Watch a San Diego State Aztecs basketball game and you find one of the most active student sections in the game, poised on the right side of your screen in the Aztecs’ Viejas Arena. The student group is known as “The Show” and probably the only reason that it does not rival Duke’s Cameron Crazies is simply a lack of media attention and the dogmatic thinking of basketball demagogues that the passion for the college game does not exist on the west coast.
San Diego State basketball coach Steve Fisher begs to differ. He took over this struggling program to begin the 1999-2000 season and went 5-23. Two years later, the Aztecs checked in at 21-12 and picked up an NCAA bid, albeit a first round loss. Three years later, the squad re-emerged in 2005-06 and have strung together seven straight 20-win seasons, including a school record 34-3 ledger in 2010-11 that saw SDSU appear in the Sweet 16 and lose to eventual national champion UConn.
“One of the neatest things about the transformation of this basketball program has been the involvement, the participation of our fans,” said Fisher, “Starting with our students, they are second-to-none in the country and have helped us win. They know they have and they feel a part of it, so we need them and they will help us again this year.”
San Diego State has been the preseason favorite in the Mountain West Conference in most publications and by the media to win the league over UNLV. This is due, in part to the returning trio of senior Chase Tapley and juniors Jamaal Franklin and Xavier Thames. Add another senior in guard James Rahon with a talented cast of role players and Fisher could be looking at a further run than that Sweet 16 two years.
“We’ve got a lot of players, and yet, I know you can only play five,” Fisher commented, “So we’ll have competitive practices, we have the ability to go to the bench, and be able to gain momentum at times. That being said, we’ve got a schedule in non-conference and a league schedule that we better be prepared to play every game and not be looking too far ahead or thinking about something good that just happened.”
Tapley, Franklin, and Thames all averaged in double figures last season as Franklin led in putting up 17.9 ppg. with 7.9 rebounds. He has received every type of accolade from Second Team All-America by CBSSports.com to Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year to All Mountain West first team. Tapley is also on the radar as the second leading returning scorer while Thames led San Diego State with 4.1 apg.
In addition, six new faces will accentuate the Aztecs’ depth with St. John’s transfer Dwayne Polee II selected as MWC Newcomer of the Year in many preseason prognostications.
“I like the maturity and I like the togetherness of this year’s team and we’re going to be good,” summed up Fisher, “How good remains to be seen.”
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Front page photo of Chase Tapley courtesy San Diego State Athletics
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