Men’s basketball kicks off Cronin era with exhibition game versus Stanislaus State
Redshirt freshman guard Tyger Campbell missed the entire 2018-2019 season with a torn ACL. Campbell left high school as a four-star recruit who was the No. 91 prospect in his class. (Liz Ketcham/Photo editor)
By Ryan Smith
Oct. 29, 2019 11:36 p.m.
The Bruins are back on the hardwood.
UCLA men’s basketball will host Stanislaus State for an exhibition game Wednesday at Pauley Pavilion, one week before the Bruins open their regular season schedule against Long Beach State on Nov. 6.
While the Warriors are a Division II opponent, coach Mick Cronin said he and his staff need the exhibition game to get a gauge on where the team stands.
“All coaches wish we had another month of practice before you actually had to play a game,” Cronin said. “But you get to a point where nothing’s to help you except playing a game.”
Redshirt senior forward Alex Olesinski said that it will also be refreshing to play a team that doesn’t know UCLA’s playbook.
“I think it’s great to get it out against another opponent who doesn’t know what we’re doing to see what really works, what doesn’t, our execution,” Olesinski said.
UCLA is set to have at least three new starters after the departures of guard Jaylen Hands, forward/guard Kris Wilkes and center Moses Brown to the NBA this past summer. Redshirt freshman guard Tyger Campbell and forward Shareef O’Neal are expected to be among those that will fill the vacant spots in the starting lineup, but neither player has played in a collegiate game.
Campbell suffered a torn ACL last offseason, while O’Neal was forced to miss the year after having heart complications that required surgery. Campbell, however, said he feels comfortable running the Bruins’ offense and that the only recovery left for him was internal.
“I’ve been a point guard my whole life so it’s really nothing new,” Campbell said. “It’s just coming back, getting over the mental of my leg and stuff like that, but it’s like second nature running the offense.”
Cronin said he hopes the exhibition game will relieve some pressure and help his players get the jitters out of their systems.
“There’s a reason we all play two scrimmages,” Cronin said. “You’ve got to put the uniforms on, get in front of people, work out the nerves.”
Stanislaus State went just 12-14 last season and finished ninth in the California Collegiate Athletic Association. The Warriors didn’t stand out statistically in any category either, scoring 72.2 points per game while shooting 44.3% from the field and 34.8% from beyond the arc.
But Wednesday will be about Cronin, who will be making his coaching debut for the program. The former Cincinnati coach said his main goal during his first season will be to set a positive culture, one that leads to winning.
“You’ve heard me talk a lot about, ‘It’s the first year and you’re trying to establish a culture,’” Cronin said. “The players have to understand why people have success and what causes failure.”
And Cronin has a history of success, as he owns a 365-171 record and has made 11 NCAA tournaments over his 16 seasons as a collegiate head coach.
While Wednesday’s game will not officially count toward Cronin’s record, it will be the first chapter in a new era of Bruins men’s basketball.