ST. GEORGE – Last season ended in disappointment for Dixie State men’s basketball. This year, the Trailblazers are looking for vindication.
Dixie State is coming off a year in which it was not invited to the NCAA tournament. After tying for the PacWest season championship with three other teams with a 15-5 conference record, the Trailblazers were eliminated early in the PacWest Tournament. DSU ended the season with an 18-9 overall record for 2015-16.
Trevor Hill and Brandon Simister return in the backcourt. Hill led the team in scoring (16.1), assists (3.7) and steals (1.4) last year. Simister (12.4 ppg) will handle the point position. Simister led the team in 3-point shooting (.459) and free throw shooting (.880).
“Trevor has turned into a special player,” said Dixie State head coach Jon Judkins. “His size and quickness create problems for defenders. Both he and Brandon are smart with the ball.”
Josh Fuller will return at the post position. Fuller also averaged in double figures last year at 12.0 points per game. He is the returning leader in rebounds at 6.0. Fuller rarely shoots beyond the arc, but when he did last year he was effective hitting four out of six.
Quincy Mathews was a key reserve last year and got the starting nod twice. He will start at the other wing. The other post position has three players vying for the starting role. Returners Zac Hunter and Dub Price are competing with transfer Isaiah Clark.
Other players that will play prominent roles early in the season are Preston Sanchez, Kyler Nielson and Brandon Miller in the backcourt and Marcus Bradley, Wade Miller and Austin Montgomery in the front court.
“Sanchez is super quick,” said Judkins. “He is a true freshman who did everything for his high school team last year. Nielson has gotten a lot stronger in the offseason.
“Brandon Miller and Montgomery are two Division I transfers from Utah. They have both been impressive in practice and scrimmage but both are down with injuries right now and will not make the opening weekend trip.”
Judkins said he really likes the depth on this year’s Trailblazer team.
“The difference to this year from last is how deep we are,” said Judkins. “I usually like to go 7-8 deep. This team I can go 9-10 easily and maybe even more. Our outside shooting has improved. We have several players who can hit the 3-pointer consistently.”
Judkins has career totals of 487-229 overall and 203-101 in his 11 years at Dixie State. He is joined on the bench by assistants Kasey Winters (fourth year at DSU) and Kevin Williamson (second year).
The Dixie State men’s basketball team opens its season on the road tonight in San Diego.
The early schedule will have the Blazers on the road playing in two opening tournaments in San Diego starting tonight and then next weekend in Seattle. Three of the four teams they will face in the opening two weekends made the NCAA tournament last year while the fourth, like Dixie State, barely missed the field.
“We will know where we are at right away,” said Judkins. “These are upper-echelon teams and you can better assess your team against more talented competition.”
DSU’s first game comes tonight against the CCAA/PacWest challenge host UC-San Diego at 7:30 p.m. Pacific Time. Tomorrow, the Blazers will play Cal-Poly Pomona at 5:30 p.m Pacific Time.
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