Men’s hoops hosts first practice

by Matthew Bain, Senior Staff Writer

The band Europe’s hit song “The Final Countdown” came to mind when the San Diego State men’s basketball team warmed up for its first official NCAA practice last Friday in Viejas Arena.

With only 36 days remaining until the season opener against California State University, Northridge, Aztec players and fans alike begin the final countdown to a highly anticipated season— a season with big-time expectations.

“That’s what everybody aspires to and pines for,” head coach Steve Fisher said during warm-ups. “They want to be talked about. And we’re getting more and more of that, and it’s good. It’s healthy if managed the right way.”

Fisher said that one of his biggest challenges during practice would be to find out who fits where and which role each player will fill. He said all 11 scholarship players who are able to play (not counting injured freshmen Malik Pope and Zylan Cheatham) are good enough to compete for minutes this year.

“Every single spot, every position, you have to work,” senior guard Aqeel Quinn said. “Or else someone is going to come at you and you’re going to get exposed.”

Members of the media, who were invited to the first 20 minutes of practice, got a chance to hear from junior forward Angelo Chol, who will play his first season as an Aztec after sitting out last year because of transfer rules.

And if Chol was trying to hide his excitement about playing a full season at SDSU, he didn’t do a very good job.

The former University of Arizona Wildcat’s face lit up when asked about finally getting on the court. He laughed with a big smile when asked if he and junior forward Skylar Spencer would compete to see who could block more shots this season.

The media also got a good look at three SDSU freshmen: shooting guard Trey Kell, point guard Kevin Zabo and small forward Malik Pope. Freshman power forward Cheatham watched practice with basketball in hand, his yearning to get back on the court painted all over his face.

It’s difficult to tell a whole lot about the freshmen from the one drill media members were allowed to watch, but players definitely seem excited about their new teammates.

“The four freshmen are ready beyond their years,” Quinn said. “Zabo, he’s like a seasoned vet. Both him and Trey (Kell) are light years ahead.”

Pope, who Fisher said last week would most likely miss SDSU’s first game, ran the floor in a fast-break drill without any apparent problems and even dunked a couple times. He wore compression sleeves on both legs.

Fans will get their chance to see the team pretty soon, as they’re scheduled for an exhibition game against Point Loma Nazarene University on Nov. 7 at Viejas Arena.