One of Brian Katz’s biggest challenges as Sacramento State’s men’s basketball coach is trying to convince area players to consider his program.
He feels he’s finally making headway after landing Pleasant Grove’s Cody Demps and Casa Roble’s Eric Stuteville.
“Every mid-major wants to get a guy they shouldn’t get,” Katz said. “The key for us is to identify the good players in town at our level and be very aggressive in recruiting them.”
One way is to make a scholarship offer early. Another is to identify players who also are strong students and might be looking at college as more than a place to play basketball.
Katz said he was able to sign Stuteville, a 6-foot-10 freshman, because he has an interest in biomechanics.
“We knew he was a 3.8 student, and we have a very good kinesiology program,” Katz said.
Demps, a sophomore guard, visited Columbia and had interest from San Diego but decided to stay home and play for the Hornets.
“You mean a kid turns down an Ivy League education to go to Sacramento State?” Katz said. “But Cody is very interested in mechanical engineering, and he knew our program is really, really good.”
One reason Demps and Stuteville picked Sac State is because of their family ties.
“So we got two guys who are close to their families with specific majors that we are very good at,” Katz said. “Maybe that’s the formula for us.”
Katz also knows recruiting good students helps his program’s graduation rate. Of the 18 Hornets that have exhausted their eligibility under Katz, who is in his sixth season as coach, 14 have graduated and three more are on pace to graduate by next spring.
Demps, a starter, is averaging 4.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in 28 minutes per game for the Hornets (1-2). Stuteville is averaging 5.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 19 minutes per contest.
But against UCLA on Monday at Pauley Pavilion, there would be no back-to-back upsets of Pacific-12 Conference teams like the football program had against Oregon State in 2011 and Colorado in 2012.
The No. 22 Bruins walloped the Hornets 86-50, dropping Sac State to 3-36 all-time against Pac-12 teams.
It was Sac State’s second loss to UCLA. The Hornets lost 86-56 in 2005, when the Bruins featured five players who later played in the NBA, including the Kings’ Luc Mbah a Moute.
But the Hornets can play defense.
Sac State (3-1) upset Oregon 97-85 on Sunday in Eugene, Ore. The Ducks had averaged 122 points in two previous wins.
The teams combined to take an NCAA Division I-record 86 three-point attempts in the game. But Oregon shot just 18.9 percent from 3-point range and 33.7 percent overall. The Hornets forced 23 turnovers and had a 23-4 scoring edge in points off turnovers.
Sac State went 1-1 on its trip to Oregon, falling to unbeaten Oregon State 102-80 on Friday.
Junior forward Shanti Smith had 30 points and 12 rebounds in the two games and was selected Big Sky Conference Player of the Week.
Sypkens and the Aggies (1-2) play in the Portland State tournament this weekend, then will host Sac State in the Causeway Classic on Tuesday.