San Diego State Aztecs
2012-2013 Overall Rank: #19
Conference Rank: #1 Mountain West
San Diego State Team Page
San Diego State was supposed to have a bit of a down year during the 2011-2012 campaign. And compared to their 2011 run to the Sweet Sixteen and the immense talent on this roster, maybe it was. But if going 26-8 and winning the Mountain West title is a down year, just imagine what Coach Steve Fisher and company can do this year. With four starters returning, a handful of transfers becoming eligible and a solid group of incoming freshmen, San Diego State could be even better than the 2010-2011 version of the Aztecs.
2011-12 Record: 26-8, 10-4
2011-12 Postseason: NCAA
Coach: Steve Fisher
Coach Record: 258-160 at San Diego State, 442-242 overall
The lone starter lost is Tim Shelton. The 6-7 forward averaged 5.2 points and 4.6 rebounds per contest and was very effective doing the dirty work in the paint. The frontcourt does lose much of their quality depth too. Garrett Green saw nearly as much playing time as Shelton. At 6-11 and 240 pounds, he added more size to the frontcourt. Green was a good scorer in the paint as well and, technically not lost starter, losing the depth that Green provided is just as important. With the graduation of Alec Williams, SDSU returns just one forward or center on their roster that played any minutes last season. The total lack of experience up front could be a big problem.
But it is not like the big men were lost unexpectedly. Thus, the Aztecs are well prepared and there were three transfers sitting on the bench last season that will be ready to contribute. Dwayne Polee II comes to SDSU from St. John’s. Back in 2010-2011, Polee started 27 games for the Red Storm and averaged 4.4 points and 2.5 rebounds. He is not a true post player and will mostly attack the basket, but at 6-7, he has enough size to play the four spot. Eventually, Polee will need to add weight and strength if he sticks around in the paint. JJ O’Brien, a transfer from Utah, is another 6-7 sophomore who will be making his debut this year. O’Brien, like Polee, is ideally a small forward, but Coach Fisher will not mind running a smaller, more athletic squad most of the time. O’Brien started nearly every game in which he played during his freshman campaign with the Utes. He is a solid rebounder and started scoring quite a bit towards the end of his time in Utah. James Johnson will not be eligible until after the semester break, but he is the big body player this team really needs. At 6-9 and 238 pounds, the former Cavalier of Virginia will at least be a quality backup at the five spot. Winston Shepard highlights the group of freshmen. The 6-8 forward is a superb defender and that will earn him minutes right away, as long as he can stay out of trouble. Matt Shrigley, a 6-6 small forward, is another good defender who can shoot the ball. Skylar Spencer is the biggest freshmen, standing 6-9 and tilting the scales at 235 pounds. He has already beefed up quite a bit since the end of his prep days and SDSU will need his size and strength in the paint right away.
Who to Watch:
While the frontcourt does a little retooling, the backcourt will lead the way. It all starts with Jamaal Franklin. The 6-5 wing averaged an amazing 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds as a sophomore. He is a decent shooter, but Franklin is nearly unstoppable when attacking the basket. His ability to rebound will help out the frontcourt immensely and Franklin can even play at the four spot against smaller teams. No matter where he plays, Franklin will score in bunches. Chase Tapley is not far behind Franklin in the scoring department. Tapley was once just a shooter, but he has turned into a dynamic scoring threat who is not afraid to get to the basket. However, it is his shooting that remains his most notable trait. Tapley connected on 43.3 percent of his 5.2 attempts per game from beyond the arc. James Rahon is a glue guy, but he is a bit more than your typical glue guy. Rahon has great size at 6-5 and can knock down some shots. When his shot is falling, Rahon can quickly put points on the board. Xavier Thames is not a horrible shooter either, but he is the man who must make this team go. And he does that extremely well. He is a careful ball handler who will keep the turnovers down. He is also a solid athlete who can make some big plays. After averaging 10.1 points and 4.1 assists per game, Thames should be in for a big junior year. The Aztecs did start Franklin, Tapley, Rahon and Thames for much of last season. At times Coach Fisher substituted Franklin in favor of a second forward. Depending on the competition and how well the new big guys develop, San Diego State may again play small. The good news is that there are plenty of talented options in the paint and some of them will pan out…even if it is just for defensive purposes.
DeShawn Stephens is the one returning big man and he is ready to step into a starting role. He is an extremely efficient scorer, although his scoring output will need to be increased this year. The 6-8 senior was also, arguably, the toughest rebounder on the team last year and he will be ready to pick up the rebounding slack lost with Shelton, Green and Williams. Yet, Stephens hold on the starting job may be in jeopardy sooner or later. Eventually the newcomers will be ready to eat away his minutes. In the case of the transfers, they have already been around the program for a while. And once Johnson is in the mix in late December, Coach Fisher will have more true post players at his disposal. The real story is in the backcourt though. Franklin and Tapley can score in bunches and few teams will have any luck stopping them. Thames can make sure open looks are available for the big scorers and he can help get the big men involved in the offense. Without a great point guard like Thames, San Diego State may look passed their frontcourt. Thames will make sure this team works inside offensively. Otherwise the opposition will have a slightly easier time stopping Franklin and Tapley on the wings.
Projected Postseason Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Xavier Thames, Junior, Guard, 10.1 points per game
Chase Tapley, Senior, Guard, 15.8 points per game
Jamaal Franklin, Junior, Guard, 17.4 points per game
Dwayne Polee, Sophomore, Forward, DNP last season
DeShawn Stephens, Senior, Forward, 5.2 points per game
Madness 2013 NBA Draft Rankings:
#33 Jamaal Franklin
Madness 2012 Men’s Basketball Recruit Rankings:
#42 Winston Shepard
#139 Skylar Spencer