Mountain West Basketball Profile: San Jose State Spartans
San Jose State continues its rebuilding process in year two under Jean Prioleau
Newcomers hope to energize a struggling San Jose State program
Next in our Mountain West basketball preview series is San Jose State. The Spartans, which won just one conference game last year, had to say goodbye to its top three players in the spring due to transfer. A handful of newcomers will look to turn things around.
Projected Starting Lineup
- G, Brae Ivey, Jr., 6-2, 185
- G, Kaison Hammonds, Fr., 6-4, 170
- G, Noah Baumann, So., 6-5, 180
- F, Craig LeCesne, Jr., 6-9, 225
- F, Oumar Barry, Sr., 6-11, 230
Player To Watch
Noah Baumann enjoyed a successful first season in San Jose and will look to carry the positive momentum into year two. Baumann is an elite perimeter offensive threat, knocking down 40 of his 87 three-point attempts last season. The 44.6 percent shooting mark against Division-I opponents was good for 47th in the country. Don’t be surprised if Baumann’s workload increases significantly this winter as San Jose State will rely upon the Phoenix native for his much-needed shooting stroke.
Oumar Barry, San Jose State’s leading returning scorer at 5.8 points per game, will be called upon for veteran leadership and on-court production. The Spartans lack quite a deal of both after its trio of Ryan Welage, Keith Fisher III, and Jaycee Hillsman all opted to transfer out of the program in the spring. Barry is a DePaul transfer who converted 66 percent of his attempts at the rim last season, but averaged just 0.94 points per possession. His effectiveness on both ends of the floor will be hugely important to San Jose State.
It’s not often San Jose State lands a rated recruit, but that is the case in three-star guard Kaison Hammonds. The Colorado native committed in May after averaging 15.7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 3.1 assists in his senior year of high school. Hammonds figures to be SJSU’s most capable bucket-getter and offensive creator in the backcourt. The son of longtime pro Tom Hammonds could very well lead Jean Prioleau’s team in scoring this season.
Biggest Question Mark
When asked what San Jose State needs to improve upon to rebound from the ’17-18 season, head coach Jean Prioleau immediately pointed towards ball security and efficiency on offense. SJSU’s defense wasn’t all that terrible, ranking 227th nationally in adjusted points per possession allowed. On offense, though, the Spartans were 329th in adjusted points per possession and 349th in turnover percentage. Simply getting quality shot attempts on the offensive end will be the focus early on for San Jose State, as it can’t afford to be plagued by turnovers possession after possession. Converting over 36 percent of its three-pointers as a team (103rd in the country) last year is a solid building block.
Marquee Non-Conference Matchup
A three-game road trip against quality West Coast competition will test the young Spartans. San Jose State will be the away team against Stanford (12/18), California (12/21) and Saint Mary’s (12/29). Though it’s the only non-Pac-12 school of the bunch, Saint Mary’s is likely in for the strongest season in ’18-19. The Gaels bring back All-WCC hopeful Jordan Ford (11.1 points per game) and welcome Seattle transfer Aaron Menzies, a 7-3 center who nearly averaged a double-double as a junior.
San Jose State ranked 349th nationally last season in offensive turnover percentage. The Spartans turned the ball over on nearly a quarter of their possessions (23.5 percent).
Offensive Production Chart
Thirty Second Breakdown
This team just isn’t good. Jean Prioleau inherited one of the toughest rebuilding jobs in the nation when he took over for the departed Dave Wojcik, who did all he could just to muster 14 wins in 2017. It’s going to take a while for the puzzle pieces to fit, though, and this year’s class of newcomers should help provide a bit of foundation for the short future. Losing the team’s top two or three players every spring makes it that much more challenging when trying to elevate a program that hasn’t appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 1996. It could be the fourth time in six years that San Jose State wins no more than one conference game.
Predicted Order of Finish
Eli Boettger is the lead basketball writer at Mountain West Wire. He’s covered Mountain West basketball since 2015 and his work has been featured on Bleacher Report, NBC Sports, SB Nation, Yahoo Sports, MSN, and other platforms. Boettger is a current USBWA member.