UCSB’s Blue-Gold basketball game got a dash of redshirt on Saturday.
Brandon Cyrus, a 6-foot-5 swingman who sat out last year after transferring from DePaul, added some luster to the annual preseason scrimmage by scoring 11 points in what constituted about half a game.
“Brandon has what we haven’t had in the past couple of years, someone with just an amazing motor and toughness,” Gaucho coach Joe Pasternack said. “He’s a very versatile player who has really, really improved the past year while sitting out his redshirt year.”
Cyrus, a two-year starter at DePaul, was known as one of the top defenders in the Big East Conference. But he showed some scoring prowess, as well, especially in transition.
“Energy solves a lot of problems either offensively or defensively, so just bring the energy,” he said. “It’ll help you play through problems and play through mistakes.”
He also made his first shot from beyond the three-point line, which has been moved back from 20 feet, 9 inches to the international distance of 22 feet, 1¾ inches.
“Coach P has really been on me about it,” Cyrus said. “We have our own shooting program here that he brought from Arizona, so he’s really honest about mechanics.
“We get lots of shots up in practice, which I haven’t seen before in college basketball. When it comes to the game, it’s going to feel like second nature.”
Junior Robinson Idehen, last year’s 6-foot-10 backup to All-Big West Conference forward Amadou Sow, was one of the most active Gauchos on Saturday, scoring eight points and blocking three shots.
“Robinson has had an amazing summer and fall,” Pasternack said. “When we talk about honoring the process, no one has done that more the last two years, and the results are starting to show.
“He’s done well in our scrimmages (against Santa Clara and Arizona State) and he’s going to be a very valuable asset for us this year. His character has really showed up with how hard he works on a daily basis.”
Sow added seven points and senior Max Heidegger added five, which included one of five threes made on Saturday. Pasternack said the players’ familiarity with each other made it difficult to get open shots.
“Anytime the season is upon you, everybody is itching to play someone wearing a different jersey,” he said. “Everyone knows what the other guy is doing, playing against each other every day, so it’s time to lace it up for a live game and our home opener Wednesday night.
“We have to clean some things up before then.”
The Gauchos will play host to Jackson State in Wednesday’s 7 p.m., regular-season opener, and then travel to Pauley Pavilion on Sunday for a 4 p.m. game against UCLA.
“Every day we have to bring it, every day we have to be ready to go, because at (Big West) tournament time, you get just one loss and you’re not going to the NCAA Tournament,” Cyrus said. “We’ve got to come ready every day to play for each other.”
He has fit in well with the other Gauchos, a team which returns seven of its top nine players from last season.
“Every single person that coach has brought in here is from a high-major, big-time program,” Cyrus said. “This team is extremely cohesive. We’re all best friends, and that’s probably the main reason why I feel it’s going to be successful in the long run.”