Mavericks ready for game after long layoff

Colorado Mesa University’s Chandler Burgon, left, takes a shot during practice Wednesday at Brownson Arena.The Mavericks will host Southern Virginia at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Tip-Off Classic.


Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Classic

Colorado Mesa Mavericks (1-1)

Last season: 18-10 (14-8 RMAC)

Coach: Jim Heaps, 16th season

Probable Starters

PG: Kevin Screen, Soph., 5-9 (2 ppg, 2 apg, 3 steals)

G: Jeff Hart, Jr., 6-4 (8.5 ppg, 3 apg, 3 blocked shots)

F: Mike Melillo, Rfr., 6-5 (7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 3 steals)

F: Michael Bear, Sr., 6-7 (9.5 ppg, 3 rpg, 6 steals, 3 blocked shots)

C: Chandler Burgon, Jr., 6-8 (11.5 ppg, 5 rpg, 3 blocked shots)

Notes: Colorado Mesa is 3-1 vs. Dixie State all-time, including a win in the Thanksgiving Classic last year. Landon Vermeer leads the Mavs in scoring off the bench with 7 points per game. The Mavericks are limiting opponents to 59 points per game and 35.8 percent shooting from the field.

Colorado State-Pueblo ThunderWolves (1-1)

Last season: 11-15 (8-14 RMAC)

Coach: Ralph Turner, 1st season

Probable Starters

G: Bryse Velasquez, Jr., 5-10 (8 ppg, 4 apg, 5 steals)

G: Arden Dennis, Jr., 6-1 (9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 3 apg)

G: Ty Trahern, Sr., 6-3 (6.5 ppg, 6 rpg)

F: Kevin Coates, Sr., 6-5 (6.5 ppg, 4 rpg)

C: AJ Kapanoske, Sr., 6-8 (7.5 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3 blocked shots)

Notes: Senior Pierre Prince, a 6-10 center, averages 8 points and 2 rebounds, shooting 60 percent from the field. Ryan Arel is a 3-point threat, hitting 3 of 7 attempts in two games this season.

Dixie State (Utah) Red Storm (2-1)

Last season: 22-7 (13-3 Pac West Conference)

Coach: Jon Judkins, 7th season

Probable Starters

PG: Maurice Cole, Sr., 6-0 (11.3 ppg, 3 apg, 4 rpg)

G: McKay Massey, Jr., 6-2 (3 ppg, 2.3 apg, 3 steals)

F: Dalton Groskreutz, Soph., 6-5 (8 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 2 steals)

F: Griffon Jones, Sr., 6-6 (10.3 ppg, 6 rpg, 6 blocked shots)

C: Solomon Jensen, Sr., 6-8 (6.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1 blocked shot)

Notes: Six-foot-8 junior Derek Owen averages 8 points off the bench and leads the team with five steals. The Red Storm are limiting opponents to 62.7 points per game and 39 percent shooting from the field.

Southern Virginia Knights (3-3)

Last season: 24-8 (NAIA Division I)

Coach: Brian Pendleton, 4th season

Probable Starters

PG: Isaac Jacobson, Jr., 6-1 (6.8 ppg, 14 assists, 8 steals)

G: Anders Jacobson,  Soph., 6-1 (16.7 ppg, 13 assists, 10 steals)

G: Spenser Briggs, Sr., 6-2 (14.2 ppg, 6 rpg, 11 steals)

F: Jon Jacobson, Soph., 6-4 (7.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 4 blocked shots)

C: Travis Van Noy, Sr., 6-8 (5.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg 5 blocked shots)

Notes: The Knights won their first three games of the season and played at Southern Utah University on Wednesday night. Junior guard Gasey Nye averages 11.3 points per game off the bench.

Practice? We’re talking about practice?

For the past 10 days, that’s all the Colorado Mesa University men’s basketball team has done, at least to the players.

After opening the season nearly two weeks ago with a split in St. George, Utah, the Mavericks finally get to play a game again. They host Colorado State University-Pueblo, Dixie State (Utah) College and Southern Virginia University in the Clarion Inn Thanksgiving Tip-off Classic on Friday and Saturday at Brownson Arena.

CSU-Pueblo plays Dixie State at 3 p.m. Friday and Mesa plays Southern Virginia at 7 p.m. Friday. Pueblo and Mesa will swap opponents Saturday.

“We’re excited,” Mesa junior center Chandler Burgon said. “We’ve been practicing a long time and beating up on each other. It will be nice to beat up on someone else.

“This is what you play for, to play games at home. We have great community support. That’s why I came here. I played at Dixie before here. There wasn’t a base of fans, but here it’s phenomenal.”

For Mesa coach Jim Heaps, all those days practicing has allowed the Mavs to fix some mistakes, mainly turnovers that cost the Mavs in their loss to nationally ranked Seattle Pacific (Wash.) University.

“We’ve had nine practices to correct things,” Heaps said. “We know how we play and that our strength is our post players. There’s not a lot of teams with the size we have. We need to do a better job of getting the ball to them.

“That’s what happened (against Seattle Pacific). We tried to get the ball to them, but we turned it over. It’s not for a lack of effort, but we didn’t execute it very well.”

Burgon, one of three returning starters and eight returning letterwinners, believes the Mavericks have the talent to make another NCAA tournament run, but knows they have some work to do to get there.

“I feel like we have all the talent in the world,” Burgon said. “We just need to do our thing and not get big-headed. We’re extremely strong defensively. When we take our time and are unselfish, we’re very talented offensively.

“What we found, we’re the type of team, we’re so big we can get layup after layup.”

The Mavericks need to be patient for that to happen.

“We’re going to be an inside-out type of team,” Heaps said. “It takes a little more patience to develop.

“We’ve got to be more consistent on offense. We have to take better care of the ball. That’s just the execution part. We have capable players, we just haven’t passed the ball well yet. We’ve had stretches we played well, but some we didn’t.”

The Mavs play a couple of teams similar to them this weekend in Southern Virginia and Dixie State.

Southern Virginia is Latter-Day Saints liberal arts college in the NAIA. The Knights reached the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship last season. The USCAA is an athletic association for small colleges with enrollments between 500 and 2,500 full-time students. It used to be the National Small College Athletic Association.

“They are a lot like us, but we’re just a little bit bigger,” Heaps said. “They play with a swagger. They almost beat Carroll (Mont.) College in Carroll. We’ve got to execute what we do. We have to be ready to play.”

Dixie State is coming off its best season since becoming a four-year NCAA Division II program. The Red Storm reached the Sweet 16, losing to eventual national runner-up BYU-Hawaii in the regional final.

“They will remind everyone a lot of us,” Heaps said. “They are big, like to run, but are not above pounding it inside. They like to play defense and are physical. It will be a hard-fought game. They are very talented, physical and well-coached.”


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