College

Friday, Sep 27 2013 11:21 PM

Roadrunners start prepping for first season in WAC

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    By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

    Rod Barnes takes his CSUB basketball team through practice in this file photo.

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BY JEFF EVANS Californian staff writer jevans@bakersfield.com

October is a few days away and there was third-year Cal State Bakersfield basketball coach Rod Barnes barking out instructions and techniques to his club.

Friday marked the first official basketball practice for the Roadunners, who begin a new era this season -- their first year as a member of the Western Athletic Conference.

A Division I independent since moving from NCAA Division II status in 2007, the Roadrunners went 14-16 last season.

Gone is Stephon Carter, the Garces High product who was a senior last season when he set CSUB's career scoring record.

But back are two key players from two seasons ago who were injury redshirts last season, senior guards Issiah Grayson and Zach Lamb, who were sidelined with knee and ankle injuries, respectively.

In previous years, the NCAA did not allow teams to officially begin basketball practices until mid-October, allowing teams 30 practices in 30 days before a season opens.

But the NCAA kicked that back to 30 practices in 45 days before the season opener this year, which allows -- in theory -- more days off from the practice grind.

CSUB's opener is an exhibition game on Saturday, Nov. 2, vs. Occidental College in the Icardo Center at 7 p.m. The official opener is Friday, Nov. 8, at Washington State. The official home opener is Monday, Nov. 11, vs. UC Merced, another 7 p.m. game in the Icardo Center.

CSUB's 16-player team was going full speed in Friday's opening practice.

The Roadrunners have the most size they've ever had with five players listed at 6-foot-8 or taller. Junior center Zach Smith, who sat out last year as a redshirt, is the tallest at 6-foot-11. Junior Abdul Ahmed is 6-10.

This promises to be Barnes' best team in his three CSUB seasons and the best squad in the Roadrunners' Division I era.

Carter averaged 15.9 points per game last season and those points should be divided among many players, returning and new.

Brandon Barnes, the coach's son, was CSUB's second-leading scorer (12.1) and returns for his senior year.

Some of the newcomers who are expected to make immediate impacts are 6-6 senior forward Stefon Johnson (transfer from Gardner Webb), junior guard Tyrell Corbin (Salt Lake City CC), 6-9 center-forward Ay Ahmed (Egypt), center Abdul Ahmed (Trinity Valley CC, Texas) and center Smith (Howard College, Texas).

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