After an exhibition victory over Redlands on Nov. 5, CSUN head coach Bobby Braswell said he didn’t know what to expect from his eight freshmen as they headed into the season-opener at UCLA.
Braswell didn’t anticipate a lot from the first-year Matadors starting their collegiate careers on a big stage like Pauley Pavilion. However, it was the Northridge returnees that struggled against the Bruins.
With the game out of reached by the start of the second half, Braswell pulled his veterans and incorporated his freshmen to close the game. They responded by playing competitive basketball and showed Braswell they are capable of making a contribution to the team.
Six games have gone by and the young Matadors have improved steadily after being thrown into the fire with four major-conference opponents (UCLA, Cal, Virginia Tech, DePaul) and facing a tough Tulsa team in last week’s 76 Classic.
Walk-on guard Allen Jiles IV said the top-notch competition will benefit him and his fellow freshmen in the long run.
“It was good going up against those teams, we have so many freshmen, including me, that we are building confidence right now,” said Jiles, who is averaging 3.6 points per game. All that experience against a (veteran team) like Virginia Tech and us being a young team that will give us all the confidence in the world.”
Braswell still relies heavily on his seven returning players, as they get the bulk of the minutes, but has included five freshmen in the rotation; Jiles, Josh Greene, Thomas Jacobs, Frankie Eteuati, and Aqeel Quinn.
Senior guard Raymond Cody said the 76 Classic helped the freshmen find their identity on the team.
“They all have found their game and contributed so far and this past weekend we have built more chemistry with them,” Cody said.
Josh Greene – Braswell has gone on the record saying the 6-foot guard Greene is the most talented player from the freshmen and will have a great career at CSUN. Greene has backed up Braswell’s comments on the court with his ability to score. In a victory over Vanguard (Nov. 20) Greene led the Matadors in scoring with 17 points.
Greene has been coming off the bench to provide a spark offensively as he averages 4.3 points in 13.2 minutes per game. Greene has been inconsistent at times mainly due to having a similar role as redshirt guard Vinnie McGhee, who has been excelling as the Matadors sixth man. Like McGhee, Greene is able to provide a big 3-pointer or drive to the basket and get to the free throw line.
Thomas Jacobs – The 6-foot-7 forward Jacobs made an immediate impact for the Matadors with his hustle plays at UCLA. Braswell rewarded Jacobs by putting him into the starting lineup for three games in hopes of giving Northridge early energy.
“My role is to hustle, box out, rebound and just bring energy to the team,” Jacobs said. “I try to be that spark that gets us going.”
Jacobs’ play doesn’t stand out on a stat sheet, but his intensity level on the court rubs off on the team. Jacobs has been set back in the last two games against DePaul and Tulsa due to a nose injury he suffered during practice last week.
Allen Jiles IV – Jiles has a lot of upside with his ability to use his size and strength to get to the basket. Jiles doesn’t shy away from the ball and could be the player that picks up the scoring once Rashaun McLemore sits out for a breather.
Jiles has gone to the free throw line 15 times this season and is averaging 10.2 minutes per game.