Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of articles previewing UNM men’s basketball opponents for this season. Coming Tuesday: Wyoming Cowboys. To view all previews, CLICK HERE
Fresno State coach Rodney Terry says the program will never be about him.
But the second-year head coach, who was recognized as one of the nation’s top recruiters from his time at Texas where he landed and helped coach such gems as Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, is making it hard.
This year’s Fresno State roster is stacked with more talent than you’d expect from a squad that went 3-11 in Western Athletic Conference play a season ago and finished just 13-20 overall in Rodney’s first season as head coach. Much of the success will have to do with how the well-heralded newcomers Terry has recruited can blend with last year’s star, 6-foot-2 junior guard Kevin Olekaibe, who averaged 17.8 points per game.
At the top of the list of new faces Terry landed in the recruiting process is local Fresno product Robert Upshaw, a 7-0 center who was offered scholarships by such big time programs as Louisville and Georgetown.
“He’s a local kid from Fresno, a 7-foot kid who has a ton of potential,” Terry said. “He’s still learning as a freshman how hard its going to be to compete at this level at both ends of the floor, but he has a chance to be a guy that can definitely impact our team at some point this season.”
Big things are also expected early out of last year’s top prospect out of Canada, 6-9 forward Braeden Anderson who was courted by the likes of Kansas, Arizona and others top programs.
But maybe the most unheralded of the newcomer bunch at Fresno State is Pacific University transfer Allen Huddleston, a 6-2 sophomore who will run the point for the Bulldogs after sitting out last season per NCAA transfer rules.
It’s the 1-2 punch of Huddleston, who was a scoring threat at Pacific but is poised to be much more of a distributor now, and Olekaibe that will be the key for Fresno State this season.
“I think the two can compliment each other really well because you’ve got two guys who can really shoot the basketball and score the basketball,” Terry said.
As the new kids on the block (Fresno State and Nevada will both be competing in the Mountain West Conference for the first time this season after leaving the Western Athletic Conference), many fans around the league will be getting their first look at the Bulldogs.
Terry doesn’t think there are any secrets about his squad, though.
“We’re going to be a team that tries to compete at a very high level on the defensive end,” Terry said. “We’re going to hang our hats on that every night and really try to be a physical rebounding team (and) be a team that tries to play up tempo from an offensive standpoint.”
Fresno State at a Glance
- Head coach: Rodney Terry (13-20 in one season at Fresno State and overall)
- 2011-12 record: 13-20, 3-11 WAC*
- Returning starters: G Kevin Olekaibe, G Tyler Johnson, F Kevin Foster, F Jerry Brown,
- Key players lost: G Jonathan Wills, G Steven Shepp
- Key newcomers: PG Allen Huddleston, C Robert Upshaw, F Braeden Anderson
- This season vs. UNM: Jan. 12 in Albuquerque, Feb. 13 at Fresno, Calif.
- Of note: While Fresno State and UNM had a fairly heated rivalry while members of WAC, the programs haven’t played since 1999. The Lobos lead the all-time series 8-7. Eight games between the two schools played in the 1990’s were settled by eight or fewer points, included a 104-99 triple overtime Lobos win in the Pit in 1996 during the WAC Tournament.
*Fresno State competed in the Western Athletic Conference in the 2011-12 season.