Northridge, Calif- Coach Mark Gottfried has expressed patience in his first year with the Matadors and much of his time has gone towards teaching and reteaching.
CSUN (3-6) is experiencing a culture shock after five seasons with Reggie Theus that saw the team go from being in the Big West title game to being one of the laughing stocks of college basketball. With seven games remaining before conference play begins, the Matadors have shown steady signs of growth despite its record.
It’s not to say that CSUN is anywhere close to contending for a conference title. Freshmen Lamine Diane and Darius Brown all have huge upside. Both are talented scorers and have maintained their level-headedness even after suffering bad losses to University of San Diego and Sacramento State.
With finals this week, here are some early season grades for players:
Lamine Diane has been the Matadors main catalyst offensively. Photo by Shae Hammond
Lamine Diane- Grade: A- Diane came into the spotlight for CSUN being a highly touted player from Findlay Prep and has excelled as a forward with the ability to stretch as a guard. Diane has a strong upper body and can score at will through contact. He is averaging 25.6 points per game and is shooting 49.7 percent from the field. On that note, Diane is also averaging roughing two turnovers per game and hasn’t found his identity on the defensive end. That’s not just on Diane but on the whole team with CSUN allowing opponents to score 83.4 points. Diane to his credit has shown progression as a leader. With Gottfried along with former UCLA coach Jim Harrick and NBA all-star Mo Williams on CSUN’s bench, Diane’s game is becoming more diverse.
Terrell Gomez- Grade- B+ Gomez is the quiet leader that has guided CSUN that last few seasons and is now allowing him to be his own player. That’s by transitioning from being a traditional pass first point guard towards a perimeter threat. Gomez has been efficient on the offensive end and is averaging 18.1 PPG while shooting 46.7 percent from the field. Defensively Gomez will always have trouble guarding bigger men, but the Matadors inability to stop teams from scoring has a collective issue.
Darius Brown-Grade-A- Brown’s early success may seem like a surprise but for those having watched him play since high school, he’s simply continuing where he left off during his four years at Pasadena. Brown’s game is all about being fundamentally sound. Scoring 16-to-17 feet from the basket and running an offense while maintaining a strong defensive presence. Brown is leading CSUN in steals and has an unwavering pressure. After suffering a 20-point loss to Sacramento State, Brown has made a vow to help his team turn the corner.
Overall grade: B- The turn around of CSUN will take half a season before the results will finally show. A group that just one season from last year Blair Orr who played limited minutes. If the Matadors can manage to play better collectively on defense, the team could make an unexpected run in the Big West. But the continuity has to come. Given Gottfried’s ability to turn struggling programs around, there’s huge reason for optimism. How long the change will occur is entirely up to the players.
Written by Ethan Hanson