Thursday, March 29, 2007

Ex-Mustangs making news around the country

People always seem to love the “Where Are They Now?” stories. Well, here are some interesting ones on folks with Cal Poly ties who have been in the news the past couple of weeks — for good and not so good reasons:

• Carla Berry, an assistant on the Cal Poly women’s basketball team in 1994, is an assistant for an LSU women’s team that is in the Final Four. She is also the source who came forth last month with news of head coach Pokey Chatman’s alleged improper relationships with players.

• Bob Cantu, a former assistant on the Cal Poly men’s basketball team, could be “a great fit,” as one Riverside Press-Enterprise columnist writes, for the men’s basketball head coaching vacancy at UC Riverside. Cantu is currently an assistant at USC.

• A Hennepin County judge found former Cal Poly men's basketball player Shane Schilling guilty of felony attempted robbery Monday. Schilling also faced two other felonies for auto theft and receiving stolen property.

• With Ed Hartwell gone, former Cal Poly linebacker Jordan Beck might have a shot at a starting position with the Atlanta Falcons.

• Former Cal Poly defensive end Chris Gocong is healthy and ready to get back on the field for the Philadelphia Eagles. Head coach Andy Reid says Gocong is still being considered for a starting job at linebacker.

Who will win the Big West baseball title?

Cal State Fullerton is coming off three straight Big West Conference titles, but the Titans are no longer the clear-cut favorites to win the conference crown.
Heading into conference play this weekend, UC Irvine enjoyed the best nonconference run out of the eight Big West teams, going 19-6-1. UC Riverside went 16-10 and Cal State Fullerton 15-10.
Long Beach State, which finished second to Cal State Fullerton last season, went 13-9.
So who’s the favorite? Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee had a pretty good take when asked that question on Thursday.
“It’s Fullerton’s title until you knock them off,” he said.

“But I think there are four teams you’ll have to go through — Irvine, Riverside, Fullerton and Long Beach State. With those four teams, it’s much more wide open than it’s been. Riverside and Irvine make things more interesting this year with all of the (losses) Fullerton and Long Beach have sustained.”
Cal State Fullerton was the preseason favorite in the Big West Coaches poll, which is listed below. But UC Irvine, the only other team to earn a first-place vote from the coaches, emerges as the team to beat at this point in time. The Anteaters lead the Big West in hitting at .327 — 21 points better than the next closest team (UC Riverside, .306). They also have the second-best team ERA at 3.50 and the top fielding percentage at .978.
The rest of the Big West, which includes a young Cal Poly team, might be playing for fifth place in what is shaping up to be a four-team race this year.

2007 Big West Conference

preseason coaches poll
1. Cal State Fullerton (7) 63 points
2. UC Riverside 50
3. UC Irvine (1) 48
4. Long Beach State 43
5. Cal Poly 31
6. UC Santa Barbara 23
7. Pacific 22
8. Cal State Northridge 8

Monday, March 26, 2007

News and notes from Pro Day

If you’re wondering why there wasn’t a story on Monday’s “Pro Day” at Alex G. Spanos Stadium, it’s because there wasn’t much to report.
A handful of Cal Poly football players, along players from various other FCS/I-AA teams out West, were on hand but few participated in all the drills.
Kyle Shotwell ran some shuttle stuff and made one pass at the 40-yard dash, but opted out of his second pass because he felt a twinge in his left hamstring.
It wasn’t a big deal, just Shotwell being cautious given he hasn’t been running a whole lot since his emergency appendectomy following the East-West Shrine game.
I overheard a couple of scouts saying he ran about a 4.5. That’s better than a lot of running backs at the combine, which Cal Poly’s senior linebacker and Buchanan Award winner was not invited to.
Kenny Chicoine, Randy Samuel, Anthony Randolph and Chris White also participated. Nick Coromelas punted for the scouts and Courtney Brown came out but did not run.
Some of the scouts were disappointed Brown didn’t compete, but the Mustangs’ senior corner didn’t have much to prove after turning in some eye-popping numbers at a pro day in San Jose earlier this year.
He ran a 4.32 up there. He’s going down to the Home Depot Center to run through some position drills later this week.
Hopefully there will be more to report later this week. I’ll probably be writing something about the scouting/draft process this weekend.

Friday, March 23, 2007

From Poly dropout to national champion

There's been a Kameron Gray sighting In Oklahoma City.
You remember Kam, the happy-go-lucky point guard from Oakland who led the Cal Poly men’s basketball team to wins over Cal and USC early in the 2003-04 season.
The same Kam who dropped 35 points on UC Irvine only to become academically ineligible shortly thereafter, missing a season and a half before flunking out of Cal Poly altogether.
The academic casualty cost the Mustangs a scholarship when Kevin Bromley’s squad failed to measure up to the NCAA’s new APR standings.
“Cal Poly bent over backward for Kameron Gray,” Bromley said after Gray’s dismissal. “The coaching staff went above the call of duty to help him. ... We made sure he was meeting with tutors, going to class and we did that for three quarters. The bottom line is he didn't want to go to college.”
Guess again.
Gray popped up at Oklahoma City this past season and led the Stars to an NAIA Division I national championship on Tuesday.
And the 6-1 guard didn’t just play for the Stars, he carried them, averaging 12.8 ppg and 6.0 apg in the tournament en route to MVP honors.
Gray had 14 points and eight assists in the 79-71 win over Concordia in the championship game held in Kansas City.
Maybe more impressive than his numbers on the floor are his numbers in the classroom. Gray, according to The Oakland Tribune, had a 3.2 GPA in the fall and is on target to graduate next year with a degree in physical therapy.
What a difference three years and some studying can make, ehh?
"Kam could run for president on our campus and he'd win," Stars coach Ray Harper told The Oakland Tribune. "Our (school) president told me, 'I love seeing Kameron Gray. He's always got a smile on his face.'
“He’s going to be very successful at whatever he does.”

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Mustangs focused on finals before OSU

Defending national champion Oregon State is coming to town this weekend, and how is the Cal Poly baseball team preparing for this much-anticipated showdown at Baggett Stadium?
By doing nothing.
In what has become a general rule around the Cal Poly campus, head coaches are encouraged to give student-athletes the week off during finals and aren’t allowed to hold mandatory weekday workouts.
The teams aren’t even allowed to play games during the week, which is why this weekend’s series with the Beavers has been pushed back to Saturday-Monday instead of the typical Friday-Sunday series.
While many of his players remain fresh with individual workouts this week, Cal Poly head coach Larry Lee said the break from baseball could be just what the team needs after being swept at Rice last weekend — in a series that saw the Mustangs blow leads in all three games.
“It’s good to break up the routine,” Lee said. “Hopefully they’ll be rejuvenated and accept the challenge that’s ahead of them. They came away last week pretty discouraged on the way we lost those games, but they also know that if they play fundamentally solid baseball they can play with anybody.
"What has to happen is that every facet of the game has to be played at a high level. If not, and one of those areas is your wink link, you’re asking for trouble against good teams like Rice and Oregon State.”
The good news for Cal Poly is that Oregon State is coming off finals week as well, but this Beavers squad is ranked as high as third in the national polls and has won nine straight coming in.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Previewing the Big West tourney title game

Previewing today's Big West Tournament championship game, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday on ESPN2:
• Long Beach State is favored by 3.5-4 points by most sports books.

• 49ers senior forward Sterling Byrd, who scored a game-high 20 points in a 77-63 semifinal win over UC Irvine, said he contacted Cal Poly (the blurb about Byrd is at the end of the story) about transferring there while he was playing at Yavapai Community College but never heard back from the Mustangs' coaching staff. "I wanted to go there. ... So, I’m really looking forward to this one. We’re all looking forward to it, because this is what we live for — playing in the NCAA Tournament."

49ers try to break Mustangs in Big West Tournament final
(Sports Network) The top-seeded Long Beach State 49ers and the second-seeded Cal Poly Mustangs will collide in the championship game of the Big West Tournament ...

Tonight's probable starting lineups:

G-20-Kevin Houston (5-10, Sr., 11.6 ppg, 4.3 apg)
G-1-Kejuan Johnson (6-4, Sr., 15.4 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
G-55-Aaron Nixon (6-2, Sr., 18.4 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
F-15-Sterling Byrd (6-6, Sr., 14.1 ppg, 6.4 rpg)
F-44-Dominique Ricks (6-6, Sr., 7.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg)

0-Trae Clark (5-11, So., 9.0, 3.6 apg)
22-Tyler McGinn (6-7, Sr., 11.0, 3.3)
2-Dawin Whiten (6-3, Jr., 11.4, 2.6)
25-Derek Stockalper (6-5, Sr., 14.0, 6.9)
35-Titus Shelton (6-7, So. 9.0, 5.0)
- stats as of 3/8

Mustangs hope to go dancin'

The Mustangs are 40 minutes away from the NCAA Tournament.
The Cal Poly men’s basketball team advanced to Saturday’s Big West Conference Tournament championship with an 81-56 throttling of Cal State Fullerton on Friday at the Anaheim Convention Center.
The second-seeded Mustangs (19-10) face regular-season champion Long Beach State (23-7) at 8 p.m. on Saturday (ESPN2) with the winner earning the league’s automatic bid to next week’s tournament.
Cal Poly, which moved to Division I in 1994-95, has never advanced to the “Big Dance.”
“You can sit there against the wall or you can get out there and dance,” Cal Poly head coach Kevin Bromley. “… These guys are focused. We can’t think about what happens if we do win or don’t win. We have to focus on the task at hand. If we do that we’ll be in good shape.”
After the game, Bromley, and just about everyone else in the building, agreed the key to Saturday’s game is stopping Long Beach State’s guards Big West Player of the Year Aaron Nixon, Kejuan Johnson and Kevin Houston.
“They have to stop Johnson and Nixon of course,” Cal State Fullerton forward Justin Burns said. “… Whoever plays the best defense, that’s what it’s going to come down to.”
The Mustangs did a pretty solid job against one of the Big West’s best guard on Friday, holding Bobby Brown to 11 points on 3-of-15 shooting.
Nixon, however, has been the Big West’s most clutch shooter over the last year. He was 5 of 11 from the floor in Friday’s semifinal win over UC Irvine, finishing with 16 points and four assists.
“We have to do a good job of guarding them off the dribble,” Bromley said.
“Aaron Nixon’s a key. We’re going to put some thought into it tonight. Maybe you let him get his 30 and shut everybody else down. I don’t know.”

Update: Here's ESPN's postgame show looking back at the championship game, which the Mustangs lost.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Keeping tabs on the tourney talk

The madness has begun. A look at some of the storylines from out-of-town news outlets heading into this week’s Big West Conference Tournament:

Long Beach State, Cal Poly get double byes in Big West tournament
Los Angeles Times
If recent history is any indication, it's advantage Long Beach State and Cal Poly in the Big West Tournament.

D-Day coming for 49er brass
Long Beach Press-Telegram
Larry Reynolds might have won the Big West Coach of the Year, but he's still on the hot seat.

UCR’s Morrison to experience NCAA tournament selection process ...
Stan Morrison got off to a flying start in college basketball. In his first two seasons at Cal, he played in two NCAA championship games. ...

Matadors have one more chance to dance
Los Angeles Daily News
Cal State Northridge believes it has a puncher's chance to win the Big West tournament…

Nixon making his mark
Hey, if Big West Tournament TV ratings are that good, why isn't CBS showing it? A year ago this Friday, Nixon gunned in a three-pointer from the deepest ...

Thomason: Tigers have shortfalls
Stockton Record
The defending-champion Tigers are 11-18 overall, opening the tournament on the first day.

Long Beach State projected to win conference tourney’s Joe Lunardi has the 49ers as the favorite to earn the Big West’s automatic bid. They’re also favored by and Sports Illustrated’s Stewart Mandel going in.

2007 Big West Conference Tournament Preview
Sports Network
The Sports Network also picks Long Beach State to go dancing.

Big West Tournament Preview
This AOL Sports Blogger is one who picks Cal Poly to win the tournament.

Links to The Tribune's Big West Tourney coverage so far:
History not good for some at Big West Tournament
Cal Poly basketball duo are on Big West first team again
Mustangs among Big West Conference Tournament favorites this week
Men's Basketball Mustangs cap regular season with 82-70 victory 

Some useful resource sites for this time of year:
USA Today power rankings
Sagarin RPI ratings by conference
Injury reports for college teams
Vegas lines for today’s games
Yahoo! scoreboard with today’s games

Monday, March 05, 2007

Orioles demote Olson, for now

Former Cal Poly left-hander Garrett Olson was demoted by the Baltimore Orioles today in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Olson was reassigned to the team’s minor league camp but could be called up to the majors later this spring, according to the Washington Post.
"They told me to keep doing what I'm doing and keep the ball down in the zone and keep working on every pitch, stay healthy and see what I can do down there," Olson told the paper. "I felt like I was a part of this group. I made a lot of friends here. I felt I got a lot of positive influence from people. I learned a lot."
See the complete Washington Post story below as well as a feature the Post ran on Olson earlier in the month.
While we’re talking about Mustangs on the diamond, check out the feature on Cal Poly softball standout Lisa Modglin. I included the link below.

Prospects Olson, Liz Sent Down
Garrett Olson and Radhames Liz, along with pitcher Freddy Deza and outfielder Cory Keylor, were reassigned to the team's minor league camp in Sarasota, Fla. ...

O's Olson Takes Educated Approach to Pitching
On the day the Baltimore Orioles selected him with the 48th overall pick in the 2005 draft, left-hander Garrett Olson took a thermodynamics final at ...

Modglin adds punch to Cal Poly's lineup
Far less tenuous is Modglin's place as an early front-runner for All-American honors. She went 7-for-15 at the plate over the weekend, collecting two home ...

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Sights and sounds from the spring scrimmage

Made it out to the Cal Poly football team's scrimmage at Alex G. Spanos Stadium on Saturday morning.
Stadium looked good. The renovation looks like it's been completed, finally.
The program's last two Buck Buchanan award winners, Kyle Shotwell and Chris Gocong of the Philadelphia Eagles, were on hand and said they were healthy and appeared to be in good shape. The team, however, looked young and a little rough around the edges.
Because many of the first-teamers were on the sideline watching, including star running back James Noble and wide receiver Ramses Barden, many of the Mustangs who were competing were redshirt freshmen and newcomers to their position. Defensive end Ryan Shotwell, for example, was working out at linebacker. Running back Fred Hives II has been converted to linebacker as well.
Cal Poly's offense fumbled a lot, dropped some passes and botched a number of option pitches, which I guess could be expected with so many newcomers handling the ball.
Jonathan Dally and Matt Brennan split reps at quarterback and it appears the position is wide open. A starter probably won't be determined until the fall. I'm working on a story on the quarterback competition for Tuesday's paper.
The play of the day was a 30-plus-yard touchdown scamper by Scottie Cordier, who is listed as a defensive back but has obviously switched positions as well.
And that triple option rumor? It appears it's just a rumor. Cal Poly is working in some triple-option plays, but it appears the offense is still of the spread-option variety. At least for now, while Noble and Ryan Mole (who doesn't transfer in until this summer) aren't in the backfield.
For the most part, it was a typical spring scrimmage. Sloppy but productive for the young players. The Spring Game is tentatively scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sunday, March 10, at the stadium.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Poly unveils '07 FB schedule ... finally

Cal Poly finally announced its 2007 football schedule on Wednesday. Piecing together the schedule in an earlier post, I managed to figure out 10 of the 11 opponents. Not bad. Humboldt State was the only one we missed, although the guess wasn't far off the mark with it being replaced by another Division II school, Western Oregon. Here's the schedule along with how Cal Poly has done in the all-time series:

2007 Cal Poly Football Schedule
Date Opponent, Time (Series)
Sept. 1 at Texas State, 4:05 p.m. (Tied 1-1)
Sept. 8 at Idaho, 2:05 p.m.(Cal Poly 2-1)
Sept. 15 Weber State, 6:05 p.m.(Weber State 3-2)
Sept. 22 Western Oregon, 6:05 p.m.(First Meeting)
Sept. 29 Northern Colorado, 6:05 p.m.(Cal Poly 6-2)
Bye Week
Oct. 13 at UC Davis, 6:05 p.m.(UC Davis 16-14-2)
Oct. 20 at South Dakota State, 5 p.m.(Cal Poly 2-1)
Oct. 27 at Idaho State, 2:05 p.m.(Cal Poly 9-6)
Nov. 3 at Southern Utah, noon (Cal Poly 14-6)
Nov. 10 North Dakota State, 4:05 p.m.(Tied 3-3)
Nov. 17 Iona College, 4:05 p.m.(First Meeting)