Bulldogs Basketball Takes To The Court

Oct. 11, 2002

SPOKANE, Wash. - Gonzaga University's men's and women's basketball teams take to the court Saturday as practice tips off for the upcoming 2002-03 season.

The women open practice at 10 a.m. Saturday, followed by the men at 1 p.m.

The Bulldog men will begin preparations in hopes of a fifth straight trip to March Madness, while the Bulldogs women look to begin an upward spiral in the West Coast Conference.

For the men, it's a new era of Bulldog basketball as Dan Dickau, the most decorated player in Gonzaga history, is now plying his trade in the NBA.

But the cupboard isn't bare, and a lot of the focus on this year's team will be on the inside game, rather than the perimeter, where Gonzaga may have the biggest and deepest front line in school history. And one of the best in the nation according to several pre-season publications. Gonzaga led the country in rebounding last season with a +8.9 per-game margin.

Returnees Zach Gourde (6-8, 249-pound senior), Cory Violette (6-8, 255, junior) and Ronny Turiaf (6-9, 228, sophomore) will be joined by junior redshirt Richard Fox (6-11, 270), redshirt freshmen Dustin Villepigue (6-9, 218) and Tyler Amaya (6-6, 191) and incoming freshman Sean Mallon (6-8, 210).

"It starts with Cory, Zach, Ronny and Richard," Gonzaga fourth-year head coach Mark Few said of the frontcourt. "All four as a group are certainly as good as anybody has in the country - as a group. They all bring something different to the table."

Violette and Turiaf each got a little extra competition this past summer. Turiaf helped France to third place in the European U-20 Championship, averaging 14.9 ppg for 11th and 9.8 rpg for third. He scored 21 points against Russia and had 21 rebounds against Croatia for his personal highs in the tourney.

Violette played for NYC Hoops in a five-game tour of Istanbul and Italy. He scored 11 points and grabbed 16 points in an 87-63 win over the Turkish Junior National Team, scored 17 points and hauled in 13 rebounds in a 103-95 loss to Germany and had 10 points and 12 rebounds in an 81-70 victory over Slovenia. NYC Hoops finished 3-2 on the tour.

"It was good for Cory and Ronny to be exposed to that kind of competition," Few said. "It can only help them."

Gourde should emerge as the senior leader.

"Zach's a tremendous back-to-the-basket scorer, has great hands, has been in the program five years and will be a great leader. He knows what it takes. He's been through all the wars," Few noted.

As for the loss of Dickau, who became Gonzaga's inaugural first-team Associated Press All-America, enter junior Blake Stepp and senior Winston Brooks.

"I see Blake and Winston battling it out," fourth-year head coach Mark Few said of the impending battle at point guard. "Obviously, whoever improves the most over the summer and is able to run the show the best will end up getting the nod. I don't think it's going to be 100 percent one way and zero percent the other way. They are going to share the duties a lot, and certainly play together a lot. There will be opportunities for both of them."

On the women's side, the Bulldogs received some bad news in early September when Juliann Laney, one of the Bulldogs' four sophomores expected to carry much of the load this season, suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament that will sideline her for the season.

As the roster now stands, one senior, one junior, three sophomores and five freshmen will try to continue a turnaround that hopefully began last season.

"Obviously I'd like to have more seniors and juniors," Graves stated. "But I also like the young kids we have, and I like what we're doing. I like the fact we are building young. Even though we are young, we have experience. They played a lot of minutes and started a lot of games. Plus, they were productive."

Those four sophomores logged 75 starts and 2,967 minutes as freshmen in last year's 11-18 campaign, the first time a Bulldog team had hit double digits in the win column since 1998. Ashley Burke (834), Shannon Mathews (766) and Raeanna Jewell (733) played more minutes on the team than anybody except for departed senior Jessica Malone (956). Laney (634) had only the graduated Bernice Stime (722) standing between her and fifth on the minutes played list.

The scoring averages also mimicked the minutes played. Burke (11.2 ppg), Mathews (9.8 ppg) and Jewell (9.5 ppg) were second through fourth, respectively, behind Malone's 15.2. Stime checked in at 7.0 ppg and Laney followed at 5.7 ppg.

"Losing Juliann is a setback, but it happened early enough in the year that we have time to adjust, knowing we won't have her for the entire year," Graves said.

Triana Allen, a third-year guard who transferred from Cypress College following her freshman season, started 12 games a year ago. She averaged 17.0 minutes/game.

"Triana has to be our leader, and has been our leader. She has a great personality, is a competitor and gives us something really different. She'll have to step up even more, and she's capable of doing that," he predicted.

Graves looks for big things from this team.

"We'd love to win the WCC championship, but we have one senior and one junior. We want to make that next step and get into the high teens, somehow maybe get 17 wins and shoot to get to the upper half of the conference," Graves said.

Both teams launch the regular season Nov. 22 - the men at home to face Hofstra University while the women travel to the University of Oregon. The women make their home debut three nights later against Montana State University-Northern.

The men will also have a pair of home exhibitions - Nov. 8 against the Seattle Stars AAU at 7 p.m. and Nov. 15 against the Australian Institue of Sport at 8 p.m. The lone exhibition outing for the women will be Nov. 9 when Lewis-Clark State College visits for a 7 p.m. contest.

 

 

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