Looking up and down the roster for the 2004 UAA men’s basketball team, you might get the wrong impression.
The team lost Peter Bullock, the all-time scorer in program history, to graduation.
They have nine newcomers and only four returners.
You might think rebuilding. But you’d be dead wrong.
The Seawolves are built with one idea in mind. Win. Now.
The team brought in Division I transfer Marcus Robinson for only one season to complement a highly talented recruitment class from both Outside and within Alaska that is looking to improve on a fourth-place finish in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference and a first-round exit in the NCAA Division II tournament.
“The way our coaches recruited, they brought in the win now,” said leading returning scorer Kemmy Burgess. “We didn’t bring in building-in recruits. They are battle-ready. Everybody’s ready to play and play at a winning level.”
After finishing 20-10 overall with a 10-8 conference record, this edition of Seawolf basketball is playing without a proven post presence for the first time in four years. With Bullock in the paint, UAA could count on 20 plus points a game and someone they could run their offense through. But his departure isn’t fazing a team that, for the most part, doesn’t know what life is like Peterless.
“Everybody is going to pick it up, it is not going to be one person,” Robinson said. “It might be one guy’s night to have a big game, and then the next night it’s somebody else. We are so well proportioned at every spot that they can’t key on one person and that’s a good thing.”
The Seawolves aren’t changing their playing philosophy in the big man’s absence. They are going to run up and down the floor with abandon and play what Burgess calls inside-out game. UAA is going to work the ball down low in the post and then pitch it outside to their perimeter players, who just happened to lead all of Division II in three-point percentage with a team mark of .458.
Filling up the lane down low will be a trio of newcomers with polished resumes, including junior center Bryan Freshwater, forward Carl Arts and power forward Brian Hills.
“We have confidence in the post players that we have,” Burgess said. “Our philosophy is to get shots; we are going to have to throw it in the post, so the post is going to be the nucleus and the deciding factor.”
The 6-foot-8-inch Freshwater is coming off a sophomore campaign with Washington’s Lower Columbia College, where he averaged 13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and a had a 61 shooting percentage while leading the Red Devils to a 26-5 record. Robinson calls Freshwater UAA’s biggest, toughest player.
“Freshwater is a bigger body than Peter,” head coach Rusty Osborne said. “He is 25 pounds heavier and two inches taller. He may not get 10 rebounds a game but he will block other people. And Fresh is an even better passer.”
Hills, who is from Los Angeles, hasn’t played basketball in three years. But the 6-5 Hills is hungry to be back and has had success in the past, including the California Community College state title with Cerritos College.
“He’s straight athletic,” Robinson said. “He can shoot on you, go up and dunk on you. He’s a great defender and one of our better low post players as far as tools and fundamentals.”
Arts led Valdez High School to its second state championship in two years last season with a perfect 26-0 record. He tallied 17 points per game and was named Alaska 3A Player of the Year.
“You will see he is tough and a good defender,” Robinson said. “He gets the job done even though he is undersized because he has a big heart.”
UAA’s post players will have more room to work down low since double teaming could have disastrous consequences with UAA’s perimeter firepower.
Robinson was the lead scorer at Florida International University last season with 10 points per game and he was third in the nation in junior college after averaging nearly 27 points per game in 2002-2003. Evans turned down DI offers to come to UAA and brings a ski-high basketball IQ to the table, along with a 21 points per game average from NAIA Saint Gregory’s.
“It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to figure it out,” Robinson said. “When you bring in somebody for one year, you expect a lot.”
But neither one has any guaranteed starting spots. In fact, they are battling for playing time with guards Burgess, Adam Fitt-Chappell, Aaron Lawrence, and Mark Drake, who are all UAA’s top returning scorers.
Burgess racked up 16 points a contest last year for UAA and set a school record with 100 three pointers, shooting a blistering .500 percentage from behind the arc. Ditto for Fitt-Chappell (10.1 points per game) who added 15 pounds of muscle in the off-season and has been a rock of consistency the past seasons. Aaron Lawrence (8.8 points per game) was the team’s everyday point guard last year and led the team in assists and was second in steals. Drake, the team’s lone four-year senior, has one of the team’s best shooting strokes and sits fifth all-time in Seawolf history with a .420 three-point shooting percentage.
The only downside right now for the Seawolves is the condition of Burgess, who had surgery on his shooting shoulder and Lawrence, who is suffering from plantar fasciitis in each foot. Both may sit out the season. If they don’t sit out the entire season, they will at least miss a number of early games.
But the Seawolves seem to be deep this year with point guard Luke Cooper, who Robinson calls one of the fastest guys in the league, super smooth guard Raylon Almon, 6-9 Aaron Severson and Costa Mesa’s leading scorer, transfer James Hartman. They combine to make a mix of players that seems potent from one end of the bench to another, and from any spot on the court.
“This is going to be fun team to watch, even if we lose,” Robinson said. “But we have a good team. I expect to be at the top of the GNAC at the end of the season.”