MEN’S HOOPS SEASON QUICKLY APPROACHING, FIRST OFFICIAL TEAM PRACTICE ON FRIDAY

MEN’S HOOPS SEASON QUICKLY APPROACHING, FIRST OFFICIAL TEAM PRACTICE ON FRIDAY

2017-18 Quick Facts (pdf)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State men's basketball team, led by 10th-year head coach Brian Katz, begins its preseason practice schedule this Friday, Sept. 29.

Practice will continue five days a week leading up to the team's opener - a home exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 3, against UC Santa Cruz at 7:35 p.m. The regular season begins on Nov. 10 at Colorado State, and seven of the team's first eight games will come away from the Nest. Sacramento State will play a pair of games at the Golden 1 Center this season, including Nov. 21 vs. UC Davis at 7:05 p.m., and Dec. 21 vs. Portland at 5:35 p.m. The game vs. Portland is part of a doubleheader that will feature Stanford taking on Kansas at 8:05 p.m.

We apologize the schedule has not been released yet, as there are some logistical issues that still to be worked out. Scheduled regular season home games inside the Nest include matchups with Notre Dame de Namur (Nov. 14), Antelope Valley (Dec. 6), Cal State Northridge (Dec. 19), UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 23), Portland State (Dec. 30), Montana (Jan. 11), Montana State (Jan. 13), Eastern Washington (Feb. 1), Idaho (Feb. 3), Idaho State (Feb. 15), Weber State (Feb. 17), North Dakota (March 1) and Northern Colorado (March 3). The game against Northern Colorado is the regular season finale with the Big Sky Tournament in Reno beginning on March 6.

Below are some notes on the program heading into the 2017-18 season.

QUICK HITS

• Sacramento State is coming off a 2016-17 season in which the team went 13-18 overall and 9-9 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets began the season with a 3-8 non-conference record, and then fell to 3-11 overall and 0-3 in the Big Sky. However, an 88-83 win at Southern Utah on Jan. 12 began a streak in which the Hornets won 10 of their final 17 games. Included in that run were five wins away from home after losing their first nine games outside of Sacramento.

• The Hornets welcome back eight players from a year ago, including three starters. Among those starters are the top two scorers from a year ago in senior forward Justin Strings (15.9 ppg) and senior guard Marcus Graves (13.9 ppg). Those two combined to average 29.8 of the Hornets' average of 71.1 points per game, good for over 40 percent of the team's scoring production. Either Graves or Strings led the team in scoring in 19 of 31 games a year ago. Sophomore guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (4.6 ppg) started 28 games a year ago, and was one of the team's best defenders.

• Sacramento State won its Big Sky Tournament first round game over Idaho State (91-76) a year ago, and has now won at least one conference tournament game each of the last three years. That marks the team's longest streak since joining the league prior to the 1996-97 season.

• The Hornets dealt eventual Big Sky regular season and tournament champion North Dakota its lone home loss to a conference foe when Sacramento State posted a 57-53 win on March 2 in Grand Forks. In addition, Sacramento State swept the series from perennial Big Sky power Montana for the first time in school history, and knocked off Weber State for the third time in the last four years.

• Head coach Brian Katz used the same starting lineup in each of the final 26 games of the season, consisting of Graves and Mauriohooho-Le'afa at guard, Strings and Nick Hornsby at forward, and Eric Stuteville at center. Stuteville and Hornsby, who both graduated in the spring, are big losses. Stuteville averaged 11.6 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocked shots a year ago while becoming the only center in school history to score 1,000 career points. Hornsby averaged 11.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals while easily becoming the program's top career rebounder during the Div. I era (1991-pres.).

• Despite scoring only 21 points during his freshman season, senior Strings (997 points) is just three points shy of reaching the 1,000 career point milestone. He has raised his scoring average every year of his career from 0.8 points per game as a freshman to 15.5 ppg as a sophomore and 15.9 ppg as a junior. He was named second team all-Big Sky a year ago, and was an honorable mention all-league choice as a sophomore. He was the team's leading scorer both years.

• Mauriohooho-Le'afa, who wore jersey #24 last season, will make the switch to #2 this year.

• Over the last three years, Sacramento State's 28 combined conference wins are tied for the fifth most among the Big Sky's 12 schools. The 28 wins trail Montana (39), Eastern Washington (37), Weber State (35) and Idaho (32). Like the Hornets, North Dakota also has 28 wins over that span.

• Sacramento State has won at least 13 games in five consecutive seasons, the first time that has happened since the program accomplished the feat seven straight years from 1966-73. In fact, prior to the current streak of five straight seasons, the team had won at least 13 games just twice (2005-06 went 15-15, 2003-04 team went 13-15) during the program's Div. I era (1991-pres.).

• Sacramento State went 8-4 at home last season, and is now a combined 52-18 (.743 winning percentage) at home over the last five years.

• Of the 31 players that have expired their eligibility during Katz's tenure, 30 have graduated (97 percent). In addition, the program recently received the NCAA Public Recognition Award for having Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores that rank among the top 10 percent nationally.

• For the first time in program history, Sacramento State will compete at the Wooden Legacy during Thanksgiving week, and each of the team's games will air on one of the ESPN networks. The Hornets are one of eight teams at the three-day tournament which features a 12-game bracket format to be played Nov. 23, 24 and 26 in Fullerton, Calif.. All 12 games during the tournament will be televised on ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS or ESPN3. Sacramento State opens the tournament on Thanksgiving Day at 10 p.m. against San Diego State.

• The 14-man roster features four seniors, five juniors, three sophomores and two freshmen. The Hornets are guard-heavy again, as eight of the 14 players could see time in the back court this year. There are also six forwards and a center. True freshman Bryce Fowler could see time at both forward and guard.

• The Hornets will break out a brand new set of road green uniforms this year. Sacramento State still has the home white jerseys, and an alternate set of gold uniforms.

• All regular season home contests, and road games played at a Big Sky Conference venue can be seen live and free via web stream at www.WatchBigSky.com as well as the Pluto TV app. There will be no live video stream for the exhibition game.

• Steve McElroy returns for his 21st season as the radio voice of the Hornets, and every regular season and postseason game can be heard locally on KTKZ 1380 AM The Answer. Broadcasts will also be streamed live and free on iHeart radio and on www.hornetsports.com.

• Sacramento State will feature the same coaching staff for the fifth straight year, comprised of head coach Brian Katz, associate head coach Brandon Laird, assistant coaches Chris Walker and Nate Smith, and director of basketball operations Ajay Riding. Smith and Riding flip flopped spots as Riding will take courses to obtain a master's degree at Sacramento State during the academic year.