Arcata >> New faces, new mindset, a return to the same kind of success of years past as a result?Things will be a little bit different for the Humboldt State men’s basketball team this season. That’s not just because the Jacks have some fresh new threads to wear on game day or that there’s a new crew of assistant coaches on the bench.There are plenty of new faces to be seen and to learn about beyond who’s sitting next to head coach Steve Kinder — much more in the previous two or three seasons as the Jacks were building a new foundation. And those new players, nine in all, will get their first taste of wearing the Humboldt State jersey at the Disney Tip-Off Classic in Anaheim, with the Jacks officially opening their 2017-18 campaign tonight against Palm Beach Atlantic.“It’s a huge test early,” Kinder said earlier this week. “Those teams have been nationally ranked in the last couple years and they come in with strong programs, great players. It’ll be a tough matchup regardless of whether it’s in March or just after Halloween. Our returners are ready, our new players are prepared and we’re excited about the trip down there that not only puts us in a national spotlight as far as Division II basketball, but is a chance to get some good competition early and find out where we’re at.” Humboldt State’s core that seemingly grown up together isn’t as plentiful as it was, with nearly an entire new starting backcourt set to be debuted this weekend.The only player from last season’s team with any kind of all-conference recognition is junior guard Tyras Rattler Jr., who’s the Jacks’ top returning scorer from a year ago.Rattler Jr. will be a starter, surely. Same goes for junior forward Calvin Young II, who is now in his second season off major knee surgery and will be an even bigger key to HSU’s success on both ends of the floor.“It’s definitely a huge transition when you lose as many players as we did and gain as many players as we did,” Young II said. “We’re still working on our chemistry on and off the court. Off the court, I think, we’re pretty while on the court we’re still working on it. We’ve only had two exhibition games and obviously started practicing on Oct. 15, so we’re just practicing and trying to get into that game flow.“After this tournament, I think we’ll have a sense of what we are as a team — which is a defensive team — and hopefully the nine new faces can help us be a more competitive team.”Kinder said that he’s still trying to figure out a concrete starting lineup.But no matter who that might end up being, it’s pretty easy to figure out what needs to be done.Humboldt enter the season this time last year with big-time expectations. The Jacks had made their long-awaited return to the West Regionals after winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association Postseason Tournament in Stockton.And not only were the expectations high amongst those who play their ball at Lumberjack Arena, but also from those not associated with the program since HSU was picked to finish third last season’s coaches poll.The end product: 13-16 overall record, 7-13 conference record.For the talent they had, it was a disappointing result.Now, with all but Rattler Jr. left from the starting lineup that beat UC San Diego in the CCAA tourney title game 18 months ago, the Jacks look to establish a new kind of identity, and like Young II said, one with more of a defensive twist.On paper, at least, it’s easy to understand why.So much of Humboldt’s success can be created in getting stops, getting in transition and turning its defense into offense.“You’re going to see Lumberjack basketball. You’re going to see up-tempo ball and I think the one thing you’ll notice is the thing that [new assistant coach Rich Mendoza] has brought to the program and that’s a defensive mindset,” Kinder said. “We’re going to do a better job protecting the paint, stay out of foul yet still pressure like Lumberjack basketball does. We want to create more of our offense off our defensive efforts — that is a goal of ours. Hopefully we’ll see a little bit of that this weekend down at Disney.”Knowing that, after this weekend, there’s only one more game to play before the CCAA opener against Chico State at Lumberjack Arena on Saturday, Nov. 18, getting on an early-season roll can be oh-so-desired for this team.It could breed confidence for the nine players adjusting to the Division II level.And, in turn, show the returners that their new teams can hang against quality competition.One weekend won’t be the be-all, end-all for this Jacks season, obviously. But with three games against three quality opponents and another one coming into town just two weeks from now, having this new-look team starting things off on the right foot might be as important as ever.Contact Danny Penza at 707-441-0528 Huge tests Friday, Saturday and Sunday, yes.Plenty of basketball to be played with three games in less than three days’ time, yes.But the main thing is that we get to see what this new-look team has to offer against some rather quality competition in a short amount of time.Mainstays from the past two seasons have left the program. It’s not because their respective eligibility had run out.Malik Morgan is now at Western Oregon. Nikhil Lizotte is now at Seattle Pacific. Each player from HSU’s recruiting class entering the 2016-17 season is no longer on the roster.
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