Year 3 feels like PSU's third Year 1
Year 3 of the Barret Peery era for Portland State men's basketball feels more like a third Year 1.
In his first season, Peery's frenetic style of basketball resulted in a couple big wins that opened eyes.
Last season, Year 2, the star of the show was the snazzy new Viking Pavilion arena.
The Vikings' first counting game is Nov. 5 at home against Puget Sound.
The reason this season, at least at its beginning, feels like another starting point for Peery's program are the eight newcomers who will don Viking colors. PSU returns only three players (two starters) from the team that finished last season 16-16 and tied for third place in the Big Sky.
Still, Peery views this roster as the best fit he's had since arriving on the Park Blocks.
"For the first time since I've been here, we have a complete roster of all guys I chose," Peery noted. "I feel like we have a team that really fits how we want to play."
That style is 94 feet of pressure, plenty of tempo and aggressiveness on the offensive boards.
Despite the turnover in the program, Peery has a proven leader in junior guard Holland "Boo Boo" Woods. A preseason all-Big Sky selection, the Phoenix, Arizona, native was on the all-conference second team after averaging a team-high 15 points and 5.3 assists as a sophomore.
Woods and 6-8 senior Sal Nuhu are the two returning starters.
Nuhu led the Big Sky in blocked shots and grabbed the fourth most rebounds in the conference. He averaged seven rebounds and almost 10 points and provided an important defensive presence near the basket.
The only other player back from last season is 6-7 senior forward Rashaad Goolsby, who played in every game in his first season with the Vikings averaging 4.3 points and 3.7 boards.
Woods certainly will get plenty of attention from opponents, but Peery believes he will have a bit more flexibility this season, too, thanks to support from more reliable shooters and another experienced ball-handler, Matt Hauser, a transfer who played three seasons of point guard at Santa Clara before taking last season off to heal a foot injury. He averaged 8.2 points and 3.3 assists in 87 games for the Broncos. A senior, Hauser will play all three guard positions for the Vikings.
Hauser is one of four transfers who come to PSU with Division I experience.
Senior 6-6 swingman Markus Golder, a former star at Clackamas High, played two seasons at Valparaiso.
Senior 6-4 guard Lamar Hamrick played last season at Detroit Mercy, averaging five points and 16 minutes per game.
Senior 6-6 forward Alonzo Walker is a graduate transfer who averaged 7.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in two games against PSU last season and is expected to be a key defender and rebounder for the Vikings.
Two 6-3 guards come to PSU after junior college success. Sophomore Chris Whitaker was a second-team JC All-American after averaging 19 points a game at Cochise College in Arizona. Junior Kimani Binder averaged 22.3 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists at Indian River State College in his native Florida.
"I really, really like our new guys. We have three grad transfers that have great experience. We have a couple guys who had great careers in junior college," Peery said. "I think we picked up the right people for who we are and how we want to play."
That includes proven shooters, an area Peery wanted to upgrade after the Vikings made only 42.4% of their field goals last season (30.9% on 3-point shots). Even with the 3-point line moved back 16 inches to the international distance, Peery is confident the 3-point shot will be a more consistent weapon for his team this season.
Peery favors the rule change.
"If you have a good ball handler or two, I think it'll make the floor really big and create more driving lanes, which would be a positive. But I think we'll all have to deal with it for a couple months to figure out how it's impacting the game," Peery said.
An improved ability to shoot from 3-point distance is one of the areas that 6-5 guard Kyle Greeley honed during his redshirt year. A noted scorer while starring at West Salem High, shooting range is one example of how the redshirt year helped Greeley.
Trey Wood, 6-9, is a versatile redshirt freshman player who spent last year recovering from a shoulder injury.
The one addition straight from high school is 5-9 Jaden Nielsen-Skinner, who was a four-year starter at South Salem High. He is a candidate to redshirt.
Also redshirting this season is 6-7 forward Austin Trice, a transfer from Kansas State who has one season of eligibility.
Sophomore 6-5 guard Ian Burke is a walk-on player who saw limited action as a freshman at Seattle University last season.
Five of the 10 departures graduated. Guard Michael Nuga, who averaged 10.5 points in his one season with the Vikings, transferred to Kent State. Filip Fullerton, who redshirted last season as a freshman, is at Seattle Pacific. Robert McCoy, who started 29 games and averaged 7.4 points last season, transferred to Concordia Irvine. Brendan Rumel remains a student at PSU but is not playing basketball. After an injury-filled 2018-19, Juwan Williams is taking a year off from basketball.
Portland State was sixth in both Big Sky preseason polls, with Eastern Washington (coaches) and Montana (media) each picked to win the conference.
"The biggest thing with the Big Sky is the travel is really tough," said Peery, who has challenging early road games at Indiana and Hawaii to help prepare his team for the Big Sky. "You need to be mature. You need to be smart with your team. And you need to understand that travel can be really taxing. So you have to be intelligent. Now that we've been through it a couple of times, I think we're getting smarter and better at it."
Peery said the experience of the newcomers, along with their commitment, made the significant roster turnover less troublesome than it might have been. And he expects nine or more players will get consistent playing time as he rotates players to keep fresh legs on the court.
"We have a little bit of a new team, but we have an old team. We have a team that has played a lot of basketball," Peery said. "The biggest thing with this team right now is — we had them here all summer and we have them now — we have some really high-character guys that come and go to work each day and are easy to coach and easy to be with."
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