With Sacramento State returning over 75 percent of its offensive production and the team's top five scorers from a season ago, the Hornets could be poised for a breakout season in 2012-13.
Of the squad's eight returners, five averaged better than eight points a game, comprised of forward (12.4 ppg), swingman (11.1 ppg), shooting guard (11.1 ppg), center (9.0 ppg) and point guard (8.1 ppg). Those five combined to average 51.7 points per game, and represent the core group of returners that will attempt to get the program back to the Big Sky Tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Not only have the Hornets increased their league win total three straight seasons, last year's squad went 5-3 in the second half of Big Sky play, secured double figures in overall wins for the first time in five years, and posted the team's best field goal percentage (.451) during the Div. I era (1991-pres.).
Of the eight returning players, fifth-year head coach will work with a mix of five guards (Carbajal, Garrity, , and ), two forwards (Dickson and Eberhard) and one center (Veteto). The team's lone fourth-year senior, Dickson, was anointed team captain along with Eberhard, Garrity and Demalleville.
Joining the returners are seven newcomers, made up of four junior college transfers, two freshmen and one Div. I transfer. In total, the team's 15-man roster is heavy on upperclassmen, comprised of five seniors, six juniors and four underclassmen (two sophomores, two freshmen).
Garrity made an immediate impact as a freshman last season, racking up Big Sky Freshman of the Year and collegeinsider Mid-Major Freshman All-America honors after finishing seventh in the nation with 6.9 assists per game. He had a large hand in a Hornet offensive attack that finished second in the league in assists (13.79 per game) and averaged the most points (67.0) in five years. That includes an average of 73.4 points over the final nine games of the season.
With the returning fire power, not to mention the scoring prowess of some of the newcomers, the Hornet offense could be as potent as its been in recent memory. Of the seven newcomers, three averaged at least 14.0 points per game at their previous stop, including guards (22.8 ppg at Edison HS), (15.6 ppg at Pleasant Grove HS) and (14.0 ppg at Ohlone JC).
Defensively, Sacramento State has allowed under 70 points per game in two straight seasons. In fact, the team gave up 69.1 points per game last year, which was the lowest output since the 1983-84 squad allowed 68.7 per game. The Hornets also finished with a positive rebounding margin (+1.5 per game) in 2011-12, marking just the second time in 25 years the team has accomplished that feat.
With the expansion of the Big Sky Conference to include new members North Dakota and Southern Utah, Sacramento State will now play 20 league games this year after playing 16 each of the previous six seasons. The league now sits at 11 teams, and subsequently, the Big Sky's postseason tournament has expanded to seven teams, up one spot from last year's six-team tournament field. According to the Big Sky's preseason coaches and media polls, Montana and Weber State are the clear-cut favorites while the rest of the league is up for grabs.
The Hornets will look to make their mark with a schedule that includes 29 regular-season games, including 14 at home and 15 on the road. For the third straight season, Sacramento State will participate in the ESPN BracketBusters event which will see the team travel to an opponent yet to be determined on Feb. 23. ESPN will announce the Hornets' opponent toward the end of January.
• Sacramento State is stacked with nine different players that could each see time at the point or shooting guard positions during the season. Easily the deepest position on the squad, the list of guards is led by point guard and shooting guard . The duo combined to average 19.2 points and was the starting back court in each of the team's final 12 games of the season in 2011-12. Swingman , who was called on to play all five positions last season while averaging a Big Sky Conference-best 35.7 minutes per game, will also see time at shooting guard throughout the season.
• Of the nine guards on the roster, six are returners. In fact, the Hornets lost just one back court player from last season (swingman ). Point guards and as well as shooting guard are the other three returnees.
• The list of guards is likely the deepest in school history as all three incoming back court players have shown very well in preseason practices, consisting of combo guards , and .
• Garrity is the most decorated of the group, having earned Big Sky Freshman of the Year and honorable mention all-league honors last season. A true play maker, Garrity assisted on over 29 percent of the team's made buckets last year, had at least 12 assists on five occasions and finished the season averaging 8.1 points, 2.3 rebounds, 6.9 assists and 0.9 steals in 33.8 minutes per game. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native made headlines by becoming the only freshman in the nation to rank among the top 25 players in assists, but his offensive punch helped spark the team's surge during the final month of the season. After scoring in double figures just once during the team's first 16 games, Garrity posted double digits eight times over the final 12 games.
• Carbajal played just two minutes of last year's season opener before injuring his knee and missing the next 10 games. However, the Clovis, Calif., native bounced back strong, playing in each of the team's final 17 games. He scored in double figures in all of his final six, and nine of the last 10 games of the year. Over the final six games, he averaged a team-high 16.5 points on .549 shooting from the field (39-71) and .417 from the three-point line (10-24).
• Estrada was a team tri-captain last year who battled hip and ankle injuries at different parts of the season. He appeared in 22 games as a shooting guard, committing just 11 turnovers all season, or one every 36.0 minutes of play. Although he averaged just 2.9 points per game, his value could be found in less stat-driven areas as he was the team leader in plus/minus rating at +19. The Concord, Calif., native had offseason back surgery and has practiced sparingly during offseason workouts. The status for his return to the lineup has yet to be determined as he continues to rehab the back.
• Demalleville and Groom both had important minutes last season and will have similar roles in 2012-13. Demalleville served as Garrity's backup at point guard while Groom was inserted late in games for his defensive prowess. Demalleville, who was anointed one of the team's captains this season, was one of five Hornets to appear in all 28 games in 2011-12, which included two starts. Groom is a third-year junior who has played in 39 career games. The New Haven, Conn., native is the second longest tenured player on the team along with Carbajal (John Dickson is the longest tenured).
• McKinney, who is one of the more explosive players on the team and can create his own shot, could find his way into the starting lineup after a strong offseason in which the Union City, Calif., native showed impressive scoring punch. Just a sophomore after transferring from Ohlone College, McKinney was a first team all-state and all-conference selection as a freshman last season after averaging 14.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.0 steals per game.
• One of the smartest players on the floor, Demps could see time at every position except center this season. The local product was a two-sport star at Elk Grove's Pleasant Grove High School where he was named to ESPN's Cal-Hi Sports Grid-Hoop (basketball and football) first team all-state squad. The Elk Grove native led the Eagles to the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Div. I basketball semifinals, and quarterbacked the football team to the section championship game.
• Barlett was a high school teammate of Garrity as the two shared the back court for Huntington Beach's Edison High School during the 2010-11 season. The Pasadena native was a two-time first team all-league selection during his two seasons at Edison, and was selected to the all-CIF Southern Section 1A squad as a senior. Barlett, who has shown an ability to consistently knock down jumpers in preseason practices, averaged a league-leading 22.8 points per game last year at Edison.
• A total of five players are listed at the forward position on the roster, but a handful of the guards mentioned above could also see time at the position. Headlining the forwards are the team's top two scorers from a year ago in (12.4 ppg) and (11.1 ppg). The two combined to score in double figures 33 times last season, and one of the two players either led or shared the team lead in scoring in 16 of the team's 28 games.
• Dickson is a three-year starter, having appeared in 86 career games, including 61 starts. Entering his second season with team captain duties, the San Francisco native has never missed a game in a Hornet uniform, and is just 58 points shy of becoming the 10th player in school history to score 1,000 career points, and fifth in the program's Div. I history (1991-pres.). He has upped his scoring average each season of his career, culminating in a team-high 12.4 points per game in 2011-12. He also led last season's team in field goals made and attempted, free throws made and attempted, and blocked shots.
• No one in the Big Sky Conference was on the floor more than Eberhard last season, as the Newport Beach, Calif., native started 27 of 28 games and played a lofty 35.7 minutes per game. Versatility was one reason for the large amount of minutes as he played all five positions at different points of the season, primarily at the small forward spot. A deadly outside shooter, Eberhard averaged 11.1 points and 5.9 rebounds while shooting .502 (112-223) from the field and .458 (44-96) from the three-point line. The three-point percentage was the second best single-season mark in school history and the 35.7 minutes per game the fourth highest mark. Among Big Sky leaders, he ranked first in minutes, third in three-point percentage, 10th in rebounding, 11th in field goal percentage, 12th in three-pointers per game (1.6) and 16th in scoring.
• New to Sacramento State this season are forwards and . Quigley, who is a 6-foot-8, 210-pounder from Kansas City, Mo., is a tough, hard-nosed player who isn't afraid to scrap with bigger bodies underneath the basket. He will likely play three positions for the Hornets (shooting guard and both forward spots) after playing all five positions last season at Southwestern Illinois College. He started every game last year for a Southwestern Illinois squad that reached the semifinals of the NJCAA Region XXIV Tournament for the second year in a row. Salley, who is one of the more athletic players on the team, is a 6-foot-6, 230-pounder who played two seasons of basketball at Santa Rosa Junior College (2010-12). The La Verne, Calif., native was one of three players to appear in all 32 games for a Santa Rosa squad that went 26-6 overall in 2011-12 while winning a Big 8 Conference championship and ranking second in the RPI among all California junior colleges.
• Per NCAA transfer rules, will redshirt this season after transferring from UC Davis. The 6-foot-9, 235-pounder played in 59 of a possible 61 games during his two seasons with the Aggies (2010-12). Tiffin prepped at Thousand Oaks High School where he was named the CIF Southern Section Div. II-AA Player of the Year in 2009.
• Nothing is certain in a system that saw the team use 17 different starting lineups last season, but its a smart bet that senior will be the likely starter at center this season. The Auburn, Calif., native added 25 pounds of muscle since the beginning of last season to an already intimidating frame that now clocks in at 6-foot-9 and 290 pounds. Veteto looks like the football version of a tight end on the basketball floor, and he isn't afraid to use his hulking presence. He averaged 9.0 points and 4.7 rebounds in 18.8 minutes per game last season while shooting 49.7 percent (89-179) from the field and getting to the free throw line 111 times. Veteto averaged one free throw attempt every 4.6 minutes played, scored in double figures 10 times, and averaged one point every 2.1 minutes played.
• Joining Veteto at center is New Mexico Junior College transfer (pronounced Oh-koo-di-bone-yay). The 6-foot-8, 230-pounder from Huntington Beach should get plenty of minutes at the center position this year. At New Mexico JC, the junior played in all 50 games during his two-year career, and was part of a 2011-12 Thunderbird squad that went 23-9 overall, 10-4 in conference and made the school's first appearance at the NJCAA Region V Tournament since the 1997-98 season.