Most Viewed Stories
Matadors open season looking for quick offense, same stifling defense
With a stifling defense, and an — at best — opportunistic offense, the Arizona Western men's basketball team came within one win of a spot in the NJCAA National Championship.
This year, the Matadors are hoping an equally as stifling defense coupled with a more dynamic offense results in the one extra win the team so desperately seeks.
The season tips off Thursday with the Desert Classic '12 at The House against Eastern Utah, followed by North Idaho on Friday.
The Matadors — who went 26-7 in the regular season, won the NJCAA Region I Tournament and lost 74-58 at Southern Idaho in the District I final — averaged 77 points per game last year while scoring 66. Only three players (Carlos Perez, Marvin Whitt and Aaseem Dixon) return from last year's squad, two of whom averaged (guards Dixon and Whitt) at least 10 points per game.
Second-year AWC head coach Charles Harral said the new pieces on the team lend themselves to more of an up-tempo offense.
“We want to play hard on defense,” Harral said. “We're trying to play a little bit faster this year, push the ball up the court a little quicker, get some more transition opportunities. But we're going to play really hard on defense and get out and after people.”
Last year, the team was built around 6-foot-10 post Renan Lenz and also feature 6-10 Mateus Oliveira. This year's squad with have the 6-6 Perez in the middle and a couple of faster, smaller power forwards in Tanner Clayton and Dillon Biggs.
In addition to Dixon and Whitt (who averaged 10.4 and 12.9 points per game last year, respectively), Harral said Keywhon Powns, Denocchio Pierce and Darien Walker will fill out spots on the wing, but none of the three has established himself yet.
Harral said that even though the early-season lineup will rotate a lot, it will look different from last year.
“Last year we played a lot with two post players, Renan and Mateus,” Harral said. “This year we'll be playing more with four guards or wing type players instead of post-type players.”
Whitt said the team will be really strong on the defensive side, but is excited for the faster offense.
“I like it, I'm pretty sure everybody else likes it too,” Whitt said. “We're just going to do whatever coach asks us to do.”
“I'm looking forward to that,” Dixon said. “I like an up-tempo offense. And coach has us in great shape. That should help out in the long run.”
Both players said their main focus, more than offense, is doing what it takes to make the NJCAA tournament in Hutchinson, Kan. They were one win away from that goal last year, and they're hoping to get over the hump this year.
“We're pretty fast, more like a fast-paced team,” Perez said. “Our offense is there, the defense is coming in, and we're just working hard to get better every day.”