FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – We really have no idea what to expect from this year’s Fresno State men’s basketball team. The Bulldogs lost nine players from last year’s squad, including three outgoing seniors in New Williams, Nate Grimes and Noah Blackwell. Six players left the program on their own accord. Niven Hart entered the NBA Draft. And five others transferred out: Jarred Hyder, Mustafa Lawrence, Aguir Agau, Chris Seeley and Lazaro Rojas.
There are plenty of question marks as we head into the new season. Not only are the Bulldogs navigating through a pandemic, but the team itself will have a ton of new faces.
Ten to be exact.
“We did lose a lot of guards and we don’t have a whole lot of production coming back,” admitted Fresno State head coach Justin Hutson. “We definitely don’t have any production coming back in the back court, i.e. ranked preseason number eight.
“But we have Isaiah Hill, who came in from Tulsa, who’s eligible right away. Jordan Campbell will be back, you know, who didn’t play much at all his first year here. We have Deon Stroud who transferred in from UTEP who’s a Fresno native, very talented.”
The Bulldogs only return one starter from last season, sophomore forward Orlando Robinson. As a freshman, he was the only Bulldog to start all 30 games. He led the team in scoring, averaging 12.2 points per game.
Hutson expects him to be a leader on and off the floor.
“Leading by example, being in the right spots, doing the right thing, moving into the next play, playing with a great attitude and great effort,” Hutson said. “So as Orlando continues to do that, he’ll be more successful and so will we.”
“Last season I was a big focal point in the offense and defense,” explained Robinson. “Now this year it’s gonna be more extreme, all eyes are gonna on me, my teammates are gonna have to learn how to play around me and I’m gonna have to learn how to play with them.”
Learning to play together will take time, which the Bulldogs haven’t had much of as a team. Since returning to campus, they have had to quarantine twice due to COVID-19 protocols.
For a total of 28 days.
“The reality of it is that we’ve had more COVID tests since March than we’ve been together in the gym,” said Hutson. “I know I’ve had that little stick put up my nose way more times than 15, than being around my team since March.”
“As the weeks go by and the practices continue day-by-day, all of us are getting closer,” said Robinson. “Our chemistry is getting right, but it’s important for us to keep that going.”
Added Hutson, “It’s difficult, especially with us not being here for the summer, the fall and being in quarantine. But it’s also exciting. I like our new guys, I like our returners. So, you know, you gotta control what you can. So it’s gonna be slow for us but we’re gonna still demand to try and get better every day and get out there and compete on the floor.”
Fresno State opens up the season on Wednesday at home against William Jessup University. Tipoff is at 3pm at the Save Mart Center, where no fans will be allowed this season.