CLEVELAND - Calling the Cleveland State men`s team by some title like "The New-Look Vikings" would be a gross understatement.
The 15-player roster includes 10 members who haven`t played a minute for CSU - five freshmen, one sophomore with freshman eligibility and four transfers. Even the most visible Viking, junior J`Nathan Bullock, will be in a new position in the coming season.
Second-year coach Gary Waters hopes the infusion of new and better talent should carry CSU to a record superior to last year`s 10-21 overall mark and 3-13 record in the Horizon League. The Vikes open the season tonight at South Florida.
"This team is light years above the team from last year - talent, athletic ability, quickness," second-year coach Gary Waters said. "We`re not there year on the power aspect, but we`re coming."
Yet it`s an upgrade in power, or at least in size, that has allowed Waters to move Bullock, a power forward in 2006-07, to small forward this season. Bullock, a junior and a pre-season All-Horizon League choice, should enjoy a size advantage he never had in year`s past.
"He has really been under control at that position," Waters said. "Last year he was probably guarded by a post player who towered over him. Now he has a guy his height, but not his size."
Bullock is 6-foot-5 and a robust 240 pounds. He led the Vikings in scoring (13.5 points per game) and rebounding (6.5 per game) while starting all 31 games.
The only other regular returning is Joe Davis, a 6-0 guard who averaged 9.2 points a game. It`s expected that other starters will be transfers. Chris Moore, a 6-9 St. Edward graduate who switched from the University of California-Santa Barbara, is penciled in at center. George Tandy, a 6-8 power forward from Cleveland`s Lincoln-West High School, formerly played at Eastern Illinois. Cedric Jackson is a 6-3 guard who came to CSU from St. John`s University.
Waters thinks ball-hawking defense will be one of the Vikings` strengths.
"If we can get the other team to turn the ball over, we can do something good," Waters said. "We`re real quick. We should score a lot in transition. Cedric Jackson is a man among boys on defense."
The key to improvement, according to the coach, is the guards. Opponents had 91 more assists than the Vikes and hit 44.5 percent from the field to 39.3 percent for CSU.
"If we don`t take care of the ball it will be a tough night," Waters said. "The guards have to be more disciplined with the ball. We also have to gauge our shot selection. We are a good mid-range shooting team, but not a 3-point shooting team. We are good at offensive rebounding, which should help our shooting percentage."
The other veterans on the Vikings are Kevin Francis (6.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg), Breyohn Watson (2.3 ppg) and Reynard Fields (2.0 ppg). Of the six freshmen, Waters believes guards D`Aundray Brown (Youngstown Ursuline) and Norris Cole (Dayton Dunbar) will see the most playing time.
"This team is young," Waters said. "They have to play a lot now to be better later."
Contact Steve Byrne at 329-7135 or email@example.com.