Coach Dave Wojcik plugging the holes in the sinking ship
With Head Coach Dave Wojcik entering his 4th year with the San Jose State Men’s basketball program, expectations are as high as they have been in a long time. Having previous experience under Head Coach Leon Rice at Boise State, Athletic Director Gene Bleymeier though he would be a natural fit to turnaround the Spartans program.
At the beginning of his second year with the Spartans, San Jose State announced that the men's basketball program would incur penalties due to the Academic Progress Rate from 2012–13, George Nessman's last season as head coach, being below 930. Among the penalties: a post-season ban (including from the MWC Tournament) for the 2014–15 season, replacing four hours of weekly practice with four hours of academic activities, and five days instead of six of basketball activities. Wojcik's season was even worse, with a 2–28 (0–18 MWC) record, with the two wins against non-Division I opponents.
The season was rife with roster depletion from injuries and disciplinary issues. Three players suffered season-ending injuries early in the season. Wojcik announced that five players were suspended indefinitely due to violating team rules; as a result, two members of the San Jose State football team joined the roster temporarily. Oh geez!
In 2015–16, San Jose State improved to a 9–22 (4–14 MW) record that included home wins over eventual conference tournament champion Fresno State and defending conference regular season champion Boise State. A vast improvement statistically and an improvement in academics that led to the lifting of athletic sanctions against the team.
For the 2016-2017 season, Wojcik is feeling much more confident in the players he has been able to bring into the program.
Players are made from March to October. Teams are made from October to March. It’s all about individual improvement and getting better. -Coach Dave Wojcik
Returning a plethora of underclassmen, Wojcik believes the experience gained last year will improve their overall gameplay. The Spartans return four sophomores this year that were part of a true freshmen group which contributed 43.5 percent of San Jose State’s scoring, which finished second in the country to only Kentucky. Now if that’s something to not be excited about, I’m not sure what is then.
Players from returning true freshmen to watch for this season
Sophomore Brandon Clarke (F, 6-8/210) appeared in all 31 games last season for the Spartans with 10.1 points and a team-leading 7.3 rebounds per game during conference play. Clarke was voted the Mountain West Sixth Man of the Year by the league’s head coaches and is the first freshman to ever win the award since its inception in 2009. He is also the first Spartan to be named Sixth Man of the Year. Clarke blocked 39 shots to set a single-season freshman record at San José State. Highlight of 2015-2016: Clarke led SJSU with a season-high 21 points and grabbed 10 rebounds lifting the Spartans to a 68-63 victory over Boise State in the regular season finale (3/5).
Sophomore Ryan Welage (F, 6-9/205) was third on the team at 10.4 points and 5.2 rebounds per game in 31 contests and 26 starts. Welage was second among all freshmen in the Mountain West with 48 threes. Highlight of 2015-2016: Welage led the team with season-high 28 points at Fresno State (1/16) and 23 points on the road at San Diego State (1/6).
Sophomore Cody Schwartz (F, 6-8/210) averaged 7.0 points and 2.7 rebounds in 31 games and made 26 starts. Schwartz made (52) three-point baskets which were a team-high and the most among Mountain West freshmen. Highlight of 2015-2016: Schwartz had a season-best six threes on the road at Colorado State (1/27).
Sophomore Jaycee Hillsman (G, 6-6/225) competed in 30 games and made 16 of his 20 starts during the conference season. He averaged 4.5 points and 1.2 rebounds per game and was second on the team, shooting 77.6 percent from the foul line. Highlight of 2015-2016: Jaycee knocked down two threes as part of a 12-0 run to open the game against Air Force (1/30), which the Spartans won, 75-54.
High expectations for a competitive 2016-2017 season
The San José State men's basketball team will play seven of its 11 non-conference games inside The Event Center during the 2016-17 season. The conference portion of the schedule makes it 16 home contests for the Spartans, the most in over two decades. Wojcik pushed to improve the strength of schedule for the Spartans with away games at St. Mary’s (11/22) and at Washington State (11/27) while bringing Santa Clara (12/3) and Bowling Green (12/18) to the Event Center. This will be a great opportunity for the Spartans to elevate their game in preparation for a competitive conference schedule.
With a full season and off-season for the team to mesh their gameplays, I am prediciting an improved season of 15-16 wins for the season. This will be Wojcik’s opportunity to show what he can do with a team he has recruited and trained over the passed few seasons. Could this be the next team to make a NCAA single-elimination tournament since playing in the CBI in 2011 or the actual NCAA tournament in 1996? Only time will tell but my fingers are crossed.