SEATTLE – (Nov. 1) New coaches, new players, new roles, new attitude. There is little that isn’t new about Seattle University men’s basketball as the 2017-18 season opener quickly approaches. And the excitement surrounding the program is contagious.
“I love the guys’ energy, their focus and their discipline,” said Head Coach Jim Hayford, who begins his 19th year as a head coach, and first at Seattle U. “We need every bit of these next two weeks to keep getting used to each other and for the players to keep learning what I want them to do and how I want them to do it. But there is great potential in this group and that’s exciting.”
Eighteen players don Seattle U practice gear daily, and 14 of those players will suit up this 2017-18 season. The mix includes seven returners, three graduate transfers, one scholarship freshman, four redshirts (due to transfer) and three walk-ons.
“Although they are all graduate transfers and new to Seattle U, Jordan, Richaud and Josh all provide leadership and an understanding of what it takes to be successful at Division I basketball,” said Hayford.
Hill, a 6-4 guard, played in 76 games during his three active years at Wisconsin as the Badgers reached the NCAA Tournament Final Four twice and the Sweet 16 twice. In 2016-17, Hill averaged 1.5 points and 1.1 rebounds per game as the Badgers reached their second straight Sweet 16.
Gittens, a 6-4 guard, played in 102 career games at Weber State. Averaging 6.9 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game, he was part of two Big Sky Championship teams and twice played in the NCAA Tournament.
Hearlihy, a 6-8 guard/forward, saw action in 27 games for Vermont last year. The Catamounts captured the 2016-17 America East Championship, advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
Joining the trio of seniors as key pieces of the Redhawks’ lineup are redshirt junior Aaron Menzies, redshirt sophomore Matej Kavas and sophomore Morgan Means, all of whom saw significant playing time one year ago.
Menzies, a 7-3 center, was instrumental for the Redhawks through 14 games in 2016-17 before a foot injury sidelined him for the remainder of the year. The Manchester, England, native averaged 12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds, including four double-doubles and a 35-point effort on Nov. 21 versus Louisiana Monroe.
Kavas, a 6-8 guard, saw his role on the court grow throughout this redshirt freshman season. In 27 games played, he averaged 8.6 ppg and shot a team-high 40.4 percent shooting from three. In Western Athletic Conference play, his numbers rose to 11.6 ppg, 47.9 percent field-goal shooting and 41.3 percent from beyond the arc as he went on to be named WAC Freshman of the Year.
Means started 29 games during his rookie season, averaging 6.7 points and 2.1 assists in 23.6 minutes per game.
Also returning are sophomores Scott Ulaneo (6-10 forward), Jake Spurgeon (6-7 guard) and Mattia Da Campo (6-5 guard). “All three of those guys have a taste of experience and are early in their development, but give us much needed depth,” Hayford said.
Ulaneo appeared in all 30 games last year, averaging 4.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. Spurgeon redshirted the 2016-17 season due to a foot injury, while Da Campo played sparingly in 16 games.
The Redhawks’ lone scholarship freshman comes in the form of Seattle Prep grad Aaron Nettles. The 5-11 guard averaged 15 ppg over his final three seasons, earning All-Metro honors each of those years.
“Aaron has had a great fall,” Hayford said. “I’m very excited that he’s part of our program and he will have a chance to contribute this season.”
“We can’t run practice without taking a peek ahead at these four redshirts who will be a part of our active roster next year,” said Hayford. “They play a huge part in making our team better this season.”
Seattle U officially opens the 2017-18 season on Friday, Nov. 10 at St. Louis University in the first of four games that will be played as part of the 2017 2K Classic benefitting Wounded Warrior Project. The Redhawks return to Seattle for their home opener at the Connolly Complex on Nov. 12.