CSU San Marcos hopes to continue to make a strong start in men’s basketball

After a disappointing 16-game losing 2019-20 season, Cal State San Marcos men’s basketball coach BJ Foster named Jayce McCain and Blake Seits captains in hopes of relaunching the 2020-21 season. .

Never happened.

The coronavirus pandemic completely wiped out the season at the NCAA Division II level, but Foster’s confidence in McCain and Seits never wavered.

With no one allowed on campus, Foster relied on the pair for leadership during the pandemic-focused Zoom sessions.

His faith has been generously rewarded.

The Cougars are off to a 9-0 start, ranked No. 15 nationally in the NABC Top 25 Coaching Survey and No. 17 in the D2SIDA Top 25 Media National Survey. They are the only college program in San Diego – men or women of any level – to be nationally ranked.

“We have great leaders,” said Foster, who is in his sixth season with the Cougars. “We have a good group. Our defense is a game-changer. We keep very well. We are forcing turnovers. Were related. We can shoot it.

“I knew the potential was there, but we also have a lot of new guys (nine to be exact).

“So I saw it coming?” Let’s just say you’re still hoping for a quick start.

The Cougars are the nation’s No. 2 in 3-point defense, with opponents shooting 25.2 percent. Cal State San Marcos are committing just 9.8 turnovers per game, averaging 9.7 steals and forcing 16.8 turnovers.

The Cougars are shooting 76.8 percent of the free throw line, passing their opponents by 18.8 points and keeping the teams at an average of 61.1 points. Only Cal State East Bay came close, losing 84-82. And there is a 90-52 win over Point Loma Nazarene.

The Cougars were scheduled to play at Westcliff University in Irvine on Sunday, but the game was called off after a COVID-19 outbreak in the Westcliff program.

NCAA Division II requires teams to take a break over Christmas vacation, so Cal State San Marcos had a lively final practice Friday and will meet on Tuesday before welcoming Cal State Los Angeles and former Cougars coach. Jim Saia on January 2.

“I really wanted to play Westcliff,” Foster said. “Honestly, it was a game we thought we would win big, and I was looking forward to getting some quality minutes from the guys on the bench.

“I hope they stay motivated during the break, get back into shape and ready to go.”

McCain, a sophomore in a red shirt who played Folsom High, guaranteed it.

“There are a lot of motivated guys on this team,” said McCain, the point guard for the team with 35 assists and 18 steals. “We don’t have to keep anybody. We are not going to walk around satisfied during the break.

“Blake and I are going to make sure they come back with their competitive spirit.”

Seits, a 6-foot-6 red shirt senior who played at Ramona High School and Miramar College, leads the team, averaging 17.4 points per game and 5.8 rebounds.

McCain is averaging 14.9 points and 3.9 rebounds.

Greg Milton III, a transfer from Wyoming, is averaging 11.9 points and 5.7 rebounds. Tyrone Nesby IV, a transfer from Wagner, is next at 10.6 points and 3.3 rebounds.

Joel Mensah, a 6-foot-10 transfer from James Madison who previously played at San Diego State, Sean Dunn 6-9 and Chase Bowser and Nesby at 6-6, gives the Cougars some height.

“Being a captain is a difficult role,” said McCain. “Blake and I are best friends and we talk a lot. The coach gives us so much freedom, but there has to be discipline in that freedom.

“And he attacks us as much or more than anyone else on the team.”

Seits, who has the green light to shoot as soon as it’s opened, shoots 41.3% (26 of 63) beyond the 3-point line.

Still, he felt Foster’s anger in Friday practice, taking a bad shot in a late-game scrambling drill.

“This is what we are talking about,” Seits said. “It’s really just a bad shot if he doesn’t go in, but it was a bad shot in this drill. The coach has laid a really good foundation here, and the guys make it easy to be captain.

“We have excellent chemistry. And with nine new guys, guys who only met on Zoom, no one knew what to expect. But there is mutual respect, and everyone is held accountable.

“Winning is fun, and I don’t think we’re as good as I think we can be.”

Navigating the 12 teams of the California Collegiate Athletic Association – where the Cougars were selected seventh in the preseason coaches poll – will be a challenge.

Chico State is 8-0 and ranked No. 7 in the nation. Cal State San Bernardino is 10-1 and ranked No. 12. Cal Poly Pomona (6-3) and Humboldt State (7-2) are also threats.

“Jayce is the best point guard in our league, and Blake can shoot him flat,” Foster said. “And we have great actors.

“I like to train defense, take away an opponent’s strength, take out the best player. And the guys agreed. The focus is on the team and the dressing room is tight. The potential for a good season is there.

The tough part of the schedule begins on January 6 with a home game against Humboldt State.

The Cougars are at Chico State on January 13, Cal Poly Pomona on January 20, and Cal State San Bernardino on January 22.

“No one said it would be easy,” Seits said. “But everything is there to make this team scary.”

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