Road to Tip-Off: SDSU Backcourt

Darrion Trammell, Lamont Butler, and Elijah Saunders enjoy a laugh before SDSU's practice. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

Darrion Trammell, Adam Seiko, and Lamont Butler are the only scholarship players in SDSU’s backcourt. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

Every great basketball team needs an exceptional leader, a floor general. As the facilitator of the offense, a team’s point guard is often its most important player. Even when SDSU had Kawhi Leonard, the engine of that Sweet Sixteen team was point guard DJ Gay. For San Diego State to reach its lofty goals in 2022, the Aztecs will need the men up top to excel in all facets of the game.

Last season’s team had disappointing guard play for multiple reasons. Returning senior Trey Pulliam missed time due to illness and took weeks to regain his rhythm. Lamont Butler sat out as he healed from a wrist injury and dealt with personal matters during the season. When they returned, both players struggled to find their shooting touch until the season’s final stretch. Adam Seiko was the most consistent shooter on the wing, but he doesn’t possess the qualities of a ball-dominant point guard.

Pulliam and Butler’s play styles also clashed. Both guards needed the ball in their hands to be effective. Pulliam’s lack of an outside jumper did not allow him to play off the ball, so Butler did not receive as many opportunities to operate in the pick-and-roll. Butler’s shooting struggles made playing off-ball more challenging for him as well.

This year’s SDSU team should see an upgrade in their backcourt. Seiko is back for a fifth year on the court and sixth in the program. Butler and transfer Darrion Trammell should be able to play more of the positionless style Brian Dutcher prefers. They both will work off-ball and in the pick and roll. It should make SDSU’s offense less predictable and give Dutcher multiple options to attack opposing defenses. 

Coach JayDee Luster. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

This is the first of the East Village Times 2022-2023 Aztecs season preview. EVT’s staff broke SDSU’s roster into three groups: backcourt, frontcourt, and in-between. Since the Aztecs do not employ traditional roles, this division of the players is arbitrary and done only for clarity and organization. 

SDSU assistant coach JayDee Luster sat down for an exclusive interview. He provided insight for this review of the roster. There is a quote from coach Luster about each Aztec on the team. 

 

 

 

2       Adam Seiko G          6’3    210 pounds          Senior (Fifth year)

2021-2022 stats: 5.3 points per game, 2.0 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 23.5 minutes per game.

The story of Adam Seiko is as a “three and D” role player. He shot over 40% from three last season and has played exceptional defense in all four years on the Mesa.  He is looking to change this narrative. Seiko said on an episode of the SDSU Basketball podcast, “this upcoming year, I plan to be more aggressive. Everyone is always telling me to be more aggressive.”

Adam Seiko warming up.
Credit Don De Mars/EVT

Due to Seiko’s experience and personality, he is a leader on the team. He has been around for all of Coach Brian Dutcher’s MW championship appearances. His veteran expertise was exhibited in the MW tournament last season as he was a vocal leader on the court, and he scored double digits in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals.

As he said on the podcast, he will do what it takes to help the team win. This was illustrated last season when he played the point guard position against UNLV as Pulliam and Butler were both sidelined. He logged a career-high 38 minutes and led SDSU to a victory.

JayDee Luster quote:

“The best programs are player driven, and our program is definitely player driven. Our older guys, our veterans, the guys that have been in the program from Nathan Mensah to AG to Adam Seiko, they set the standard. They set the tone. They usually lead in practice as far as when we do drills. They are the first ones out to show how it’s done. That’s really the (leadership) role for Adam is to continue to do that and continue to pass our culture in the way we do things on to the younger guys.”

4       Jared Barnett  G      6’1    155 pounds   Senior

2021-2022 stats: 0.5 points per game, 0.3 rebounds, 0.1 assists,

Barnett is on the scout team and has not seen much game time. He played in only eight games last season, usually to drain out the clock when the victor was clear. But he was ready for his moment when he was given important minutes against UNLV because Pulliam and Butler were both sidelined.

Jared Barnett enjoying the first day of practice. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

The impact Barnett makes comes away from the spotlight. He is a difference-maker on the scout team and is given praise from both his coaches and teammates. His effort in the shadows has had lasting effects on the state of the SDSU team. But as he mentioned on the SDSU podcast, he is working to increase his minutes and is always ready for his opportunity.

JayDee Luster quote:

“Jared is a guy who’s got extremely better. He’s made a lot of strides in just the year that I’ve been here. He’s a pleasure to be around. I love being around him. I love seeing him every day. His role is to be ready when the opportunity presents itself. Our team is deep, so Cade (Alger) and Jared’s role is to be like a pro.”

“When you’re a pro, whether you’re the last guy on the bench or the first guy coming off the bench, you got to be ready when your number is called. And that means doing the right things every day. That means still working out. That means treating practice like games and just being ready when that number is called. That’s Jared’s role, and he’s a star in that role.”

5       Lamont Butler          G      6’2    195 pounds Junior

2021-2022 stats: 7.3 points per game, 2.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.7 steals

Last season, Butler was primed for a sophomore jump. He averaged almost 10 points per game before breaking his wrist against Long Beach State. After missing over a month, the team shut down for COVID-19, which delayed his ability to regain his rhythm. Then he dealt with serious personal matters with a death in his family.

Lamont Butler drives to the basket. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

In the final 18 games of the season, he was only in double figures twice. But when the lights were the brightest, he showed what he was capable of. In the Mountain West Championship game against Boise State, he scored 16 points and went 3-for-3 from beyond the arc.

His scoring might have been down, but his defense was elite as he was selected to the Mountain West All-Defensive team. Due to his tremendous athleticism and his skillset on both ends of the floor, the expectations are that he will be a leader on this year’s Aztec team.

All indications are he has made substantial strides forward this offseason. With two years of experience under his belt, he is maturing on offense.

One concern in Butler’s game has been his ability to finish at the rim. To improve in this area, Butler is incorporating jumping off two feet when attempting a layup. When a player leaps off one foot, contact from the opposition forces the body to spin a little, making the shot a lot tougher. If Butler can master the technique, his size and athleticism should give him more control with his body and a greater ability to finish through contact. 

JayDee Luster quote:

“To me, Lamont has taken one of the biggest strides on this roster over the summer. He’s shooting the ball at a high level right now. He’s playing a lot more under control, playing with a lot more pace, playing off two feet. I think he’s going to make tremendous strides. He’s always been very athletic for his position, one of the fastest guys on the court.  Defensively, he’s a stud. He and Nate (Mensah) are really unbelievable. Those are the two areas he’s made the biggest strides in shooting and decision-making right now.”

10     Cam Lawin  G          6’3    175 pounds   Freshman

Cam “Full-Clip” Lawin is a two-star non-scholarship recruit from Chicago. In his senior season, he averaged 12.4 points and shot 40% from the three-point line. His skill set is lacing it up from beyond the arc. Last season he attempted 188 threes compared to only 45 two-point attempts. He shoots well in any and all situations.

Cam Lawin has an elite shot. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

He is only a freshman, and as all Aztec players know, his role on the team will be defined in practice. Lawin most likely will not get frequent opportunities in his first year, but elite shooting will always find its way on the court.

 JayDee Luster quote:

“He’s a really good shooter. That’s his elite skill set. He can really shoot the ball, whether off the catch or off the bounce. He’s a freshman, so when you come into San Diego State as a freshman, it’s extremely hard. … Cam, right now, is finding his way, but he’s a good shooter.” 

 

 

12     Darrion Trammell          G      5’10  175 pounds          Senior

2021-2022 stats (Seattle): 17.3 points per game, 3.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.5 steals

Fans did not have to look far to recognize the issue with last year’s Aztec team. It was a lack of scoring. With Pulliam graduating, SDSU needed a guard to fill the void with potentially more offensive firepower. Brian Dutcher and his staff went out and acquired Trammell, who scored in double figures in all about three games last season. In his final game at Seattle, he scored 39 points.

Darrion Trammell practices the pick and roll with Demarshay Johnson. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

The knock on him is his size. He is only 5’10, but he has adapted his game to score amongst the trees. He is creative with step-back jumpers and floaters. He can score at all three levels. He also excels as a scorer off the ball. This will be a change in the Aztec backcourt as Pulliam needed the ball in his hands to be effective. In addition to his scoring, he also fits the Aztec culture with his defensive abilities. He made the WAC All-Defensive team last year. Combined with Butler, SDSU is expected to have a lethal backcourt on both ends of the floor.

JayDee Luster quote:

“He’s an underrated passer. He’s a better passer than you might have seen at Seattle. Some of that was his role at Seattle. He had to average 19 points a game for them to win. And they did. They won their league. Now that he’s around better players – and no disrespect to the guys at Seattle U – because of the talent that he’s surrounded by here, you’re going to be able to see his ability to pass the ball. That’s something that people haven’t really got to see how well of a passer he is.”

Triston Broughton goes to work against Adam Seiko. Credit Don De Mars/EVT

42     Triston Broughton  G      6’4    190 pounds   Junior

2021-2022 stats: 0.0 points per game, 0.3 assists per game, four games played

0.0 points per game. That may seem very unimpressive. But the fact that he did not score last season or in his entire collegiate career may be Broughton’s most notable trait.

Broughton is a non-scholarship athlete who makes his name in practice. His duty is to prepare his teammates through the scout team, where he must mirror the opponent’s skill sets. He takes pride in the work that he puts in behind the scenes. He is a team-first player. It’s a testament to him for not scoring because when he finally gets his opportunity in a game, he is not forcing up shots. Even if the game is out of reach, he makes plays that are in the best interest of the team.

This offseason, he says he’s working for a larger role. But regardless of his spot on the team, he gives his all.


JayDee Luster quote:

“(Triston and Tyler) are both everyday guys. They bring incredible energy and incredible passion. They’re selfless. Whatever the team needs, they provide. These dudes are good players, really good players. The product that you see on the floor they’re a huge part of that. When we scrimmage and do certain things at practice, these dudes give our guys everything they can handle. Their role cannot be undervalued because what they bring every day is critical to our success and what we do. As a staff, we appreciate the twins. We appreciate Cade. We appreciate Jared Barnett. And cannot say enough how valuable those guys are.” 

(Visited 1,521 times, 1 visits today)
Austin Tarke on Twitter
Austin Tarke
Class of 2022 at San Diego State University. Communication major and pursuing a sports journalism profession. Season ticket holder of the SDSU MBB team since 2011. Fondest memory of Viejas Arena is Aztec legend, Dwayne Polee sparking a 19-1 run over New Mexico to win the MW Conference in 2014.

1 thought on “Road to Tip-Off: SDSU Backcourt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *