OCEANSIDE – Cal State San Marcos unveiled one of its newest teams Saturday night. It’s a team so new, they don’t yet have their own true home court, but that didn’t matter for the Cougars men’s basketball team during their first win 86-61 against Vanguard University in front of an energetic CSUSM crowd.
Beginning this year, Cal State added three new sports programs to its continually growing campus, including men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball.
“There are two main reasons we’ve added volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball,” said Kyle Trembley, sports information director. “The first is that the addition of these sports allows us to meet the requirements to join the NCAA Division II…the second is that these sports will help bring excitement to campus and foster school spirit.”
The sports were added after students voted to approve an athletic fee each student pays each year.
“We took this as a clear indication that CSUSM students want a more prominent athletics program,” Trembley said. “And judging by the crowds we’ve had so far for basketball and volleyball, I’d say this is correct.”
The Cougars are led by head coach Jim Saia, who brings with him 5 years’ experience as a head coach, his last position as head coach of Fresno Pacific University ended in 2009. Saia was head coach at USC from 2004 to 2005 and prior to that, was the assistant coach at UCLA.
For the first game of the season Saia knew it’d be a sloppy one, he said. With the physicality of both teams, Saia also knew that it was going to be an entertaining game.
“It was our first game at home, great crowd and I think it’s great for North County basketball…I think if you want to see a good college basketball team, it’s the best show in town.
Within the opening minutes of the game, senior guard Tim Steed quickly announced his presence on the court with a powerful dunk, igniting the crowd. Steed was able to cut through the lanes and score with the greatest of ease against the Vanguard defense.
“He’s just a big-time athlete and a great player,” Saia said of Steed after the game.
“We’ve got a good team…we don’t play smart yet but we’re learning,” Saia said. “We are athletic and we just got to play a little bit smarter and keep our emotions under control,” he said.
Playing smarter, Saia said, includes reducing the amount of turnovers. The Cougars turned the ball over 26 times during the game.
Forward Aaron Chamberlain Jr. said the win was promising as far as what the team is going to look like. “We played together; our coach did a great job in preparing us for the game,” Chamberlain said.
The team showed some good communication and chemistry while on the court, something that Chamberlain attributed to a lack of selfish players on the team. “Everybody is out to play for a total win; a total team,” he said.
“With good players…it really doesn’t take a long time to build chemistry. We’re playmakers; we understand the game really well, so we just take advantage of our mismatches and we buy into the overall team system that our coach has set in place,” he said.
Fans, led by the “Blue Crew” cheering squad, helped energize the team, Chamberlain said. “(It) really allowed us to ride off of their energy and play hard. We really played hard for them and we really appreciate our fans and for coming out and support us. We look forward to seeing them for all the rest of our home games,” Chamberlain added.
The men’s next home game is Nov. 23; the women’s basketball team, coached by Sheri Jennum, will open at home Nov. 12 against The Master’s College.