PASADENA, Calif. (Nov. 10, 2014) - If there were ever a time to be excited about the upcoming Caltech men's basketball season, it's now. The Beavers lost nobody to graduation and return 12 players, seven who led the team in scoring at least once and six who were high rebounders. Four players started at least 22 games, while the fifth starter spot rotated among a colony of other Beavers. Of nine in the regular rotation, only two were juniors -- a big reason to be hopeful about this year and beyond.
To accentuate the optimism, the Beavers are coming off an unprecedented three-game win streak to begin the season, thanks to their inaugural international trip to Barcelona, Spain in March. Competing against molded Spanish club teams, they earned three victories in as many nights while touring the Catalonian coast over spring recess.
"The Spain trip was really important for our program," Head Coach Dr. Oliver Eslinger said. "In thinking about the upcoming season and all of our returners, it was taken at the perfect time. We've been able to take all we learned and strengthen our system in these early-season practices."
Over the course of Caltech's 25 regular season games, 6-6 junior swingman (Kelechukwu) Kc Emezie (Waxhaw, N.C. / Marvin Ridge) led a balanced attack with 11.0 points per game and nearly one blocked shot per contest, good for seventh in the SCIAC. He hit double figures in points 14 times, including a 9-of-11 explosion from the field against NCAA Championship qualifier Saint Vincent College.
Not far behind was the most productive paint player, 6-6 sophomore Lawrence Lee (Hong Kong / Hong Kong International School), who averaged 10.4 points and 4.6 rebounds per game while turning in double-figure scoring stats 13 times and finishing ninth in conference free throw percentage. He managed a double-double (18 PTS, 10 REB) in the first game against rival Occidental College and dominated in the second with 22 points, thanks in large part to a 10-for-10 performance from the free throw line.
A trio of other cagers averaged at least eight points per outing. Sophomore point guard Luke Lango (San Diego, Calif. / Pacific Ridge School) led the team with 34.6 minutes per game and ranked fifth in the SCIAC with 3.2 assists to go with his 8.6 points and 3.1 rebounds per game. Senior co-captain Andrew Hogue (Arroyo Grande, Calif. / Arroyo Grande) was the squad's leading rebounder with 6.8 boards and 8.3 points per game, while fellow senior co-captain Bryan Joel (Bethesda, Md. / Walt Whitman) made 44 three-pointers, averaged 8.1 points per game and led Caltech with 35 steals.
"Our two captains, Hogue and Joel, are quite special," Eslinger said. "Their leadership and maturity have been, and continue to be, vital to our development. And they're tough as nails."
Lango was instrumental in guiding the Beavers to each of their regular season wins last year and the victories in Spain. Caltech depends on Hogue and Joel for tremendous leadership as well as intense defensive prowess. Hogue had five double-figure rebound games, highlighted by his 13 boards in a win against Willamette University, on his way to a No. 5 standing in the SCIAC. Joel hit at least two treys in 12 games, including 5-of-10 and 4-of-9 deep range shooting displays in both games against the University of Redlands, and finished No. 7 in conference trifectas.
Four more sophomores will be counted on after they displayed great development as first-year players. With 5.4 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, 6-4 Ricky Galliani (Menlo Park, Calif. / Sacred Heart Prep) shot a team-leading 36.8 percent on three-pointers and elevated that number to fourth-best of all SCIAC players at 45.9 percent in league contests. He went 11-of-22 from downtown in the last four conference games, including a 5-or-6 staging versus Redlands. 6-5 David LeBaron (San Diego, Calif. / Francis Parker) is capable of playing every spot on the floor and can produce in a number of ways, be it scoring (5.1 ppg), rebounding (2.7), playmaking or defending. As the tallest Beaver, 6-10 Nasser Al-Rayes (Doha, Qatar / American School of Doha) averaged 3.2 points and just under two rebounds in only 12.1 minutes per contest. He was third in the league in blocked shots and demonstrated his abilities in both games against SCIAC foe and NCAA Tournament participant Chapman University, when he shot 6-for-8 from the field. A breakout season could be on the horizon, as he poured in 27 points and hauled in 16 rebounds at Basquet Circol in Spain. 6-7 Nick Buoniconti (Orlando, Fla. / Lake Highland Prep) brings power, speed and a nice touch to the paint that forced opponents to plan against him as just a freshman.
"It's such an advantage to have great length and versatility," Eslinger said. "The guys worked hard in the off-season. Plus, we have many players who can play a number of positions. That's the goal."
6-4 junior Rob Anderson (Orono, Minn. / Orono) and 6-5 sophomore Matthew Edwards (Canyon Country, Calif. / Canyon) boast potent sharpshooting and efficient three-point range. If they can work their way into the regular rotation, Caltech will benefit from the additional space creators and extreme depth. Junior Naveen Tadepalli (Calabasas, Calif. / Agoura) rounds out the returners and will be counted on to enhance the defense with his strength and toughness while running the team from a lead guard position.
Caltech welcomes two freshmen to the mix this year in 6-5 Ty Ochse (Tucson, Ariz. / Canyon Del Oro) and 6-2 David Kawashima (Studio City, Calif. / North Hollywood). Ochse is a versatile athlete who garnered All-State accolades at Canyon Del Oro High School as a junior, averaging around 14 points and seven rebounds per game as a senior. Kawashima is a wiry combo guard who averaged an all-around line of 8.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 2.7 steals per game to earn All-League honors for North Hollywood High School.
"There's no doubt we are a tight-knit team," Eslinger said. "With the additions of Ty and DK, we haven't missed a beat. They've made us stronger immediately."
The program welcomes back Dave Briski and Collin Murphy as assistant coaches. Briski begins his third season while Murphy starts his second after graduating as a four-year player under Eslinger. In addition, the Beavers have added Ronn See to the staff. See played for SCIAC member La Verne and was a First-Team All-Conference selection as a senior.
Eslinger and the Beavers will open the season at home against rival Occidental on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. Fans can participate in games and festivities outside the Braun Athletic Center beginning at 3 p.m., followed by dinner at 6 p.m. and Orange Out t-shirts at the entrance to the game at 7 p.m. - all FREE!
All home games will be available via live video broadcast as well as Live stats, both which can be accessed via the team's schedule page at GoCaltech.com.