Return of seasoned veterans makes for a spicy upcoming season

With the 2022-2023 season coming up, returning players are ready to bring the heat on the court

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Jesse Gordon

Senior Keshad Johnson prepares for a pregame dunk on Nov. 1, 2022.

by Sumaia Wegner, Arts and Culture Editor

This year may be the last year San Diego State fans get to see some of these Aztecs play. With some beloved players nearing their last games in Aztec jerseys, they hope to remind fans of the versatility that they bring.

Matt Bradley: The Star, aka “Dino’s Finest”

One of the reasons San Bernardino native Matt Bradley chose to return to San Diego State for one more year is because of the family environment he was reminded of.

“Coming to San Diego State at first was really a family decision,” Bradley said. “I realized I made new family members as far as my teammates, the fans, the students…and that’s why I came back for my last year.”

Last season the Aztecs ranked third in the Mountain West Conference and entered the NCAA tournament as an eight seed before losing in the first round. They have not made it past the first round in the tournament since head coach Brian Dutcher took over; however, Bradley hopes to change that by taking on a leadership role.

“Me and my brothers are really being vocal and ready to be leaders on and off the court this year,” Bradley said.

Aside from his willingness to be a leader by example, Bradley will contribute to this season by being a better and more consistent scorer and defender.

His skills have led him to being recognized as one of the Jerry West Award watchlist players for the second time. The award honors the best shooting guard in the NCAA.

“For the postseason accolade, people are going to be gunning for me,” Bradley said. “To win that matchup or win that game against me. That just causes me to work harder in the gym and do the things I need to hopefully win it. I’m just excited for the opportunity.”

With this being his final year with the Aztecs, Bradley is humble about his future.

“I would like to reach new highs and touch the NBA,” Bradley said. “Anything shorter, whether it’s the G League or overseas, I’m willing to play wherever I’m accepted. I am reaching for the stars and anything lower, I’ll be alright with it.”

Bradley is looking forward to playing Ohio State and Boise State this upcoming season. He wants the Aztecs to prove themselves and bring his all in his last season.

Adam Seiko: The 3-Defender, aka “Shake”

What makes Adam Seiko a great defensive player is his I.Q. and communication with his teammates.

“I think that’s something you learn as the game goes on,” Seiko said. “Letting people know where I am on the court, letting them know that I have their back.”

Seiko is returning to the Aztecs for his sixth year. Not only will he be working on his master`s program, but he will also be bringing more than just his noted defense. He plans to be a more aggressive player on the court. He wants to attack other teams’ defenses and schemes.

Seiko noted that the current roster will make for a great season.

“I think with the youth and transfers we have, and them coming from different areas makes it amazing,” Seiko said. “We have more depth than we did in the past. We have about eight starters now, which I think is great. We just learned how to play with each other and built that camaraderie in the offseason.”

Seiko wants to play professionally after his time with the Aztecs but he also has connections outside of basketball.

He looks forward to getting off to a good start this season, not only with his own strengths, but also with the team. He hopes that the team kick-starts their season with a championship at the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.

Nathan Mensah: The Scholar, aka “Let them choose”

It took a lot of consultation for Nathan Mensah to decide whether or not to return for his final season, but coming back to play with the Aztecs for one more year is what he thought was the best decision for him.

“It is all about leaving on a good note for me,” Mensah said. “Last year we did not leave on a good note. I feel that coming back now, with the team we have, we will get noticed.”

Mensah plans to stay on the floor a lot longer this season, especially since he has been working on his conditioning over summer.

“This year my focus is to stay on the floor longer,” Mensah said. “Also, I want to make sure I am not in foul trouble.”

Mensah not only brings his A game to the court, but he brings A’s to the classroom as well. He is a recipient of a Jim Malik award (presented to SDSU student-athletes who achieve a 4.0 in a semester) and has been named an Aztec scholar-athlete four times.

 

“Most of my friends are my teammates,” Mensah said. “We are out here playing basketball together. We have classes on the same schedule. Having a nice range with them helps me balance everything out.”

Mensah had the opportunity to play overseas, in France and Spain, but turned it down because he has his heart set on playing in the NBA. However, before any more scouts look at him, he wants his final year at SDSU to be his best one so they can see his true potential.

Mensah plans to go to Maui and come back with better success than he did his freshman year when the Aztecs went 1-2 in the Maui Jim Invitational in 2018. He believes that is the step in the right direction to have a deeper run in March Madness.

Keshad Johnson: The Hidden Gem, aka “Showtime”

Keshad Johnson brings heart and charisma to the Aztecs, while also mentoring the younger players. He plans to contribute this season by continuing to push the pace of the game. His athletic abilities will keep the spark going on the floor.

Johnson wears the number 0 on his jersey or “O” for Oakland, his hometown. 

“Oakland has a place in my heart as being a product of that environment,” Johnson said. “I want to be that person who said I did it, instead of I could have. There are a lot of hidden gems out there and I was one of them.”

This “hidden gem” is a key veteran for the Aztecs. After this season, Johnson has the choice to come back for one more year if he chooses to.

Johnson noted that this year’s team has a lot of depth and many versatile players.

“We are about 10-11 (people) deep,” Johnson said. “Knock on wood, if we keep everybody healthy, that is great, but if we had a couple of injuries out of there, we still have other people that should be ready to play whenever the time and their numbers are called.”

Johnson looks forward to Maui as well, especially since he has never been.

“I am looking forward to just having fun out there on the court with my new teammates, my old teammates and taking the journey further than I’ve ever been.”

With each of them looking forward to facing Ohio State in Maui on Nov. 21, these veterans are all set to go for this season.