Although they all came up short of their goals this season, there is plenty of optimism for next season for the UC Davis and Sacramento State men’s and women’s basketball teams.
The UC Davis men and women and Sac State men are expected to have all their key players back, while the Sac State women will return a strong nucleus from this year’s NCAA record-breaking squad.
Here’s a look at what’s ahead for each program:
Sac State men – The Hornets lose only reserve forward Jordan Salley from their nine-man rotation that helped them go 14-16 overall, win a school career high 10 Big Sky Conference games and make the conference tournament for the first time in eight years.
Sac State will have its entire starting lineup back, including juniors and All-Big Sky selectees Mikh McKinney (unanimous first team) and Dylan Garrity (honorable mention) and sophomore defensive standout Cody Demps (Pleasant Grove). Coach Brian Katz also will expect bigger things from two freshmen, 6-foot-11 Eric Stuteville (Casa Roble) and 6-7 Nick Hornsby, who combined to average 9.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.
And Sac Statehas signed 6-6, 210-pound forward Justin Strings, a senior at Manhattan Beach’s Mira Costa High School.
“I think the biggest change from when I first arrived to now is that guys are excited to be here,” Katz said. “They want to be Sac State Hornets. They love their school. They love their teammates. It’s no longer, ‘Gee, I thought I could have gone bigger.’ ”
Sac State women – First-year coach Bunky Harkleroad loses team captain Alle Moreno and fellow seniors Se’Nyce Parrish and Sadie Clements from a team that was 18-12 and made the Big Sky tournament for the third consecutive season.
Expected back are All-Big Sky honorable mention and Hornets career assists leader Fantasia Hilliard (Sacramento High) and fellow juniors Shanti Smith, Takara Burse and Andrea Chenier.
Also returning will be redshirt freshman Margaret Huntington and standout true freshmen Gigi Hascheff and Hallie Gennett, big reasons the Hornets set NCAA Division I women’s records for three-pointers attempted and made this season.
But there will be new faces, too.
Harkleroad’s goal is to have 14 to 15 players who can shoot from deep and play his frenetic up-tempo “The System.”
“We’re going to get depth, and we’re going to be a system program,” Harkleroad said. “We’re not going to be like everybody else. We’re going to be the highest-scoring team in the country. We’re going to be the most exciting D-I basketball program in the country.”
UC Davis women – Reserve forward Idit Oryon was the only senior for the Aggies, who finished 15-16 overall, fifth place in the Big West Conference regular season and lost 74-70 in overtime to UC Irvine in the tournament quarterfinals.
Junior Sydnee Fipps made the All-Big West Conference first team again after averaging 17.7 points, and 6-4 sophomore Alyson Doherty was second team after averaging 13.1 points and 6.4 rebounds.
Aggies coach Jennifer Gross has her fingers crossed that both will be able to avoid surgery after suffering knee injuries during the Big West tournament.
The Aggies’ sophomore class also includes starters Celia Marfone and Molly Greubel and key reserves Heidi Johnson and Lauren Beyer (Bradshaw Christian).
Iowa State transfer Kelsey Harris, the Aggies’ primary three-point threat and a double-figure scorer (10.7 points) is expected back for her senior season.
UC Davis men – The Aggies lose just one senior, All-Big West Conference career three-point scorer Ryan Sypkens (Franklin), from a team that went 9-22 and missed the postseason but swept Big West tournament champ and NCAA surprise participant Cal Poly during the regular season.
All-Big West second-team Corey Hawkins, the conference’s second-leading scorer with 18 points, has another season, and the Aggies should be bolstered by the anticipated return of 6-9 senior Josh Ritchart and 6-7 junior J.T. Adenrele from medical redshirt seasons. Also returning will be sharpshooting senior guard Tyler Les, who redshirted this season.
Because of the injuries to Adenrele and Ritchart and the late-season departure of 6-8 junior forward Iggy Nujic, true freshmen Brynton Lemar and Georgi Funtarov played more than expected this season.
The Aggies had one fall high school signee, 6-4 guard Isaiah Walton from Ohio.
Call The Bee’s Bill Paterson, (916) 326-5506.