New on the Block
By Aaron Walling
Sun Star Reporter
UAF opened their recruiting period with four new players signing on to play for the men’s basketball team. The team signed a guard, a forward and two power forwards with aspirations of improving their less than stellar record of seven wins and 19 losses. The team normally is in the playoff contention, but after NCAA violations last year, the Nanooks were left picking up the pieces. The four players are all juniors, Jalen Dupree, Zach Pederson, Bangaly Kaba and Neal Chavez.
“I believe their best basketball is ahead of them and that they bring very solid academic credentials to Alaska,” Mick Durham, men’s basketball coach, said in a press release. Dupree is a junior guard from Napa Valley College in California who brings a knack for filling up the stat sheet. The former Storm player averaged 10 points, four rebounds and three assists per game last season. Dupree’s is also connected with another former Vallejo High and Nanook star, Joe Slocum. “I think (Slocum) had a big influence on me,” Dupree said in an interview with Times-Herald’s Matt O’Donnell. “Coming from the same Vallejo High program, we have a similar style of play. I asked him about the vibe of the school and the program.”
Dupree also brings a 3.7 GPA to the Nanooks who will have Dupree paired with seniors Ashton Edwards and Joe Slocum. He has the opportunity to learn behind two great guards in Edwards and Slocum who have a blend of both offense and defense. Jalen Dupree has the chance to also continue the great legacy of California guards to star for the Nanooks like former Nanook, Ronnie Baker. Coming to the Nanooks is also the 6’4’’ combo forward, Neal Chavez from the College of Marin in California. The former Mariner averaged four points per game, two rebounds per game and two assists this past season. Chavez might want to mirror the three-point prowess of fellow Nanook guard, Ashton Edwards.
Chavez shot a modest 33 percent from behind the arc last year, compared to Edwards who shot a 38 percent. That may not seem a big difference, but Edwards also had a flair for theatrics who knocked down threes at big moments during games. Also, Chavez can lockdown on defense against top offenses in the tough GNAC. “Neal is a wing player that will be able to defend against the bigger wings in our conference,” Durham said in a press release. Now to one of our power forwards, 6’5’’ Zach Pederson. Pederson comes from Edmonds Community College, in Washington, where he led his team to the NWAC championship game.
Pederson brings a diverse blend in his game, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds per game last year. However, the most important part of his game is his work on the offensive glass, grabbing 3.45 offensive rebounds per game. This is important for the Nanooks because he will paired with other big forwards, Almir Hadzisehovic and Isaac Ladines as they look to improve their rebound numbers.
The Nanooks finished seventh in the GNAC in rebounding out of ten teams this year. The other player is Bangaly Kaba from Tohono O’ Odham Community College, in Arizona. Kaba finished the season averaging eight points and four rebounds. Kaba is strong player down low standing at 6’5’’, and his former coach Matthew Vargas put it right about Kaba’s abilities for being so young in a recent press release for UAF. “Bangaly is one of those kids who you just know is going to wake up one day and be absolute beast of a basketball player. He has accomplished so much academically and on the court that you forget he just turned 19.”
Nanook fans should be excited for the upcoming season, because they get four new players, the return of players like Ashton Edwards, and highly anticipated return of senior Joe Slocum, who sat out last season.