Men’s Basketball Looks For Bounce Back

“You must think of failure and defeat as the springboards to new achievements or to the next level of
Les Brown

Tyler Geving is ready to get all bodies back on the court. Come mid-December, he will have his wish. Until then, the waiting game continues for Portland State’s men’s basketball head coach, now entering his fifth season as head coach.

“This camp, I was feeling really good about our team, but we had five guys on the bench, said Geving”

Such is the story with the Vikings, who followed a promising 2011-12 season with an 8–20 record and setbacks in nearly every aspect of play last winter. Instead of repeating a run to the Big Sky semifinals, the Vikings delivered the worst season in Geving’s tenure.

After the Vikings suffered an unusual number of injuries, he and his staff knew that an influx of talent and experience was needed to improve upon last season’s failures.
So that’s exactly what they did.

As the Vikings open the season against UNLV, six new players join eight returning lettermen for a unit that collectively seeks to prove that last season was a blip on the radar.

“Two years ago we were middle of the road in most categories, which led to more success for us,” said Geving, who is in his ninth overall year at the school.

“The aggressive style we want to play, we have the depth for it. We have the perimeter guys to play pressure containment. The other thing that leads to poor defense sometimes is turnovers and bad shots. You are giving up baskets the other way and you don’t have a chance to get your defense set. We have to value the basketball and value possessions…

Trust me, we see it, and we’re working on it,” Geving said.

It’s not as if he’s working with an empty deck, however. Despite losing three starters to graduation, the Vikings are bringing back two starters, including Big Sky Honorable Mention Aaron Moore.

Moore, a senior, averaged 15 points per game last season in-conference and is the Vikings’ most athletic player. Geving knows the value of having a player like Moore on this young roster.

“Aaron is an All-League caliber player, and we need him to be that if this team is going to have success. He is a guy that can go out and get a double-double every night,” Geving said.

Joining Moore is big-man Brandon Cataldo, a 6-foot-10-inch force—when healthy. Cataldo has been battling a leg injury that has taken up much of his first two seasons, but after dropping almost 60 pounds since arriving on campus, Cataldo looks to be in a position to take the starting center spot.

After injuries wiped out much of last season’s roster, the coaching staff made it a point to bring in junior college transfers to help ease the transition while adding much-needed talent. They brought in size (Tiege Bamba, 6–6), shooting (DaShaun Wiggins) and leadership (Tim Douglas).

Perhaps no newcomer will bear more pressure than Douglas, who could run the point position from day one. The man he needs to win over—his head coach—seems to already know the value of the University of Portland transfer.

“Tim automatically addresses our leadership issue. He is a natural leader and has the respect of everyone on the team. He is a guy that works hard every single day in practice and leads by example off the court,” Geving said.

After sitting out last year, Douglas looks to spark the
Vikings offense, which last season struggled to find consistency. Douglas was named the WCC Player of the Week twice while at UP. He also dropped 26 points on a nationally ranked St. Mary’s team.

Expect some freshmen to see the floor early in their career, especially Kyle Benton, who brings excellent size and rebounding ability for a small forward.

Having so many freshmen and JUCOs on the roster allows new leaders to emerge, something that coach Geving says was absent for much of last season.

“Having a year like last year was disappointing. Probably our biggest weakness last year was we didn’t have good leadership. We didn’t have a lot of direction, whether it was me doing a better job of leading the team or leadership within the team. Instead of winning games by six or eight, you lose them by six or eight,” he said.

Playing in the comfort of home is one way to form a bond, and the Vikings will have just that. PSU has a record 17 home games this season, which should allow the new players to transition smoothly into the program.

“Any time you can get this many home games—I’d rather have them at home than on the road. It doesn’t mean you are going to win every home game, but playing at home is a real advantage. The tournament we are doing is something we would like to continue annually. That will help with getting the home games we want,” Geving said.

That tournament, held Nov. 22-24, is the Portland State Tournament, which will bring in three schools from across the country and help the Vikings in their quest to brand themselves on the national level. Crosstown rival UP visits the Stott Center on Dec. 7, and future Big Sky opponent Idaho comes to town on Dec. 14.

The Big Sky Tournament will be March 13-15 at the home of the regular season conference champion.

Could PSU find themselves in a position to host? It’s far too early to tell.

However, if the newcomers can jell and returning players like Moore continue to improve, this appears to be a team that is headed upward. After last season’s letdown, there’s a new sense of urgency and focus among the Vikings.

That focus is spearheaded by Geving and his staff. They are sticking to their strength—recruiting—to help revive a program that has felt stuck in neutral as of late.

“I feel like I bring great energy and enthusiasm to this job every day,” Geving said. “I have a good rapport with our players and feel that is a great strength on the court, in recruiting, and within this program.”

One season does not define a team, for better or worse. Geving and his staff proved that this can be a winning program, and despite the injuries and poor record in 2012–13, they are closer to the top than many people think.

With an intriguing recruiting class, a returning All-Conference caliber talent in Moore and a plethora of home games, it looks like exciting times are coming for the 2013–14 Vikings team.

Is a return trip to the NCAA Tournament in the cards? Who knows. But it’s hard to envision another eight-win season.

“Having a year like last year was disappointing, no doubt,” Geving said.

If things break correctly, he’ll be singing a different tune next offseason.