Lots of new faces at Cal Poly Men’s Basketball Practice

Updated: September 30, 2017

Joe Callero’s Cal Poly men’s basketball team had their first official practice of the season on Friday afternoon. With six brand new faces to the program and two other players who didn’t really play at all last season, this team will go as far as it can
Roster construction

In terms of total number of players who can be solid contributors, this team looks a lot like the Mustangs of two years ago to me. There are probably 12 guys who could easily be in the top seven in the rotation. That could be really good for things like depth, withstanding injuries throughout the season, and competitive practices. Still, there are only five players on the court at any one time, and players who can separate themselves will be something fans can look for early in the season. 

New guys

Other than DeAndre Stallings not coming to campus, I outlined Cal Poly’s new guys here. One thing that struck me is the real length of Marcellus Garrick and Eric Toles. They are both listed at 6′ 4″, but they are well-sized for wings in the Big West Conference. When you have to go against longer wings like Khalil Ahmad and Jackson Rowe from Fullerton, CSUN’s Michael Warren and Kobe Paras, and others, it’s nice to have some depth to match-up with those guys. Here are a few thoughts about some of the new players, based on one day of practice:

  • Iziah James is a strong looking freshman. By Owen Main

    Iziah James (Freshman, Chesapeke, VA) — He’s slightly taller than Donovan Fields and Victor Joseph, but is built a little stronger. James seems to have a confident floor presence. Being a young point guard under Joe Callero can be tough. It will be interesting to see how James responds throughout the season. James’ social media accounts refer to him as ManMan, and I actually heard some guys calling him this in practice. So, he’s instantly got the best nickname on the team. 

  • Eric Toles has a nice all-around game with length to be disruptive on both ends as a guard. By Owen Main

    Eric Toles (Junior, Sierra College) — Toles is long and thin. He handles the ball well for how long he is. The big thing I wanted to see about some of the new guys was how they shoot, and nobody’s shot looks broken. Toles has been around campus and I caught him at the Cal Poly vs. San Jose State football game, so he’s already engaging in some school spirit and what’s going on around campus. Toles has a smoothness about his game that makes me think he’s the kind of guy who could fly under the radar and end up with like 10 points, 6 rebounds, and 4 assists in a given game while filling-in gaps all over the floor. 

  • Marcellus Garrick is probably the most physically impressive of the incoming players. By Owen Main

    Marcellus Garrick (Junior, Alan Hancock College) — Garrick could be the yin to Toles’ yang. They are roughly the same size (about 6’4″) and the two players do a lot of the same things. Callero discussed using both of them at the top of a 1-3-1 defense. In contrast to Toles’ fluid movement, Garrick is a whirling dervish. The Hancock College product is the stronger of the two, but also has a good looking jumper and figures to be disruptive on defense as well. 

  • Paulo Cruz shouldn’t have a problem with poise and his jumper looks niiice. By Owen Main

    Paulo Cruz (Junior, University of Arizona) — Cruz sat on the bench in a top-25 program for the past two seasons. He’s Cal Poly quarterback Khaleel Jenkins’ former high school teammate and, like Garrick and Toles, is a legit 6’4″. Cruz’ jumper might be the most pure out of the three. You have to think that having practiced with and against some high major talent over the past few years will be impactful in terms of experience and ability to step into game situations Cal Poly experiences, especially at the beginning of the season. 

  • Kārlis Garoza has been a decorated youth athlete in Latvia. By Owen Main

    Kārlis Garoza (Freshman, Latvia) — Gāroza started as the center on a U-18 Latvian National Team at the end of 2016. His finishing under the hoop was confident, but playing time for Gāroza will likely depend on how quickly he can pick up on defensive concepts, protect the rim on that end of the floor, and finish possessions with rebounding. With Luke Meikle, Josh Martin, Hank Hollingsworth, and Aleks Abrams all upper-classmen, I wouldn’t be surprised if Garoza redshirted. But that was not a question I asked Callero on Friday and that would be pure speculation on my part. Maybe a three-man center rotation along with Hollingsworth and Abrams will be an effective and competitve thing too. 

  • Jared Rice will look to compete all season as a walk-on from Modesto. By Owen Main

    Jared Rice (Freshman, Modesto, CA) — Rice is a walk-on who Callero praised after practice on Friday. He already has the thickest shoulders of any of Cal Poly’s small guards and plays with some swagger. His shot looks confident too. Like I said about James, it’s demanding to be a young point guard at Cal Poly. Rice will likely give Cal Poly some roster flexibility if there are injuries. He’s already impressed the coaching staff. 

Back on the floor

I’m convinced Mark Crowe will be an impact player as a redshirt freshman during his second year on campus. By Owen Main

Two players who will probably have big impacts this season are back on the floor for Cal Poly. Josh Martin, who missed all but the first few games last season with an injury, is back. Martin had 21 rebounds in the season opener last season before injuring his leg. He was practicing without any kind of brace or observable ill effects on Friday. 

Mark Crowe will be kind of a wildcard for the Mustangs this season. Crowe redshirted during his first year in San Luis Obispo. He has an athletic, 6’5″ frame, allowing him to play probably either the 3 or 4 for this year’s Cal Poly team. He has a decent looking jumper and good instincts from what I saw. For anyone who saw Cal Poly’s layup line last season, you have to be excited about what Crowe might bring. 

So, that’s eight players who are “new” faces on a 15-man roster. Aside from Victor Joseph and Donovan Fields getting significant minutes alongside veterans Luke Meikle and Josh Martin early in the season, I am completely clueless about how the rest of the minutes shake out right now. There are guys competing for time at virtually every position. 

Photos by Owen Main. For more photos, click here.If you just want to contribute to the cause, Venmo @Owen-Main or paypal owen@fansmanship.com.