Mission: DominationBy Matt Petersen
Sports Editor, The VOICE
The 2008-09 Gauchos' basketball team is saying it doesn't matter.
It doesn't matter that they were left out of the Division II Preseason Top 25 polls.
It doesn't matter that star point guard T.J. Campbell has moved on to the next level (Campbell now plays for the University of Portland).
And it sure as heck doesn't matter how successful people think run-and-gun basketball can be. They're going to run anyway.
"I think coach D'Antoni left a little of his spirit here when he left," chuckled Gauchos' head coach Dave Hodges.
That running spirit has shown in preseason action. The Gauchos have posted 113 and 109 points in two warmup contests.
"It's hard to really put into words," Hodges said. "I'd just say that if people get up and go to the bathroom during they game, they could miss 20, 30 points of scoring.
Sophomore Lance Fite is the embodiment of Glendale's attitude for the upcoming season. A center last season, the 6'7" standout honed his outside shot and toned his body to become the versatile weapon that Hodges' rapid-fire offense will need if it hopes of being successful.
Joining Fite in the frontcourt are fellow sophomores Dyston Madsen, a 6'10" center who led the team in blocks last season despite limited minutes, and forward Nick Sheffield, a blue-collar banger underneath.
Directing the Gaucho attack will be sophomore Lukas Hambsch. The 6'0" point guard filled in admirably off the bench for Glendale last season, providing steady leadership which will be invaluable to such a chaotic offense.
Glendale's high-flying, high-profile recruit James Ellisor (Glendale High School) will be featured immediately this season.
"He's electrifying with his athleticism," Hodges gushed. "He's a nice kid and he plays hard."
The Gauchos' undoing could be the same as their fast-paced NBA predecessors: defense.
"Last year we were really good defensively.," Hodges said. "This team has a long way to go to reach that level defensively. We're not there."
The plan for Hodges and his team is get a jump on teams early by applying pressure and trapping, which should feed their running game.
While Hodges doubts this year's team is as athletic as last season's, Sheffield feels they're up to task.
"I'm really confident that we'll be able to play at the pace he wishes us to do. Our bigs can really run the floor. We're really quick, really mobile.
It's that combination of size (Sheffield is 6'6", and could see time with both Fite and Madsen at the same time) and speed thatmake Glendale a matcheup nightmare for any team on any given night.
"Bigger teams are going to have a harder team keeping up with us," Sheffield said. "Smaller teams are going to have a harder team being able to bang with us. I figure every time we step into a game we have an advantage one way or the other.