SEASON PREVIEW: Men's basketball looks to go to new heights in 2018-19

SEASON PREVIEW: Men's basketball looks to go to new heights in 2018-19
The UC Santa Cruz men's basketball enjoyed a great season last year, but head coach Ron Dubois knows that there are still new achievements the program can reach. 
The Banana Slugs graduated the winningest class in school history and were key reasons UCSC set a school record with 17 wins last year.
"We'll surely miss the 6 graduating players and they left a heck of a legacy behind them! However, we are pumped up to see the continued development of all of our other returning 9 players," Dubois said.  "Plus, we'll have another class of 6 seniors this season as well!"
One of those seniors is Sam Gabbard, who is back for one more season while pursuing his Masters. The big forward from Vacaville had team-best averages of 17.5 points and 10.6 rebounds. He was 22nd nationally in both rebounds and offensive rebounds per game, as well as 21st in double-doubles.
"Having Sam return is obviously a big piece. To have a guy that has been a four-year team Captain is very rare," Dubois said.
Also returning is sophomore Patrick Ramos, who will compete for the starting point guard role. Seniors Will Crain and Ben Dorfman also return after missing much of last year with injuries.
Wing Tyler Klingenbeck and power forward Haakon Ullrich also return after playing impactful minutes off the bench in 2017-18.
"Outside of Sam, we have 5 other returning players who saw valuable time in our playing rotation last year," said Dubois. "Will, Ben, Tyler, Patrick and Haakon all will have a big impact on our team this year."
Bay Area guards Vinay Narayanam and Eric Siegel along with forward Russell Taylor from Arcata also return to add depth to the squad. It isn't just the returners but the new incoming players as well that are cause for excitement.
"We have 6 freshmen and 2 transfer students that we've added to our roster.  They all will bring unique attributes to our team and add to the overall talent level," explained Dubois. "We really feel like they are all great fits for the culture we've built in our program."
Among the newbies are point guard Simon Mueller-Landsvik, who joins the Slugs from Germany, Calvin Keyes from Lane Tech in Chicago and Chandler Daugherty  from Carlsbad.
Transfers Rashard Thornhill and  Jack Fitchie along with freshmen Will Whitty, Ryan Silva and Matthew McDonald round out the new batch of Slugs.
 
"I'm looking forward to working with a special group of young men," Dubois explains. "In the big picture, my expectations would be to see our players develop holistically in positive way mentally, physically, and emotionally within the culture of our program. I won't really know the results of that until about 20 years down the road!
As for results like wins, step by step, year by year, I'd like to see us continue to improve every season."
 
The quirk of the schedule is that UCSC plays on the road for all of December, with two separate trips to Los Angeles, two to Oregon and starting off with a visit to Colorado. It is all part of the master plan to get enough countable games to get into the discussion for the school's first Tournament bid.
"There is a NCAA Tournament bid for Pool B teams this season. 14 other teams will be eligible, including two teams that were in the NCAA Tournament last year," Dubois said.
"We are excited and we know our 18 D3 games on the schedule will be very competitive. So, we are looking forward to the challenge."