SB FILE / 2006
Ahmet Gueye and Matt Lojeski of Hawaii earned preseason All-WAC second-team honors.
Media, coaches pick UH fifth
SALT LAKE CITY » A fifth-place spot in the preseason polls doesn't bother Hawaii basketball coach Riley Wallace. Rather, being in the position of possibly sneaking up on the favorites excites the 20th year coach.
"That's OK, I think fifth is a good place," he said. "Nobody's going to be shooting for you and you can use it to motivate."
The Rainbow Warriors were picked fifth both by the league's coaches and media in the preseason polls released yesterday at the WAC basketball preview.
Hawaii guard Matt Lojeski and forward Ahmet Gueye made the coaches' Preseason All-WAC second team.
Lojeski is UH's leading returning scorer after finishing second on the team with 13.6 points per game. Gueye (12.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg) led the WAC in blocked shots last season and is coming off a knee injury.
"We've got as much depth as I've had in years and got more firepower," Wallace said. "We're going to miss Julian Sensley -- he was a matchup problem for a lot of people. But with more guys who can shoot it, and good overall size inside we should be able to compete."
Both polls were identical, with three-time defending champion Nevada leading the way, followed by New Mexico State. Fresno State and Utah State were then picked ahead of Hawaii. Boise State, Louisiana Tech, San Jose State and Idaho rounded out the polls.
Nevada returns all five starters, including Preseason Player of the Year Nick Fazekas, who elected to play his senior year with the Wolf Pack after considering a jump to the NBA.
New Mexico State returns four starters from last year's 16-14 team and will be bolstered by four Division I transfers who sat out last season, led by Preseason Newcomer of the Year Fred Peete.
"Last year we were picked second to last, so we kind of crept up on some teams," NMSU point guard Elijah Ingram said. "This year they know about us, so we have to work even harder."
Joining Fazekas on the coaches and media's All-WAC first team were Fresno State swingman Quinton Hosley, NMSU forward Tyrone Nelson, Boise State guard Coby Karl and Utah State guard Jaycee Carroll.
Ingram, Fresno State's Ja'Vance Coleman and Nevada's Marcelus Kemp made the second team with Lojeski and Gueye.
The Hawaii women's team was picked third by the media and fourth by the coaches. Senior guard Janevia Taylor was a first-team pick by the coaches and second team by the media. Senior center Brittany Grice made the coaches' first team.
"We'll show up every day and play," UH coach Jim Bolla said. "We pride ourselves on being a blue-collar team. We just play a little faster."
Louisiana Tech was a clear choice as the favorite to add to a string of five straight league titles.
Bigger is better: A bigger Fazekas is looking for even better things in his senior year.
Fazekas, the two-time Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year, devoted much of his offseason to packing muscle on his 6-foot-11 frame and expects the efforts to show in a stronger performance during the season.
Fazekas said he finished last season at 225 pounds and enters his senior year at 240.
"You'll definitely see the effects of that," he said. "I didn't spend six, seven months in the weight room for nothing. I hope to be able to hold my position a little bit better down there and I definitely feel it can help me in rebounding."
Fazekas has averaged 18.3 points and 9.1 rebounds per game for the Wolf Pack and worked out for NBA personnel this summer as he pondered whether to enter the draft. The experience reinforced the need to put on more weight, a task that has long challenged the lanky forward and even more meals didn't help.
"If you eat too much it speeds up your metabolism and you burn more calories," he said. "I was eating five or six times a day and I'd step on the scale and lose weight and hadn't run or anything.
"I've got gaining weight down to a T right now, I know exactly what I'm doing. If you need to gain weight you can come talk to me."
Clouds lifting: This time last year, Fresno State coach Steve Cleveland was dealing with NCAA sanctions related to the previous staff that would eventually result in the school imposing a ban on postseason play. Having a chance to play in a postseason tournament adds to the motivation this year.
"Every college basketball player dreams of getting to the tournament and now we're excited about that," Coleman said. "If we don't get there this year at least we had something to do with it."