth in all-purpose yards (170.7 ypg) and 10th in kickoff returns (29.1 ypr).
Other winners from the week were Oregon State safety Greg Laybourn and Washington State place kicker Nico Grasu.
Also nominated for offensive player of the week honors was wide receiver Sammie Stroughter of Oregon State. Also nominated on defense were linebackers Zack Follett of California and Louis Bland of Washington State. Kicker Justin Kahut of Oregon State and punter Bryan Anger of California were nominated for special teams play.
Best's award marks the seventh time a Golden Bear has been named Pac-10 Player of the Week this fall. The others are: DE Cameron Jordan (Defense, Oct. 4), LB Mike Mohamed (Defense, Oct. 25), Zack Follett (Defense, Nov. 1), Syd'Quan Thompson (Special Teams, Sept. 27) and Bryan Anger (Special Teams, Oct. 4).
Men's Hoops at Long Beach State on Wednesday
Pepperdine Men's Basketball Notes
UPCOMING — The Pepperdine men’s basketball team begins the month of December with a road contest at Long Beach State. The young Waves, who are looking to end a five-game losing streak, will play their next six games locally (three home, three away). An injury to one of Pepperdine’s seniors has limited the Waves to just two available upperclassmen. Four freshmen and a sophomore started the last game for Pepperdine, and underclassmen are scoring more than 82% of the points.
GAME #7 — Wednesday (Dec. 3) at the Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, Calif.: Pepperdine (1-5) at Long Beach State (3-2) at 7 p.m.
ON THE WEB — Subscribers to "Wave Casts" can catch all Pepperdine men’s basketball games on the internet at www.pepperdinesports.com. Veteran play-by-play man Al Epstein, now in his 24th season with the Waves, is behind the microphone. Home games will have live audio and video, while road games will be audio only. Go to the Pepperdine Athletics website and look for the WaveCasts link. An annual pass costs $69.95 and monthly subscriptions are also available. Live statistics will be available for all home matches free of charge, and links are provided to the home team’s website when the Waves are on the road.
OPPONENT — Pepperdine is 16-6 all-time against Long Beach State. The Waves posted a 92-81 overtime victory in Firestone Fieldhouse last season. The 49ers won the last meeting in Long Beach, 95-90, in the 2006-07 season. That ended an eight-game win streak in the series for Pepperdine. The Waves are 7-3 in Long Beach. The teams already have two opponents in common this season. Both schools lost to BYU, but the 49ers defeated New Mexico State on Sunday, while the Waves lost to the Aggies a week ago. In the Big West preseason polls, the 49ers were picked to finish fifth by the media and eighth by the coaches.
ROTATION — Pepperdine’s current rotation consists of about 10 players. Eight are freshmen or sophomores and seven weren’t on the roster last year.
LAST GAME — Keion Bell scored a season-high 23 points, but Pepperdine suffered a 79-72 overtime loss to Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday night (Nov. 29) in Firestone Fieldhouse. The Roadrunners overcame a 16-point deficit in the second half. Bell also shared the team high in rebounds with Taylor Darby, as both had eight. After accumulating just 11 points in the first five games, Lorne Jackson broke out with a 17-point performance.
STAT LEADERS — Scoring leaders are freshman Keion Bell (12.7), sophomore Mychel Thompson (11.2), senior Ryan Holmes (8.8) and freshman Dane Suttle Jr. (7.3) ... Rebounding leaders are freshman Taylor Darby (6.5), sophomore Denis Agre (4.8) and freshman Keion Bell (4.7) ... Assist leaders are senior Ryan Holmes (2.3) and freshman Keion Bell (2.0).
INJURY UPDATE — Senior point guard Ryan Holmes suffered a knee injury two minutes into the New Mexico State game on Nov. 21 and did not return. He was attempting a lay-up but an Aggie player landed on him. It has been diagnosed as a sprain and he is expected to be out for approximately six weeks.
FRESHMAN SCORING — Last year, freshmen scored 63.6% of Pepperdine’s points. It looks like the new group of freshmen may lead the way in 2008-09 as well. Right now they account for 49.4% of the scoring, compared to 33.1% by the sophomores and 17.6% by the seniors.
ROSTER — The Waves have just five players remaining that saw action last season. Only four of them were on the roster at season’s end, and because of injuries, only two of them played in the 2007-08 season finale at the WCC Tournament. The five returners accounted for 40.2% of last year’s scoring (950/2,365), 32.0% of the rebounding (357/1,117), 59.6% of the assists (239/401), 16.4% of the blocked shots (21/128) and 57.9% of the steals (183/316). To replenish the roster, the Waves added 10 newcomers. Two are sophomores that are junior college transfers, six are scholarship freshmen and two others are walk-on freshmen. Of the 15 players, 12 are underclassmen. The breakdown is three seniors, zero juniors, four sophomores and eight freshmen.
RETURNERS — Three players — senior Rico Tucker (10.7 ppg last season), sophomore Mychel Thompson (8.1 ppg) and senior Ryan Holmes (6.0 ppg) — were starters in 2007-08. Senior Mike Hornbuckle (5.5 ppg) saw extending playing time last season and started half of the 32 games. Sophomore Gus Clardy (1.3 ppg), a walk-on, appeared in 16 games last season.
NEWCOMERS — When Tom Asbury was hired in February, he was given a very late start to the recruiting process. The three letter-of-intent signings of the previous coaching staff were given their release, and several players transferred following the season. With many holes to fill, Asbury and his staff utilized their contacts, identified the best of the remaining unsigned talent that fit their needs and put together a very impressive group under the circumstances. The Sporting News ranked Pepperdine’s recruiting class #2 in the West Coast Conference.
FOR OPENERS — The win over Cal State Monterey Bay gave the Waves their first victory in a season opener since 2001-02. Tom Asbury didn’t win in his coaching debut back in the 1988-89 season (a three-point loss to Texas), but he did in his second go-round.
NON-CONFERENCE SCHEDULE — The home schedule should be much more palatable to Waves fans in 2008-09. A year after playing just three non-conference home games, Pepperdine supporters will be treated to eight this time around, including ones against such big-time opponents as Brigham Young and Georgia Tech, and in-state foes such as Cal State Bakersfield, UC Irvine and Pacific. A few of the road games are notable too, including contests at Pac-10 foes Arizona State and USC. The Waves will also take part in the Rainbow Classic in Hawaii right after Christmas.
TELEVISION — The Waves will appear on television several times once again in 2008-09. Six games will be shown locally (Nov. 21 at Arizona State on FSN Prime Ticket, Jan. 10 vs. Loyola Marymount on ESPNU, Jan. 22 vs. Gonzaga on FSN West, Feb. 14 vs. San Diego on FSN West, Feb. 21 at Gonzaga on ESPNU and Feb. 26 vs. Saint Mary’s on FSN West). A few other games will be televised out of market (Nov. 21 at New Mexico State on FSN Arizona, Jan. 17 at Saint Mary’s on Comcast Sports Net California).
TOM ASBURY — It was announced on Feb. 19, 2008, that the architect of one of the best stretches in Pepperdine history, Tom Asbury, was returning to Malibu to become the Waves’ head coach again. Asbury was previously at Pepperdine for 15 seasons, the first nine as an assistant coach (1980-88) and then the next six as the head coach (1989-94). He then served as head coach at Kansas State from 1995-2000 and was most recently an assistant coach at Alabama from 2004-07. Asbury went 125-59 (.679) in his first six seasons with the Waves and 210-147 (.588) in his first 12 seasons overall as a head coach. The Waves went to the postseason five times in six years with three NCAA Tournament appearances (1991, ’92, ’94) and two in the NIT (1989, ’93). Pepperdine won three regular-season West Coast Conference titles, finished no worse than second in any of his six seasons and compiled a league record of 66-18 (.786). Pepperdine’s only three WCC Tournament championships came under Asbury.
ASSISTANTS — Tom Asbury wanted to find assistants with a passion for Pepperdine and an understanding of its mission, so he turned to three former student-athletes. It’s believed that Duke and Pepperdine have the only two college basketball staffs where the assistant coaches are all alums. Associate head coach Marty Wilson (1985-89) and assistant coaches Damin Lopez (1990-94) and Will Kimble (2001-03) played in three different eras, all successful. In the 13 seasons that made up their playing careers, Pepperdine went a combined 261-135 (.659), had 12 winning seasons, won six WCC regular-season titles and three WCC tournament titles, and made six NCAA Tournaments and four NITs.
WCC PRESEASON POLL — The good news is that the Waves have a good chance of surpassing (or at worst, meeting) the expectations of the WCC’s coaches. Unfortunately, Pepperdine was picked to finish eighth in the conference’s preseason poll. The predicted order of finish went Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, San Diego, Santa Clara, San Francisco, Portland, Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine.
LAST SEASON — The midseason resignation of Vance Walberg and several player departures that followed contributed to Pepperdine’s third straight losing season, as the Waves finished 11-21 overall and sixth in the WCC at 4-10. They defeated Portland in the first round of the WCC Tournament before falling to eventual champion San Diego in the quarterfinals.
PEPPERDINE HISTORY — This is the 71st season of Pepperdine basketball, and the Waves opened 2008-09 with an all-time record of 1,102-887 (.554). Pepperdine has been to the NCAA Tournament 13 times (last in 2002), and has won 12 West Coast Conference regular-season titles (last in 2002) and three WCC Tournament crowns (last in 1994).
BEST IN THE WEST — Over the 30-season period from the 1978-79 season through the 2007-08 campaign, Pepperdine has proven itself as one of the top Division I programs on the West Coast. Of the 31 schools that currently play Division I basketball in California, Oregon or Washington, the Waves began the 2008-09 season ranking third overall in postseason appearances (16) and fifth in both wins (516) and winning percentage (.575) over the past 30 years.
WAVES IN THE PROS — Several former Pepperdine players have gone on to play in the NBA, most notably Dennis Johnson (the 1979 NBA Finals MVP) and Doug Christie (a 15-year NBA veteran who was a mainstay on the All-Defensive Team). Currently in the NBA is Yakhouba Diawara, now in his third season overall and his first with the Miami Heat. Alex Acker is on the Detroit Pistons’ roster for the second time, having also appeared briefly with the team in 2005-06. Some recent players have been playing in foreign countries, including Brandon Armstrong (Ukraine), Casey Crawford (Mexico), Tashaan Forehan-Kelly (New Zealand), Jelani Gardner (Greece), Kelvin Gibbs (Germany), Chase Griffin (Germany), Dana Jones (Switzerland) and Glen McGowan (Dominican Republic) and Levy Middlebrooks (Mexico). Robert "Hollywood" Turner, formerly a member of the Harlem Globetrotters, is now playing in Germany.
ABOUT PEPPERDINE — Pepperdine boasts a one-of-a-kind athletic department with unprecedented success for a school of its size. The Waves have won a total of nine NCAA championships in five different men’s sports — one of just 14 schools to have accomplished this feat. Of the 14, Pepperdine is the only non-BCS school and has by far the smallest enrollment. The majority of Pepperdine’s teams are ranked nationally year after year and compete for conference and national titles.