UCSB will open one of its most anticipated basketball seasons in years when it plays host to Jackson State tonight at the Thunderdome.
Seven of the top nine Gauchos from last year’s 22-10 team will on hand when they tip off at 7 p.m. against Jackson State.
“I’m excited about the potential of this team,” coach Joe Pasternack said. “It will be all about how we mesh because the season is a long journey. We still have to see how we form as a team and you just don’t know until you play someone else.
“But I am looking forward to the journey.”
UCSB returns four starters including senior guard Max Heidegger, who was a first-team All-Big West Conference selection in 2018, and 6-9 sophomore forward Amadou Sow, who was a second-team pick last year.
Junior guards Devearl Ramsey and JaQuori McLaughlin are also back in the starting lineup.
Three of last year’s top reserves — 6-10 junior Robinson Idehen, 6-8 sophomore Jay Nagle, and 6-5 sophomore Sékou Touré – also figure prominently in Pasternack’s plans.
“Robinson probably made the biggest jump from last year to this year,” he said of the JC transfer. “He had no college experience when he came in, but you often get the most improvement from your first to second year. He’s done a great job.”
Three more transfers are expected to make an impact this season: 6-5 junior Brandon Cyrus from DePaul, 6-10 graduate student Matt Freeman from Oklahoma, and 6-5 junior Roberto Gittens from the College of Southern Idaho.
They’ll be pitted against a Jackson State team that opened its season Tuesday night with a 93-70 loss at Cal Baptist of the Western Athletic Conference.
The Tigers got 24 points from 6-foot-4 junior Tristan Jarrett and a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds from 6-7 sophomore Jayveous McKinnis.
“They’ve got a couple of transfers who should really help them, and they return conference’s defensive player of the year,” Pasternack said, referring to McKinnis. “I’ve know their coach, Wayne Brent, for a long time, and he’s a really good coach who gets his team to play extremely hard.
“They’re much more talented than they were last year.”
But he likes the talent level of his own team this season.
“I told our guys today that it’s a great day, the opening night of college basketball,” he said on Tuesday. “We happen to open it tomorrow, and for the players and coaches it’s a special moment.
“To be able to test our principles against somebody else now will be exciting.”