The War Memorial Gymnasium was rocking for what turned out to be an exciting start to the San Francisco Dons season. It looked like the University of San Francisco athletic staff knew it was going to be a different type of season as they had a great pregame entrance with Dr. Dre blaring through the War Memorial. Although there were some empty seats, the students were loud and the USF band made it a festive home game. For the first time in recent memory, the Dons are returning a plethora of key talent from last year’s squad. Add in JUCO transfers Kruize Pinkins and Corey Hilliard and you have the deepest Dons squad this decade.
“We are returning nearly our whole team and we added a few nice pieces. We are playing really well together right now and we had a good preseason so if we keep it up it should turn into a real nice season for us,” explained senior point guard Cody Doolin.
It was raining threes in the first half as the Dons hit their first six three point shots. Six players made three pointers for the Dons which has earned them the nickname “Splash City”.
“You know I like the name Splash City. Shooting three’s is part of my game,” replied Kruize Pinkins on what he thought of the Splash City moniker.
Expect pretty much every player on the Dons to throw up the trey this season because they shoot it at such a high percentage. Last season, the Dons were ranked 5th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage which explains how lethal they are from behind the arc.
“Shooting three pointers is a big part of what we do. We shoot the ball and we shoot it aggressively. We have more an inside presence this year with Kruize (Pinkins), Cole (Dickerson) and Mark (Tollefson) are getting better in the paint,” explained Walters. “We are hard to guard. Avery Holmes is a guy who can get hot real quick but so can Chris Adams, Cody Doolin, Matt Glover, Cole Dickerson, Mark Tollefson, Kruize Pinkins and Corey Hilliard. We have seven guys who can shoot the three. It makes us hard to guard because we have all those guys who can shoot but it makes us even harder to guard in close out situations because now we can get penetration.”
Not only are the Dons making it Splash but they made a few thunderous dunks that would make “lob city” proud. All three big men Cole Dickerson, Kruize Pinkins and Mark Tollefson made some rim shaking dunks that fired up the crowd. The Chipola college transfer Pinkins looks like a future star for the Dons as he finished the night with a game high 19 points. Pinkins is a big athletic presence that very few teams have coming off of their bench. Expect Pinkins to not only dominate in the paint but to become a fan favorite at War Memorial this season.
“At first I was kind of nervous but I came out there and played hard. I just did what coach wanted us to do and tried to come out with the win,” said Pinkins.
Coach Walters has always had an affinity for having a top notch defense which makes the newly christened starter Matt Glover so dangerous. The former Penn State starter made a fantastic debut with the Dons by getting 12 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Glover was active all night on the defensive end as he used his big frame to play some solid defense. The 6’5 Glover is built more like a running back than a shooting guard which will make it hard for lanky scorers to get past him.
With the new array of options, senior point guard Cody Doolin will get his fair share of assists. Although Doolin finished with zero points in the season debut he was content just dishing the ball for seven assists. Doolin is by far the most important player on the Dons as they can go only as far as Doolin takes them. Don’t expect Doolin to be just a passer because he himself can score some buckets.
“I don’t see Cody Doolin’s scoring number going down. In these type of games, I know Cody has a mindset of getting everyone going because he knows later on the team is going to need that,” said Rex Walters. “When we play Gonzaga, when we play Santa Clara, when we play Saint Mary’s, that’s not going to be the case because he will make plays.”
Fellow senior Cole Dickerson is also a vital player for the Dons. The 6’7 Dickerson led the Dons in points (15.8) per game and rebounds (9.8) per game last season. Not only is Dickerson dominant in the paint but he can also shoot the trey. If Dickerson can improve on his already stellar numbers expect him to get some hype for the next level.
“He (Cole Dickerson) was always a great player. He has really started to show it his last two years but we always knew he was a good player. We have been roommates the last four years so he’s a really good friend of mine and I know he is going to have a great season,” said Cody Doolin.
On paper, it looks like the vaunted threesome of BYU, Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga are not going to be as dominant this year because of the loss of some key players. Rex Walters has done an excellent job of recruiting which has put him in the position to coach his deepest team ever. Don’t be surprised to see the Dons competing for the WCC championship this year.