The UAA Men’s Basketball had a busy offseason and it could pay big dividends come March this upcoming season when they make the push for supremacy in both the GNAC conference and West Region playoffs.
One year being removed from a team that made it to the GNAC championship and 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament, the Seawolves stocked up on more talent by adding two players who bring Division-I experience with them.
Enter junior duo Marcus Jackson and Abebe Demissie.
The addition of these players mixed in with a balanced core of experienced returners from last year could be the right combination to cracking the lock to more playoff success.
“Our goals don’t change year to year,” said UAA Head coach Rusty Osborne, who enters his 8th season at the helm of the men’s program. “We want to do well in the Shootout and represent the state of Alaska well and give the fans to cheer about. We want to make the NCAA tournament, win the GNAC Championship, win the West Regional Championship and we want to win a National Championship.
“Anything lower than that, we would be cheating ourselves. We haven’t reached that ultimate goal yet and the challenge for this group will be to reach that fourth goal”
Jackson, a 6’2”, 190-pound point guard hailing from Sacramento, California, continues a trend that has seen UAA receive a Sun Devil the past two seasons. Following in the footsteps of senior forward/center Taylor Rohde who made the trek north last season from Tempe to Anchorage.
As you mat have guessed, Rohde did play a part in having another ASU player coming UAA’s way.
“I told him about the team and gave him some information about the school and put one step in the door for him,” Rohde said. “(UAA Assistant) Coach Orton then started talking to him and it developed from there. That’s all I had to do with it.”
According to teammates and coaches, Jackson will bring strong basketball knowledge to the court with him.
“He gets to wherever he wants to on the court,” Demissie said. “A very smart, high-IQ basketball mind.”
Osborne hinted that the friendship the two built at ASU might not have been the only reason that ultimately led to Jackson’s transfer.
“We try to foster having a good locker room atmosphere,” Osborne said. “When you do that, it helps you get through rough patches. When you have good people around you, it’s easy to sell the program so it was easy for Taylor to sell the idea to Marcus.
“Of course, we were more than happy to have him.”
For Demissie, a 6’6”, 215-pound forward born in Seattle, Washington, spent two years at D-I program Eastern Washington where he redshirted his first year and saw action as a freshman. As a sophomore, he played for North Idaho College where he averaged 6.8 points and 4.3 boards a game to go along with his 49 percent shooting percentage.
The reasoning for Demissie’s move up north was simple.
“It was either high D-II or low D-1 schools,” Demissie said. “In D-I, my team was fighting to win conference championships, but here at UAA, we’re fighting for national championships. I felt it was going to be a much better opportunity here for me.”
His ability to drop shots from both the perimeter and inside paired with his size could give the Seawolves a versatile power forward at the “4” position.
“Abebe can straight up just knock down shots,” Jackson said. “He’s great with his back to the basket, great face-up to the basket too. However you want to play it, he can give it to you.”
The trio of Jackson, Demissie, and Rohde should give UAA a very a lot of weapons on the hardwood but their chemistry has been in the works since they became roommates at the beginning of the school year. And like on the court, it seems as though Jackson plays the role as facilitator off the court and in the kitchen when the three are home.
“It’s great, (Marcus) here likes to do dishes, I don’t, it works perfectly,” Demissie said with a laugh.
At least Rohde will help the cause once in awhile.
“I’m just kind of the middleman I guess,” Rohde claimed to a shake of the head from Jackson. “I do a little bit of both make the mess and clean up a little bit sometimes.”
Looks like they got the chemistry thing going which can only be good for the ‘Wolves as a whole.
Dishes and household chores aside, the excitement surrounding the team and coaching staff is apparent but with a cautiously optimistic flavor.
“We feel good and we are two deep in every position,” Osborne said. “I think we’ll continue to see how guys fit into our system and go from there.”
Jackson and Demissie were both quick to follow suit in stating it’s still early but the pair also seem to have no problems buying into the team goals.
“I’m more of a team first kind of guy,” Demissie said. “If we can win and I’m not having a great season individual, it doesn’t matter because I want to win everything this year.
“If you don’t think that way then you must not be on a winning team. You got to think like a winning team before you become that team first.”
Jackson agreed and added a bit of extra incentive.
“My goals are the teams goals too,” Jackson said. “Make the tournament, win league, win conference championship, and then do big things in the NCAA’s.
“Plus, we got to get Taylor a ring”
Rohde was more than happy to take him up on it.
“Yeah, I need a ring in my life,” Rohde said with a grin “Obviously it’s my last year so I want to go in this year and help set the standard for UAA teams that follow us.”