Cuesta Basketball Hosts Rabobank Tourney To Open 2016-17
SAN LUIS OBISPO (November 2, 2016)— The Cuesta College Men’s Basketball team returns four players from its 2016 CCCAA Playoff team, but with an influx of talented transfers the Cougars boast six total sophomores on their 13-man squad. The Cougars are in position to win their sixth conference title of the past decade and reach the post-season for the 18th time under Head Coach Rusty Blair (455-319/25th year). The Cougars, who are riding a streak of five consecutive playoff berths, are ranked #14 in the pre-season state rankings, however the early recognition has been something the Cougars have rarely enjoyed. The Cougars’ consistent success may have finally lifted the underdog title that Coach Blair embraces, but not his passion for the game. Coach Blair, uncharacteristically says, “I am very optimistic. We played only Top 10 teams in the pre-season, but had only marginal success. We went back to the mechanics (after the pre-season tournaments) and we look much better.” Blair continued, “Everything good got better, offense and defense. Our team value increased, as did individual performance and expectations. A dramatic increase! We should contend in conference.” The Cougars kick off the 2016-17 season at home this Friday (8 PM) in the first round of the 48th Rabobank Tournament against West Valley.
Men’s Basketball opens the 2016-17 campaign with the 48th Rabobank Tournament. The games begin at 4 PM on Friday and the Cougars hit the floor against West Valley at 8 PM. Friday’s game will be filmed as part of the Cuesta TV Project. The game will be available on tape delay on Charter Cable channel 2 and also on YouTube at CuestaHDTV. The Cougars shall also play #11 Sequoias on Saturday (7 PM) and #14 West Hills on Sunday (5 PM) to round out their tournament bracket. 2016 CCCAA State Runner-up Saddleback and local rival #20 Allan Hancock are also in the tournament.
Below is a breakdown of the Cougars Roster.
Point Guard- 2016 All-Western State Conference Honorable Mention pick Karem Ozel (Marmaris, Turkey) is the starting point guard on the Turkish National Team and will take over that role for the Cougars this season. Coach Blair says, “He is the most talented player on the team, so he will be a scoring point guard.” Ozel was second on the team with 13.4 points per game and also shot a team-high 49.4% from the field last season. Pacific University (Oregon) transfer Donovin Townsend (Modesto) will also handle the point for the Cougars. Townsend last played basketball in high school, where he was a two-time all-league choice at Central Catholic and MVP his last season, but spent the past two years playing football for the Boxers. Coach Blair says, “He will be our back-up point guard, he can run everything.” Sophomore Andres Aguado (Malaga, Spain) has improved his ball handling during the off-season and can also take over the point if needed.
Off Guard- Sophomore Andres Aguado (Malaga, Spain) was instant offense off the bench for most of the 2015-16 season, but Coach Blair says, “He is much better and more than just a scorer.” Aguado averaged 6.6 points per game as a freshman, but could be the best player on the floor when he was hot. Aguado netted a team season-high eight three-pointers for 26 points in the Cougars’ January 27 win over Moorpark. Freshman Michele Capasso (Fondi, Italy) spent his last year of high school at Lustre Christian in Montana and lit up scoreboards all over “Big Sky” country, including a 54-point performance. He averaged nearly 40 points per game and was named league MVP and to the Montana Coaches Association All State team. Coach Blair says, “He is learning our system and is a talented offensive player.” Freshman Sondre Rodal (Baerum, Norway) has played for the Norwegian National team since 2013 and should add another outside scoring threat to the Cougars backcourt.
Small Forward- The Cougars are loaded on the wing and will have to move some of the players into the post-position. Freshman Joey Liem (Rasmalen, Netherlands) maybe the team’s best player and had been averaging 14 points and eight rebounds for the Dutch Under-20 team. Coach Blair says, “He is smooth. He has the fundamentals, experience, he is strong and he can shoot.” Freshman Davie Wick (Purcellville, PA) was a two-time all-league player in high school and Coach Blair noted his high “Basketball IQ”. Wick is a good shooter and will also hit the boards for the Cougars. Lefty Nic Gabsch (Australia) was a two-time all-State player “Down Under” and is another excellent shooter on the perimeter. Freshman Eric Horn (Los Gatos) has been out of the game with injuries since February, but is making his way back. Coach Blair says, “He is long, fluid, athletic and fundamental. He is a utility guy and can play everywhere, but point.”
Post- Sophomore Alex Ouandie (Sofia, Bulgaria) only played 116 minutes and averaged 2.3 points per game as a freshman, but Coach Blair says, “Alex may be the key to our season. He has to play big. He is talented, but needs to know his role.” Team Captain Ryan Gilroy (Hydesville) is in his third-year with the program and will be an undersized power forward this season. Coach Blair says, “He is a sound player and very fundamental. He is the glue guy. He earned a spot. He has been unbelievable.” Gilroy saw action in only 11 games last season and averaged less than a point per appearance. Freshman Noah Saunders (Pittsburgh, PA) was an all-State player in the Keystone State, but will be moved to the post this year. Coach Blair says, “He is a great leaper with highlight reel stuff. He also has a nice mid-range jumper.” Freshman Jordi Signes Beltri (Barcelona, Spain) is another player with extensive European experience. The Cougars will use him down in the blocks, where he is picking up the fundamental techniques of the low post. He an Ouandie are the tallest players on the team and without a “true” inside player the Cougars hope they can develop one of their wings into a defensive stopper.