Men’s basketball transfers fulfilling destiny by playing in NCAA Tournament

San+Diego+State+mens+basketball+senior+guard+Terrell+Gomez+attempts+a+layup+during+the+Aztecs%E2%80%99+78-66+overtime+win+over+Boise+State+on+Feb.+25%2C+2021+at+Viejas+Arena.

Noelani Sapla

San Diego State men’s basketball senior guard Terrell Gomez attempts a layup during the Aztecs’ 78-66 overtime win over Boise State on Feb. 25, 2021 at Viejas Arena.

by Luis Lopez, Assistant Sports Editor

When No. 16/18 San Diego State men’s basketball got to cut down nets at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday afternoon, there were two players who may have held those pieces of nylon just a bit tighter.

Senior transfers Terrell Gomez and Joshua Tomaić both achieved a goal they set out to do when they made the change to come play for the Aztecs. 

The goal: winning when it matters most, in the grand old month of March.

“It wouldn’t have felt right to me to just play college basketball and not get an opportunity to play for the national championship.” Gomez said. 

While their goals were similar, Gomez and Tomaić had much different paths to the Scarlet and Black. 

At Cal State Northridge, Gomez was one of the best players in the Big West Conference, being named conference Freshman of the Year in the 2017-18 season.

For two consecutive years in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 seasons, he was a first-team all-conference player.

He also finished his career at CSUN with the eighth-best three-point percentage in the nation.

However, in his three years at Northridge, Gomez and the Matadors didn’t make the tournament once.

Tomaić on the other hand, did get that March Madness experience. Unfortunately, it was mostly from the sidelines. 

The Spanish forward spent his last three years on the Terrapins as a redshirt, appearing in 62 games while averaging just over a point a game.

The big March Madness experience mentioned earlier? One bucket in Maryland’s first round tournament win against Belmont.

Now, Gomez and Tomaić are very much on the frontlines of action for the Aztecs, as they look forward to a matchup against Syracuse on Friday, March 19. 

“This is what I came here for — to win championships,” Gomez said. “So now I’m just excited to play in the Big Dance, something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”

SDSU doesn’t like to build teams around a singular talent. Instead, they prefer contributions from as many players as possible. 

Gomez and Tomaić make up a lot of those contributions. 

Making his way to the starting lineup in the process, Gomez ranks third on the team in scoring average with just over 8.8 points a game.

His 3-point game has remained a strength, shooting 41.7% from beyond the arc — also good for third on the team. 

Head coach Brian Dutcher has recognized what Gomez has been able to do and said his play will be key during the tournament.

“I told the coaches and I told Terrell himself that I thought he was wired to have a great March,” Dutcher said. “A confident Terrell Gomez is something we have to have in the Syracuse game.”

Meanwhile, Tomaić has been a vital piece off the bench for SDSU. 

While playing just over 15 minutes a game, Tomaić has shot an astounding 50.5% from the field. 

Dutcher feels that Tomaić has been such a valuable piece, that he couldn’t see being in their current position without him.

“We’re not where we are without Joshua’s contributions. I mean, to come off the bench and back up our post position, he gives us great energy,” Dutcher said. 

“He always plays hard, he runs the floor extremely hard both ways, he’s a very proven offensive rebounder … Joshua’s contributions are immeasurable and one of the reasons we’re playing right now,” Dutcher added. 

In addition to SDSU’s success, the team has fed off helping them get to the Big Dance. 

Senior guard Jordan Schakel said trying to get the Aztecs to March Madness has been a better motivator than anything he could think of for himself. 

“There’s times in the season when we’re tired, you’re waiting for things to motivate you,” Schakel said. “Selfish motivations sometimes wear out and it’s guys like (Gomez) and (Tomaić) that come here and just want to win that keep you going.”

Senior forward Matt Mitchell felt the same way, and said getting titles for the transfers is what playing this season is all about.

“They came here to win, it’s also winning for them because they came here for a championship,” Mitchell said. 

When SDSU takes on Syracuse on Friday, they’ll get a chance to continue that pursuit for Tomaić and Gomez.

And when the transfers step on the floor, they will certainly be looking to make the most of the opportunity.

“This is March, this is what I came here for. I have to make the most of it.” Gomez said. 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email