Seattle U men’s basketball expecting immediate impact from its transfers
Isiah Umipig and Emerson Murray, the Redhawks’ new backcourt, could be a boost to fifth-year senior Clarence Trent and the rest of the team.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Clarence Trent unmasked
The senior forward underwent surgery in the spring to remove a tumor in his jaw. He’s also ditched the facemask he was required to wear because of the tumor. Trent, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, is poised for a breakout year.
Better ball handling
Seattle U committed 540 turnovers last season. You’d think the Redhawks’ new backcourt of Isiah Umipig and Emerson Murray will take better care of the ball.
The Redhawks scored just 65.6 points per game last season, which ranked sixth in the WAC. SU didn’t have a double-digit scorer a year ago, but Trent, Umipig, Murray and F Deshaun Sunderhaus could change that.
Coach Cameron Dollar, who enters his fifth season at Redhawks, is 48-71. In many ways, he’s been building toward this season in which SU has a mixture of returning starters (Trent, Sunderhaus and G D’Vonne Pickett) and touted newcomers (Umipig, Murray and F Shore Adenekan).
For the first time in years, there’s optimism at SU. Despite last season’s last-place finish, the Redhawks were picked to finish second in the WAC by league coaches in a preseason poll. Their last winning season was 2009-10 when Dollar guided SU to a 17-14 mark during his first year. Since then, SU went 11-20, 12-15 and 8-22.
• The Redhawks open the season Sunday at Washington. The Huskies have dominated the series 24-4, including an eight-game winning streak. Ironically, the last time SU faced UW in a season opener, the Redhawks prevailed 82-78 on Nov. 28, 1978.
• SU plays six nonconference games against Big West teams, concluding with a Dec. 30 matchup against UC Santa Barbara at KeyArena.
• Seattle U begins conference play Jan. 4 at home against UMKC
• Perhaps the most anticipated game of the season is a Feb. 8 date at KeyArena against New Mexico State, the two-time defending WAC champion. The contest is one of five games that will be televised by ROOT Sports.
• The WAC Tournament begins March 15 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
Considering three-fifths of the Seattle University men’s basketball starting lineup transferred from Division I teams, you could make the argument coach Cameron Dollar has built a program that’s become a safe haven for second-chance hoopsters.
He doesn’t deny it.
In fact, the fifth-year coach has proudly invoked a “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” recruiting philosophy while assembling what he called the most depth since he took over in 2009.
But make no mistake, Dollar isn’t giving scholarships to charity cases.
“This isn’t a rehab for wayward boys,” he said, laughing. “By no means am I Father Flanigan. We’re not doing that.
“But if you’re talking about quality kids that are looking for a different situation or are looking to being … used differently. Whether it be playing a little freer or playing for somebody who just understands them a little bit better, then yeah, I’m more than OK with that.”
The preseason attention surrounds fifth-year senior Clarence Trent, the former Washington Husky, who was tabbed a second-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection in a preseason poll of league coaches.
Dollar believes the 6-foot-6 wing, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, has pro potential.
“His defense has taken the next step to where he’s grooming himself to be an NBA wing defender,” Dollar said. “I’m excited for him.”
Still, SU’s season will likely hinge on the performance of transfers Isiah Umipig and Emerson Murray, who comprise the Redhawks’ new backcourt.
The roommates sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules and forged an unexpected friendship.
When the Redhawks were away for games, they stayed at home and worked out with a team strength coach. In practice, they simulated opposing teams, and the private joke on the Capitol Hill campus was SU’s scout squad was better than the starters because of Umipig and Murray.
“We’ve been through the grind together, and going through that with him made us a lot closer,” Murray said. “He can say anything he wants to me on the court because I know there’s a respect there.”
Umipig, the former Federal Way High star who led the Eagles to a 2009 4A state title, cemented their friendship when he invited Murray, a Vancouver, B.C., native, and his family to his grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner last year.
“We had a great time at Zeke’s house,” Murray said. “He’s like my brother. We talk about and joke about that all the time. His uncle is hilarious. His grandparents are so funny. It was just a lot of laughs.
“It was my parents’ first time having Thanksgiving here. They definitely enjoyed themselves. They always talk about it. The fact that he was that welcoming and I only knew him a couple of months, that says a lot about him and says a lot about his family.”
Said Umipig: “The thing I learned about him is that we have the same values and morals. We have a lot of things in common.”
For instance, both are looking for a fresh start with the Redhawks, who finished last in the Western Athletic Conference last season (8-22, 3-15 in league) partly because of an inept offense that averaged 65.6 points and 18.2 turnovers.
Umipig, a 6-foot, 195-pound junior, averaged 13.5 points at Cal State Fullerton two years ago and was an honorable-mention All-Big West selection. In 2010-11, he was named the conference’s sixth man of the year. Meanwhile, Murray, a 6-3, 195-pound junior, played two seasons at Cal and was a backup on the Golden Bears’ 2012 NCAA tournament squad.
“We needed more shooters and we needed to handle the ball better,” Dollar said. “We addressed both of those areas, so I’m expecting much better results all across the board.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen