No NCAA tournament doesn't mean no hope for Cameron Dollar's Seattle U. basketball team
Seattle U. won't be eligible to play in the NCAA tournament until the 2012-13 season, but that doesn't mean the Redhawks don't have high hopes now. The goal, according to coach Cameron Dollar, is to win the NIT.
Seattle Times staff reporter
The big postseason dreams are still a couple of years away for Cameron Dollar and the Seattle University men's basketball team, which won't be eligible for the NCAA tournament until the 2012-13 campaign.
That doesn't mean, however, there aren't high hopes.
On the day he was hired in the spring of 2009, Dollar said the quest was to get to, and win, the NIT during the years the NCAA tournament isn't an option.
And as he enters his second season at the school — practice began Friday for the Redhawks — Dollar said it's even more realistic.
"Our goal every year is to win the NIT," he said. "We set that goal last year and we came a couple of games short of getting into the NIT, I think (going 17-14). I think we were probably three games away from being in the NIT at 20-11. And even with the rigorous schedule that we have I thought that was doable. So this year, we want to get there."
The Redhawks lose leading scorer and rebounder Charles Garcia Jr. from last year's team. He left with a year of eligibility remaining to pursue professional options and is currently playing in Turkey.
But five key players from that team return to give the Redhawks a solid base from which to build — guards Cervante Burrell (second-leading scorer a year ago at 11.4 and the leader in assists) and Garrett Lever (a defensive standout) and forwards Aaron Broussard (10.2 points, 5.1 rebounds), Alex Jones (8.9 points) and Gavin Gilmore (4.4 points).
"That's five guys that all played good minutes for us," Dollar said. "Definitely the biggest thing this year from last year is I've got five guys that have done it, done that grind and had success doing it. They all had really good springs and summers and come in rarin' to go."
The returnee who might have undergone the biggest transformation since last season is Jones, who ended the year on a high note, scoring 10 or more points in each of the last seven games.
Dollar said Jones weighed around 215 pounds last season and is up to 240, potentially giving the Redhawks a much more imposing presence down low.
Added to the mix are seven newcomers led by Mark McLaughlin, a 6-6 guard from Inglemoor High who attended Baylor briefly before transferring.
McLaughlin was considered among the top 100 recruits in the country in 2008, and signed with Nevada. He attended a prep school during the 2008-09 school year, was released from his letter with Nevada and signed with Baylor that spring. But he left Baylor last October. He is expected to contend for a starting spot with Seattle U.
"He's been doing a really good job on and off the court," Dollar said. "I expect him to just continue to get better and just develop. As with all freshmen, you are going to have ups and downs. But he shows great promise."
Also new to the backcourt are Franklin High grads Fredrick Wilson and Sterling Carter (the latter a transfer from Pacific) and Jarell Flora of Bremerton.
New players up front are Chad Rasmussen of Tacoma Community College and Curtis High, Brandon Durham of Lane (Ore.) CC and Central Kitsap High and Taylor Stevens of North Idaho College and Marysville-Pilchuck High.
Dollar notes that 10 of Seattle U.'s 13 players are originally from "within 30 minutes of the school. We are truly the city's team."
The Redhawks will play a challenging schedule this year that Dollar says gives Seattle U. a chance at marquee wins and the attention of those handing out postseason berths.
That includes home games against Oregon State (Nov. 17) and Washington (Feb. 22) and road games at Maryland (Nov. 8), Virginia (Dec. 22) and Stanford (March 1).
• Former UW swingman Clarence Trent is on the Seattle U. roster but is not eligible this season per NCAA transfer rules.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or email@example.com.
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