MEN’S HOOPS SEASON ON THE HORIZON, FIRST OFFICIAL TEAM PRACTICE IS FRIDAY

MEN’S HOOPS SEASON ON THE HORIZON, FIRST OFFICIAL TEAM PRACTICE IS FRIDAY

2018-19 Quick Facts (pdf)
2018-19 Schedule

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State men's basketball team, guided by 11th-year head coach Brian Katz, begins its preseason practice schedule this Friday, Sept. 28.

Practice will continue five days a week leading up to the team's opener - a home exhibition game on Friday, Nov. 2, against Bethesda University at 7:05 p.m. The regular season begins with a pair of home games on Nov. 9 against Simpson and Nov. 16 vs. Cal Poly. Each of the Hornets' first four regular season games will take place in Sacramento, including the annual matchup with UC Davis at the Golden 1 Center on Nov. 20.

The Hornets will play nine non-conference games (four at home, four on the road, one neutral) before opening the 20-game Big Sky Conference portion of the schedule on Dec. 29 at home vs. Northern Colorado.

Below are some notes on the program heading into the 2018-19 season.

QUICK HITS

• Sacramento State is coming off an injury plagued 2017-18 season in which the team finished 7-25 overall and 4-14 in the Big Sky Conference. The Hornets had won at least 13 games in five consecutive seasons until the seven-win output a year ago. In addition, the team had finished at or above .500 in Big Sky play three times the previous four seasons until going 4-14 in league.

• Last year's injuries primarily affected the back court. The quartet of guards Marcus Graves (32), Jiday Ugbaja (26), Jeff Wu (7) and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (2) combined to miss 67 games last season because of injury. Mauriohooho-Le'afa played through injury a good portion of the season, which also limited him to just 22 combined minutes over the last four games. Graves missed the entire season after undergoing back surgery, Ugbaja had a leg injury, Wu had a calf injury and Mauriohooho-Le'afa had a back injury. In fact, Mauriohooho-Le'afa had the same back surgery as Graves after the season concluded, but will be healthy in time to play this year.

• Despite the injuries, the Hornets were involved in 12 games decided by six points or less, and finished 2-10 in those outcomes. That included the team's Big Sky Tournament first round loss to Portland State, 71-67. Prior to that loss, Sacramento State had won at least one Big Sky Tournament game each of the previous three seasons.

• The Hornets welcome back nine players and a redshirt from a year ago, including four starters. That includes seven of the top eight scorers from last season. Add in Marcus Graves, who is back after averaging 13.9 points in 2016-17, and Sacramento State should have lots of fire power this season. However, the team will need to compensate for the loss of forward Justin Strings who averaged 17.9 points a year ago and finished second in school history with 1,570 career points.

• Among the four starters returning are junior center Joshua Patton (10.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg), junior guard Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa (8.5 ppg, 3.6 apg), sophomore swingman Bryce Fowler (6.3 ppg) and senior guard Jeff Wu (5.6 ppg). Senior guard Marcus Graves redshirted last year because of back surgery, and will return from a monster 2016-17 season in which he started all 31 games while averaging 13.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 5.3 assists per contest.

• Sacramento State's offense will need to put up more points this season. The team averaged 67.4 points a year ago, which ranked 310th out of the 351 Div. I playing basketball schools. That number also ranked 11th out of the 12 Big Sky teams. The Hornets use a balanced, half court offense that focuses on execution, and due in part to the injuries, the team's scoring output was its lowest in five years. Sacramento State was 6-5 when scoring 70 points or better, and 1-20 when scoring 69 points or less.

• The 16-man roster features five seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen. The Hornets are guard-heavy, as 12 of the 16 players could see time in the back court. There are also five forwards and two centers. Bryce Fowler, Osi Nwachukwu and James Bridges could see time at both guard and forward.

• Despite going 6-7 at home last year, the Hornets are still a combined 58-25 (.699 winning percentage) inside the Nest over the last six years.

• Entering the fall of 2018, the team has an overall grade point average of 3.002, the second highest mark in school history. In addition, of the 34 Hornets that have expired their eligibility during head coach Brian Katz's tenure, 33 have graduated.

• With the departure of North Dakota from the conference, the Big Sky's makeup now includes 11 teams. Each team in the conference will play the other 10 teams twice. The Big Sky has not used a 20-game conference schedule since the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.

• The Hornets will break out a brand new set of road green and home white uniforms this year. There is also a chance that fans will see brand new neutral black jerseys. The Hornet men's basketball program has never worn black since its first year of play in 1948-49.

• 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.

• It was announced in July that ESPN 1320 AM will be the new home for all Hornet men's basketball games. The broadcast relationship allows fans to hear all games live on the Entercom-owned sports station through the 2020-21 season. All Sacramento State football games are also aired live on the station.

• Steve McElroy returns for his 22nd season as the radio voice of the Hornets, and every regular season and postseason game can be heard locally on ESPN 1320 AM. Broadcasts will also be streamed live and free on www.hornetsports.com and on the Tune-In app for mobile devices.

• Sacramento State will feature the same coaching staff for the sixth 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.

• The Sacramento State Men's Basketball Hall of Fame Banquet is set for Tuesday, Oct. 30, at the Alumni Center on campus. Dylan Garrity, who played for the Hornets from 2011-15, will be inducted into the program's Hall of Fame that evening while area prep coaches Dale Natividad, Derek Swafford and Eddie Wilson will be inducted into the Coaches Circle. The Coaches Circle is a wing of the Hall of Fame established in 2012 to honor area coaches that graduated from Sacramento State. If you are interested in attending or for more information, please click here for online registration.