Cal State Fullerton was supposed to begin its men’s basketball season on Nov. 25, but the Husky Classic in Seattle in which the Titans were to play was canceled when CSF and San Diego pulled out because the coronavirus pandemic hit their respective programs.

For Fullerton, that meant a 14-day quarantine for the program, and a player who tested positive had to self-isolate for 10 days.

Indeed, it’s been a weird start to the season. The Titans’ second chance at actually playing was to be Wednesday night against visiting Bethesda University of Anaheim, but that game was postponed because of a positive COVID-19 test within the Bethesda program. TheTitans’ newest start date is Friday at 6 p.m. at San Diego.

TOP SCORERS, REBOUNDERS GONE

The Titans lost four of their top five scorers from a season ago – Jackson Rowe, Brandon Kamga, Austen Awosika and Davon Clare – to graduation. They also lost their top two rebounders in Rowe and Clare.

That does not mean Coach Dedrique Taylor is not high on this roster. Quite the contrary. He said recently that UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine might be the teams to beat in the Big West Conference and suggested that Cal State Bakersfield – a newcomer to the conference – could provide a tougher challenge than some expect.

“But I think Cal State Fullerton is as talented as anybody,” Taylor said. “I would put our talent up against anybody. But I don’t rely on that moving forward.”

What he is trying to carve out is team chemistry that will allow the intangibles to play a big role in the team’s progress. Considering there are eight new faces on the roster, that could be a chore – one that was interrupted by the two-week quarantine.

“It’s extremely difficult because you don’t have the maturity within the confines of the program,” Taylor said. “You don’t have guys who understand your system and so those are all things that we have to fight for and all things that we have to … we think they’re important.

“We’ve gotta focus on those things day in and day out and those are the things that are going to lead us to having success.”

That said, there is plenty of “maturity” in the players he plans on using. He likes the returning players and thinks the world of the new ones, including two true freshmen.

Junior guard Wayne Arnold and sophomore guard Vincent Lee are among the familiar faces. Arnold started 12 of 30 games in 2019-20 and averaged 8.8 points – fourth-best on the team – and Lee averaged 4.9 points while starting 16 of the 28 games in which he played.

“Our hope is that they can utilize their maturity and the things that we’ve asked them to do in the past, we’re going to continue to ask them to do those things and probably do even more,” Taylor said. “Along with Johnny Wang, who is one of two seniors that we have.

“We’re going to ask them to do even more from a leadership standpoint. Lead by example, but also produce even more.”

He doesn’t necessarily mean producing more points.

“I’m referencing producing more in terms of energy, in terms of effort, in terms of what our team needs to win day in and day out,” Taylor said.

“We’ve lost a great deal of our guys, but we lost those guys and I think we finished seventh, or sixth at best. So, technically we lost them, but we sucked.”

The Titans went 11-20 overall last season and their 6-10 conference record translated to a seventh-place finish. (The postseason conference tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.)

Wang, a 6-foot-9 forward, started 12 games last season and averaged 3.9 points and 2.6 rebounds.

As for the newcomers, Taylor likes true freshman guards Dante Maddox Jr. and Latrell Wrightsell Jr. Maddox played at Bloom High in Chicago Heights, Ill., a program that had four players from last season sign to play for Division I programs.

“So he’s used to being a part of a winning team,” Taylor said of Maddox.

Junior transfer Jalen Harris will play point guard. He prepped at Windward High in Los Angeles and was at Casper Community College the past two years.

“He’s a guy we are looking to from a leadership standpoint to provide us with that steadying, that calm voice, to kind of get us through the adversity and kind of get us through the good times, so to speak,” Taylor said.

Other newcomers to watch include junior college transfer Landis Spivey, a 6-5 junior guard/forward; junior college transfer Jalon Andrews, a 6-8 junior forward; and 6-6 junior guard Tray Maddox Jr., a Division I college transfer from Oakland (Mich.) University. Maddox averaged 9 points, 3 rebounds and 2.2 assists there last season.

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By Richard Moran

Richard Moran loves to write about sports with the Golden State Online. Before that, he worked as a senior writer at ESPN. Richard grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of San Diego in 2004, after which he worked as an editor for five years.

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