San Diego State Aztecs Men’s Basketball Season Preview

Credit: SDSU

On Friday night, San Diego State will open up their 2017-’18 season vs. San Diego Christian.

The game will signal the official start of new era for their program.

For the first time since 1998, Steve Fisher will not be coaching on the sidelines.

Longtime Aztec assistant Brian Dutcher will hold the title of head coach after being an assistant of Fisher’s for 18 years on the Mesa.


Quick Look:

Rank: unranked; picked to finish 2nd in preseason MWC poll (2 first place votes, 219 total).

2016 Record: 19-14 (9-9 in MWC play); lost 71-64 to CSU in MWC semis.

Head coach: Brian Dutcher

Associate head coach: Justin Hutson

Assistant to the head coach: Mark Fisher

Assistant coaches: Dave Velasquez, Tim Shelton


Returning players:

  • Trey Kell will enter his senior year having been named to the All-Mountain West preseason team for the second consecutive year. Per the Aztecs, he is only the third player in school history to have been given that honor in consecutive seasons. In 2016-’17, Kell registered career bests across the board; averaging 13.2 points, 4.9 boards, and 2.9 assists per game. He also ranked fifth in the conference in steals while playing the most minutes out of any player on the Aztecs roster.
  • Jeremy Hemsley had a solid sophomore season last year, scoring in double digits in 21 of his 32 games that he played in. He led the team twelve times in scoring, highlighted by a 28 point performance vs. Grand Canyon.
  • There were questions whether 6’10” Malik Pope would enter the NBA Draft following last season, but he decided to come back for his senior year. Hampered by a knee injury that caused him to miss a portion of the season, Pope averaged 11 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game. He shined brightest in the MW tournament, scoring 22 points and grabbing 10 boards in a quarterfinal win vs. Boise State. His semifinal performance was not too shabby either; as Pope poured in 18 points and recorded 5 rebounds.
  • Max Montana (formerly known as Max Hoetzel) also battled knee injuries a year ago, but he was a spark once healthy. In 22 games, Montana averaged 7.7 points while shooting nearly 35% from three. Like Pope, his best game of the season came in the MW quarterfinal vs. Boise State. He came off the bench to record 21 points (and five threes) in the contest. A healthy Montana will look to build on that performance this season.
  • Montaque Gil-Caesar played in 22 games, averaging 3.3 points and 1.8 rebounds. The 6’6” junior is entering his second season with the Aztecs.
  • Nolan Narain appeared in nine games as a redshirt freshman last year. The 6’10” forward averaged 6.1 minutes in those games.


  • Oceanside native Devin Watson transferred to San Diego State prior to last season from the University of San Francisco. However, due to NCAA rules, he had to sit out and undergo a redshirt season in 2016-’17. He will be making his SDSU debut as a fourth-year junior and is expected to be a key player in the Aztecs rotation. Watson averaged 20.3 points and 4.9 assists in his final year at USF. He was named first-team all West Coast Conference. In SDSU’s scrimmage vs. UCSD, Watson scored 13 points and was 6-7 from the charity stripe.

  • Freshman guard Adam Seiko did not play in SDSU’s scrimmage vs. UCSD. As a senior in high school last year, the Sierra Canyon High alum averaged 10.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals.
  • Redshirt freshman Jalen McDaniels played in both of SDSU’s exhibitions last year, but did not appear in a regular season game. The 6’10” forward will be playing in regular season action this year. He nearly recorded a double-double vs. UCSD (10 points, 8 rebounds).
  • True freshman Matt Mitchell averaged 25.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 3 assists in his senior year of high school, leading his team to the CIF D1 state title. He went 3/3 from three point range in the UCSD scrimmage, with two assists and two steals.

  • 6’ 6” guard Jordan Schakel led his Bishop Montgomery team to the 2017 CIF State Open Division Title as a senior in high school. The true freshman began his college career with a 3-3 performance vs. UCSD.
  • 7’2” big man Kameron Rooks is a graduate transfer from the University of California. Last season, he averaged 4.9 points and 4.5 rebounds for the Golden Bears.


Key games:

@ ASU (Nov. 14), Wooden Classic (Nov. 23-26), vs. Cal (Dec. 9), vs. Gonzaga (Dec. 21), @ Wyoming (conference play begins, Dec. 27), @ Nevada (Feb 10), vs. Nevada (Feb 3).


Three Points:

  • How will Brian Dutcher handle head coaching duties? After being an assistant at SDSU for 18 years and an assistant of Fisher’s for 28, Dutcher finally has the role he has waited so long to get. Replacing a legendary coach like Steve Fisher will be difficult, but Dutcher has been training quite a while for this job. Six years ago, with retirement in mind, Steve Fisher named him the “head coach in-waiting” at San Diego State. How Dutcher will handle game management and the ups and downs of the season remains to be seen, but he certainly cannot be more prepared for this.


  • SDSU must improve offensively. It sounds obvious, but to win, you have to put the ball in the basket. The Aztecs have to improve on their offensive efficiency numbers from last year if they want to make a run at the conference title. In 2016-’17, SDSU shot 41.6 percent from the field; which ranked them 299th out of 347 D1 teams. They also averaged 10.9 assists per game (324th) and shot 31.7 percent from three (318th). The Aztecs are hoping for improvement from their returning players, and also will be banking on newcomers such as Devin Watson to contribute and help improve the offense.


“We have so much parity among the 10 players who are playing (regularly) right now,” Dutcher said. “There’s heavy competition, so if I think you are playing well and the matchups are right, then you’ll have a chance to get in the starting lineup.”

As the season unfolds, of course some players are going to pull away from others due to talent level, injuries, and so on. But right now, the Aztecs feel like they have great depth; so much that Coach Dutcher still has not named a concrete starting lineup. It is a good problem to have.


Tipoff for Friday’s opener is scheduled for 7:00 PM PT at Viejas Arena.

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