Aztecs move on after record-setting season
The San Diego State Aztecs will raise banners at Viejas Arena on
Friday night to commemorate their Mountain West Conference
regular-season and tournament titles, and their first-ever foray
into the NCAA’s round of 16.
After that, the Aztecs will move on and their record-setting
2010-11 season will be consigned to the rafters.
”There will be a little nostalgia leading into three games this
weekend, but nobody will be thinking about last year when we tip
the ball off against Bryant University,” coach Steve Fisher said.
”Once the ball goes up, we’ve got to find a way to get a
It’ll be a far different Aztecs team that will face Bryant in
the Basketball Travelers Classic than the one that walked off the
court after losing to Kemba Walker and eventual national champion
UConn in the NCAA tournament.
The Aztecs lost four starters, including super sophomore Kawhi
Leonard, who left for the NBA. San Diego State has only nine
scholarship players and it is not in The Associated Press Top 25,
where the Aztecs spent all of last season, reaching a high of No.
There will be an inevitable dropoff, but Fisher still expects
the Aztecs to be respectable and for the fans to continue to flock
to Viejas Arena, which was the place to be in San Diego last
”I don’t think anybody expects us to have 34 wins,” Fisher
said. ”From a won-loss standpoint, it’s unreal to say we’ll have a
similar record, but I think we should be able to find a way to get
back to 20 wins. That won’t be easy, but it’s realistic. I think
that’s what people will expect.”
The Aztecs were off their charts last year, setting a school
record by going 34-3. They claimed their first-ever wins in the
NCAA tournament to reach the regional semifinals before losing to
UConn. It was their sixth straight 20-win season, and seventh in 12
years under Fisher.
Besides Leonard, they lost point guard D.J. Gay and forwards
Billy White and Malcolm Thomas. Additionally, big man Brian
Carlwell, who’d been injured earlier in his career, was denied a
sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA.
”To be honest, I don’t know that we’ve ever had such attrition
in terms of losing four starters and six guys, that amounted to a
huge part of what we were,” said Fisher, who has a huge recruiting
class coming in next season. ”So we’ve just got to have others who
will step in with the expectations they’ll have for themselves and
push that bar up higher and see if we can get more than some people
think we can get. We can’t put limits on us. We need to keep
The only starter back is junior guard Chase Tapley, although
junior guard James Rahon had extensive playing time last year.
Sophomore guard Jamaal Franklin is on indefinite suspension
after being charged with a DUI.
Tapley and Rahon will lead a perimeter-oriented team that Fisher
thinks will be able to score in a number of ways.
The other probable starters are returning forward Tim Shelton
and transfers Xavier Thames and Garrett Green.
In late August, the 66-year-old Fisher received a four-year
contract extension that includes a clause that his longtime
assistant, Brian Dutcher, is the head coach-in-waiting.
Fisher said he’d have been happy with a handshake agreement, but
the long-term contract gives recruits and their parents some
assurances that the school wants Fisher to remain as coach.
Fans are wild about the Aztecs, too.
The Aztecs have sold a school-record 7,076 season tickets.
”The fact that we sold so many more season tickets is the
afterglow, the residual, from last year,” Fisher said. ”People
who saw a game or two, they said, `Hey, I like what I saw; I want
to be part of that.’ That not only helps this year but in years to
Fisher said the Aztecs feed off the fans as much as the fans
feed off the players.
”Our players have a great appreciation for our fans, and what
they’ve allowed us to do and become and are very proud of the fact
we tell people, there’s no better arena to come into, no harder
arena for an opponent to come into. We want to maintain that. We’re
also of the opinion that we’re going to continue to have a team
that’s good. That’s what’s called a program. That’s what we do have
now. We’ve won a lot of games over the past six or seven years, not
just last one.”