MORAGA, Calif. -- Like most of the 350 or so Division I men’s basketball teams across the country, Saint Mary’s will begin preparation for the upcoming season tomorrow by conducting its first official practice.
New NCAA rules passed in May allow college programs to begin practicing 42 days prior to their first game of the season. Since the Gaels open their season at home against Louisiana Tech on Nov. 8, they can start official preparations on Friday.
“I think the earlier start of practice will be very beneficial for our team," said SMC senior Beau Levesque. "The more time we get to spend together as a team with the coaches there, the better off we'll be. We like to say iron sharpens iron so the chance to go against each other for these few extra weeks will do nothing but make us better as individuals and as a team."
- Gael fans are invited to attend the annual Men’s Basketball Tip-Off Dinner on Friday, Oct. 18 at Blackhawk Auto Museum in Danville. Tickets are currently available by clicking here or by calling the SMC Athletic Development office at (925) 631-8744 .
Saint Mary’s returns eight letterwinners and two starters from last year’s team that went 28-7 overall, finished second in the West Coast Conference, played in its fifth-straight league tournament title game and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. SMC finished the season rated 25th in the NCAA's Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and its strength of schedule of 59th was the highest in the WCC.
The Gaels are one of just four teams nationally to have won at least 25 games in each of the last six years and have qualified for postseason play in each of those seasons. Further, SMC has finished no lower than second in the WCC eight times in the last 10 seasons and has won at least 15 home games five times in the last nine years.
Saint Mary’s returns a variety of experienced student-athletes this season, including starters Stephen Holt and Brad Waldow and reserve forward Levesque. Guards James Walker III, Jordan Giusti and Paul McCoy, as well as center Matt Hodgson gained valuable experience in their first year as Gaels last season. Walk-on forward Eividas Petrulis, in his fourth overall season at SMC, also made major strides last year and hit a huge shot that gave the Gaels a chance to upset Memphis in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
Saint Mary’s fans will look forward to watching the progress of five new players who will see action in a Gaels uniform. Redshirt freshman Treaven Duffy and junior transfer Garrett Jackson gained valuable experience in the program after practicing with the team last season. Newcomers to the program include junior transfer Kerry Carter and freshmen Calvin Hermanson and Dane Pineau.
Minnesota transfer Joe Coleman and Aussie freshman Emmett Naar have joined the SMC program and will be eligible to participate for the Gaels next season.
The Gaels got a head start on their preparation for the season with a trip to Australia last month, in which they went 3-3 against teams mostly from the country’s professional National Basketball League.
In addition to having the opportunity to play together on the court, the trip provided an educational cultural experience to the non-Aussie players as well as a homecoming of sorts from those who are Australia natives.
“The Australia trip was such a special experience," said Levesque. "In addition to learning a lot about a country we hear about from our Aussie teammates, that trip is going to benefit our team in a number of ways. It will help us basketball-wise because we were able to play against and beat some high-level talent. Off the court, I think we really came together. We developed and strengthened some great friendships and learned a lot about each other."
Saint Mary’s lost a total of six players from last year’s team, including three-time all-WCC honoree, 2012 WCC Player of the Year and starting Australian National Team guard Matthew Dellavedova. In addition, the Gaels will be without forwards Mitchell Young and Tim Williams and center Kyle Rowley due to graduation. SMC will also miss fifth-year senior guard Jorden Page, who suffered a knee injury in the WCC Tournament final in Las Vegas.
Season tickets for the upcoming season are currently on sale by visiting the tickets link on SMCGaels.com or by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx (4689). Single game tickets and a special WCC games package go on sale next month.