2006-07 Men's Basketball Outlook
Aug. 18, 2006
Malibu, Calif. - In his 26 seasons as a head coach, Vance Walberg has gained significant experience taking over new programs and turning them into winners. In his most recent position as head coach at Fresno City College, Walberg enjoyed a four-year run of success that would be hard for any coach to match at any level.
During his four seasons at Fresno City College, Walberg guided the Rams to a 133-11 (.924) overall record, including a 34-0 mark in 2005 en route to the California State Championship.
As he enters his first season as head coach of the Pepperdine men's basketball program, Walberg is not guaranteeing any immediate national championships, but is confident that he can return the Waves to their proper place as one of the elite teams in the West Coast Conference (WCC) and a consistent participant in the NCAA Tournament.
Walberg's immediate challenge will be turning Pepperdine into a winning program after the Waves suffered through a tough season a year ago.
Walberg inherits a team that went 7-20 and finished eighth in the WCC, but returns nine letterwinners, including seven who started at least one game during the 2005-06 campaign.
Sophomore Michael Gerrity, who was named to the WCC's All-Freshman team and selected Freshman of the Year by CBS Sportsline.com, returns as the Waves' leading scorer after averaging 14.1 points and contributing 3.43 assists and 1.86 steals a game.
"The biggest thing is going to be their work ethic and their passion," Walberg said. "And we have some really special kids that have that and that is what I am really excited about.
"I like their enthusiasm to learn," Walberg said. "They have been very receptive and they're trying. It's not only a cultural shock but a body shock to have your body go at a different speed than it's used to."
Pepperdine fans also should be excited as Walberg brings with him an up-tempo style of play that results in high scoring games. While at Fresno City College, his teams averaged 103.5 points a game.
When asked to describe what type of offense he's going to run, Walberg responded:
"Shoot, shoot and shoot some more. It's really very simple. What we do is spread you out and attack. I call it AASAA-Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack. Everybody plays a big part in it. It starts with the guards. The first thing I want them to do is come down and look to score. It's up to the guards to be able to break their man down. Once the breakdown process begins and whoever helps, that's where the kick goes. If we struggle, we skip it and put it inside and it's time for the big guys to take over. It's very simple."
Walberg said he hopes that brand of play quickly leads to success and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
"Well my time table, according to Dr. Watson is next year," Walberg joked. "But honestly, I told him by year two I expect to be in the NCAA (Tournament) and by year three I expect to be a Top 25 team."
The installation of a new style of play should definitely improve a Pepperdine offense that averaged 66.0 points a game and ranked eighth in the WCC. The Waves are looking to replace their leading scorer in Tashaan Forehan-Kelly, who averaged 15.5 points and 5.8 rebounds a game while receiving honorable mention All-WCC recognition.
The catalyst for the new Waves' offense will be Gerrity, who put together an outstanding rookie season despite missing six games due to an ankle injury. Gerrity topped Pepperdine in scoring a team-high 13 times and was second on the club with 17 double-figure scoring games.
"Mike is going to be the quarterback of the club," Walberg said. "We need a big year from Mike and more importantly we need Mike to stay healthy for us to have a chance to compete in the WCC this year.
"I think, in this offense, if Mike does what he is suppose to, he should be one of the leaders in the league, if not the country, in assists," Walberg added.
Gerrity topped the Waves and ranked eighth in the WCC with 3.43 assists a contest last season.
Gerrity is one of 12 guards listed on Pepperdine's 16-man roster and, according to Walberg, he could never have enough for his style of play that puts a premium on handling the ball, running the floor and shooting from the outside.
Other guards on the Waves' roster include returning letterwinners Gregg Barlow (Jr., 5.2 ppg., 2.3 rpg), Kingsley Costain (Jr., 4.2, 0.5), Chase Griffin (Sr., 6.4, 2.5), Marvin Lea (Sr., 2.2, 0.9) and Tomas Pranciliauskas (So. 3.2, 0.2).
Griffin and Barlow saw the most extensive playing time of the returners a year ago, each appearing in 22 games. Griffin established career-highs in points, rebounds and assists and has the ability to excel in the new system, according to Walberg.
"Chase is one of those blue-collar players who is going to give you everything he has," Walberg said. "His shot is becoming more consistent, which is good because I love guys who can shoot it from the outside.
"I'm going to call upon him to be one of those tough guys that is going to have to shut down the other team's best player," Walberg added.
Barlow began the 2005-06 season as a starter but saw his playing time decrease as the season went on. However, he is expected to see significant playing time this year.
"Gregg is going to be one of our better defenders," Walberg said. "He is definitely a guy that can get to the basket and he's going to have to be able to do that for us. We're going to put him in a position this year where we're going to need him to do some scoring."
After a solid rookie campaign two years ago, Costain struggled a bit during his sophomore campaign as he appeared in 17 games and made one start. Costain has shown signs of being a streaky shooter and is going to be counted on to provide the Waves with some consistent outside shooting in addition to handling and distributing the ball.
Pranciliauskas is another player who has a reputation of being a solid outside shooter who can hit the three-pointer and will be looking to contribute this year after playing in only 17 games as a freshman.
The position is further bolstered by the additions of juniors Tyler Carr (Thousand Oaks, Calif. / Moorpark), Mike Hornbuckle (Westlake Village, Calif. / Azusa Pacific), and Rico Tucker (San Diego, Calif. / Minnesota), freshmen Michael Nash (Plano, Texas / Texas A&M) and Nic Van Weelden (Paradise Valley, Ariz. / Valley Christian HS), and senior Jason Walberg (Fresno, Calif. / Saint Mary's).
Carr joins the Pepperdine program as a walk-on after playing two seasons at Moorpark College. As a sophomore, Carr appeared in 32 games and averaged 10.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.6 steals a contest.
Tucker will redshirt the 2006-07 season after averaging 5.2 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in two seasons at Minnesota. As a freshman during the 2004-05 season, Tucker led all Big Ten freshmen and was 10th overall in steals at 1.44 per game.
Hornbuckle, who will redshirt this season, averaged 7.4 points and 2.6 rebounds in 36 games for Azusa Pacific last season. He helped lead the Cougars to the Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) regular and post-season tournament titles and the NAIA Championship Tournament.
Nash, regarded as a good outside shooter, returns to the program as a redshirt freshman after missing all of last season with a right knee injury.
Van Weelden is a walk-on who is expected to redshirt while Walberg joins the Pepperdine program after two years at Saint Mary's. Van Weelden earned second team all-state honors after averaging 14.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.1 steals a contest and helping Valley Christian to the Arizona 2A State Championship as a senior.
Walberg missed the entire 2005-06 season after suffering a knee injury during the 2005 NCAA Tournament that required off-season surgery.
As a junior in 2004-05, Walberg started 20 of 34 games and averaged 25.7 minutes, 4.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Prior to his time at Saint Mary's, Walberg averaged 20.5 points during two seasons at Fresno City College.
Sophomores Willie Galick and Chris Oakes return as forwards while freshman Blake Wallace (Yorba Linda, Calif. / Servite HS) is set to begin his first season at Pepperdine after signing an early letter-of-intent in November.
Galick is a big, strong, athletic player, who played in 25 games, starting 14, and averaged 7.1 points and 3.2 rebounds a contest.
"Willie is going to surprise a lot of people," Walberg said. "He is consistently working hard and is consistently doing the things you need to do to be successful. He worked really hard on his outside game and we just expect him to give us a solid all around game."
Oakes is a tremendous athlete, who is looking to stay healthy for a full season after missing nine games after suffering a knee injury against Wisconsin last December. He played in 18 games, starting 10, and averaged 5.9 points and 5.2 rebounds a contest.
"Chris is going to be a big part of this team," Walberg said. "He has to be able to come up very big for us. The biggest thing for Chris is to be consistent night in and night out."
As a senior at Servite High, Wallace averaged 20.1 points a contest en route to being named second team All-Orange County by CalHiSports.com and the Orange County Register. He was also rated as the 23rd-best strong forward in the country by Scout.com.
Junior Jarrad Henry, a 7-footer, gives the Waves size up front and will be looking to adjust to the up-and-down style of play that Pepperdine will play this year. Henry averaged 3.8 points and 3.8 rebounds in 26 games while Hicks played in 16 games and contributed 5.0 points and 2.8 rebounds a contest.
"We're going to need Jarrad to give us that defensive presence inside," Walberg said. "He has to be able to contribute for us to have a chance and has to be a shot-blocker and rebounder."
Pepperdine begins its 30-game schedule on Sunday, November 12, when it travels to Seattle, Washington, for the Basketball Travelers Tournament. The Waves are scheduled to open the season against Washington before facing Northern Iowa and Nichols State during the three-day tournament.
Pepperdine will play 11 of 16 non-conference games on the road, including eight of its first nine.
"Our schedule is definitely going to test us early in our first year," Walberg said. "It's going to be a challenge and at the same time a lot of fun. We're going to come in with a lot of enthusiasm and no-excuse attitude. We will play hard and hopefully our style of play will create some match-up problems so we can surprise some people."
Following its season-opening trip to the Pacific Northwest, Pepperdine returns to Southern California to begin a stretch of four consecutive games against Big West Conference opponents. The Waves visit Cal State Northridge on November 18 before hosting long-time rival UC Santa Barbara at Firestone Fieldhouse on November 21 in its home-opener.
Pepperdine then ventures back out on the road for four straight contests against UC Irvine (November 25), Oklahoma State (December 2), Colorado (December 4) and Long Beach State (December 7). All four teams are coming off winning seasons in 2005-06, including Colorado, which earned a National Invitation Tournament bid.
The Waves return home on December 9 to host Cal State Fullerton in the first of three consecutive games at Firestone Fieldhouse. Pepperdine will welcome Cal State Bakersfield to Malibu on December 14 before closing out the homestand against Northern Arizona on December 16.
Pepperdine's final contest before taking an eight-day break for Christmas will be December 20 when it travels across country to take on perennial national power Connecticut. The Huskies compiled a 30-4 overall record, advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament and finished No. 4 in the final ESPN / USA Today Coaches Poll.
Following the Christmas break, the Waves will travel to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to compete in the Comcast Lobo Invitational December 28-29. Pepperdine's first-round opponent will be Binghamton from the America East Conference. Alcorn State and host New Mexico round out the tournament field.
Pepperdine concludes non-conference play on January 2 when it hosts Manhattan College. The Jaspers went 20-11 a year ago after posting a 14-4 mark in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and advancing to the second round of the NIT.
The Waves' non-conference schedule includes 14 teams that posted winning records during the 2005-06 season.
Pepperdine begins its 14-game West Coast Conference (WCC) schedule on Saturday, January 6, when it travels to Portland, Oregon. The WCC Tournament is slated for March 2-5 at the Chiles Center in Portland with the winner earning the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.