Every year the question is asked in the WCC, who could surprise…well it is not Pepperdine. This will be head coach Marty Wilson’s second full season at Pepperdine, third if you count his earlier time as an interim head, and it doesn’t appear to be getting any easier. As you will see, the Pepperdine team of today will look vastly different than that of last years as 8 different Pepperdine players will have either graduated or transferred. This is to be expected of a team with a new coach that is looking to mold his new program, let’s just hope that he is there long enough to do so.
Pepperdine will have to replace front court starters Taylor Darby (12.3 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Corbin Moore (10.4 ppg, 8.6 rpg), guard Joshua Lowery (8.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.0 apg), Hector Harold (3.2ppg, 2.3 rpg) and Ramon Eaton (2.6 ppg, 2.5 rpg) all who played in at least 27 games during the season. They will also loseDuane Suttle, Don Martin, and Richard Branning
Darby and Moore were #1 and #2 in PPG, RPG, BPG, FG % and almost in Free Throws attempted as well. These two forwards will leave a giant gap in the middle that will be impossible to fill, especially in a year where the WCC is so strong down low. What the Waves lose in skill they will hope to make up for in size.
Jan Maehlen, a 7-0, 300-pound sophomore, redshirted last season because of hand and groin injuries. He was up to 330 pounds by late spring, but had an encouraging off season once healthy. He averaged 8.4 minutes while playing in 18 games as a freshman and is still somewhat of a project, but Wilson said he is finally displaying "the commitment and the desire to be a real basketball player."
What they bring back:
A solid back court. Of particular interest is Senior Lorne Jackson, a redshirt from last season that before injuring his knee led the team in steals and assists in 2010-11, and made 77.9 percent of his free throws while attempting the second-highest number on the team. Jackson is reportedly moving as confidently and quickly as he was before the knee injury. The re-emergence of Jackson should allow the Waves to move the ball around more efficiently on what is surely to become a quick paced running team.
"That'll take a big load off of our problems with our ability to score and our ability to shoot from last year," Coach Wilson said. "I was just watching all of his (Jackson's) made baskets on video last night, and it just sets you at ease having a veteran guy who can do those things. He's full speed, going hard, and he's in great shape."
Also returning will be Senior Caleb Willis, who last year had a high assist to turnover ratio on a team that was sub-par. Coach Wilson had this to say about Willis, "He's possibly the glue to our team. He's gonna be solid. I know what we're gonna get from him. He's not a great scorer. He's not a great athlete. But he's a tough, very high-IQ basketball player."
While I am sure Willis would not like opposing student sections knowing his own coach doesn't think he is a great athlete or shooter, it does show you his ability to make things happen on the court.
Rounding out the back court will be 6-4 sophomore guard Jordan Baker (9.0 ppg, 2.8 rpg). Baker struggled at time with his shooting last year but is a quick guard that should make a nice jump from his freshman year.
"Going from that freshman year to sophomore year will help be that much better. And then having a sidekick with Lorne Jackson, it gives you a pretty good back court of guys who can score, guys who can shoot the ball and guys with some quickness" Coach Wilson.
Freshman forward Stacey Davis (6'6) is an athletic forward who has the ability to run with the quick back court guards. Look for Davis to start for the Waves and potentially make the all freshman team.
"Stacy is going to be a good one," Wilson said. "He plays at a pace that most freshmen don't normally play at. He's under control, he can shoot it, handle it, pass, post up, rebound, and he is still learning. He wants to get better and he will."
This is a young team that is going to struggle at times, especially due to their big men, but they have the ability to get hot and run on quite a few teams. Do the Waves have the ability to compete for the WCC? No, but they should finish middle of the pack and end up with a decent record.
"I know I'm gonna be a lot better as a coach," Wilson said. "I know our staff's gonna be a lot better as a staff. And on top of that, the things that are gonna allow us to be better is we have more pieces for what we're trying to do."
Cal Luthren (Exhibition)
Cal State Northridge
@ Houston Baptist
@ Montana State
Alabama State (Neutral Site)
@ Loyola Marymount
@ Saint Maries
@ Santa Clara
@ San Francisco
@ San Diego
WCC Championships begin
While a record of 15-14 is not the prettiest, it is significantly better than last years 10-19. Coach Wilson has done a good job of keeping the team close to home, as he can be fairly confident they are not reaching any significant tourney this year. This schedule should allow the team to grow together nicely coming into WCC play. Most likely they will struggle on the road, trying to play at too quick of a pace.
In conclusion, the Waves are going to be just another one of "those teams" in the WCC they might surprise a few people with some wins, but they aren't going to be in the running after their first WCC game (a loss to Gonzaga). This team is quietly moving in the right direction though and should provide some good entertainment and exciting games throughout the season, and they should put up a fight (see below).