Men's Basketball Hits the Road to Face FSU

Yuta Watanabe had 19 points, 11 rebounds and seven blocks in the season opener vs. Howard
Nov. 13, 2017

TIPPING OFF: The GW men's basketball team heads out on the road for the first time this season as it takes on Florida State on Tuesday night in Tallahassee. It's one of just two true road games in non-conference play for the Colonials, who also travel to Penn State on Dec. 9 and play two neutral site games, Nov. 23-24, as part of the Las Vegas Invitational.

LAST TIME OUT: Sparked by the aerial theatrics of graduate student forward Bo Zeigler, and an all-around impressive outing from senior Yuta Watanabe, GW opened the season with an 84-75 win over Howard Friday night at the Smith Center. Zeigler accounted for six dunks on the evening including three alley-oops to finish with 16 points off the bench. Watanabe played all 40 minutes, had a team-high 19 points and 11 boards for his second career double-double, and added a career-high seven blocks.

STRONG SCHEDULE: GW has a strong non-conference schedule which includes seven of 13 games against teams in Ken Pomeroy's top 100. After facing FSU (56th), the Colonials have dates with Xavier (21st), either K-State (34th) or Arizona State (98th), Temple (66th), Princeton (88th) Penn State (45th), and Miami (16th).

SOPHOMORE START: GW's two sophomore starters had impressive outings on Friday vs. Howard. Point guard Jair Bolden tallied a career-high 17 points, after he had gone for 21 in the exhibition win over Fairmont State. Arnaldo Toro approached a double-double in his 24 minutes of action vs. the Bison, totaling 11 points and eight rebounds, with five of those coming on the offensive end.

SERIES HISTORY: GW has lost all three meetings in the series, including a 67-48 setback last year in the BB&T Classic in Washington, when it was playing a back-to-back and was without Watanabe. This marks the Colonials' first trip to Tallahassee.

WHO'S BACK: GW has a pair of returning starters in Watanabe and Toro, and six total letterwinners from last season's squad which went 20-15 and reached the second round of the College Basketball Invitational (CBI). The Colonials will look for Watanabe to carry a heavier scoring load in his senior season. The 6-foot-9 guard averaged 12.2 points last year, second on the team to Tyler Cavanaugh, and figures to see a big increase in his 9.5 field goal attempts per game after Cavanaugh's graduation. A native of Kagawa, Japan, Watanabe is a lock-down defender who earned a spot on the 2016-17 A-10 All-Defensive Team and appears on the league's 2017-18 preseason All-Defensive Team. He was also named second team All A-10.

In addition to Watanabe and Toro, graduate student forward Patrick Steeves and sophomore guard Jair Bolden bring starting experience from a year ago. Steeves is a sixth-year collegiate player, and second-year graduate student, entering his final season of collegiate eligibility. The graduate of Harvard, who was limited to just one playing season with the Crimson due to a range of injuries, averaged 6.6 points and 2.9 rebounds in 27 games, 10 of them starts, last year. He played his best down the stretch, reaching double figures in scoring eight times in the last couple months. He'll look to find his shooting touch of old which saw him connect on 46% of his three-point attempts as a senior at Harvard. Bolden, meanwhile, played in all 35 games his rookie season, ranking fourth on the team with 66 assists. He earned a starting position in 16 of GW's final 17 games and scored in double figures four times during that stretch.

WHO'S NOT: GW will be tasked with replacing 62 percent of its scoring from a season ago. Cavanaugh is gone to graduation and the NBA's Atlanta Hawks after pacing the team with 18.3 points per game, and third-leading scorer Jaren Sina (9.0 ppg) elected to forego his final season of collegiate eligibility to play professionally overseas. Cavanaugh also led the team in rebounding (8.4 pg) and free throws (173-204, .848) while connecting at a .409 clip from three-point range.

NEW FACES: The Colonials welcome nine newcomers to the program this season, including four freshmen, one grad transfer, two sit-out transfers and two walk-ons. Among GW's newcomers, graduate transfer Bo Zeigler brings the most experience. The 6-foot-6 forward completed his undergraduate studies at South Florida where he played in 91 games over three seasons after redshirting as a freshman. In his final season for the Bulls, Zeigler made 14 starts while averaging 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds, also chipping in 40 assists, 21 steals and 19 blocks.

Of GW's four freshmen, three are guards. Justin Mazzulla was the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year for Bishop Hendricken and helped lead the school to two straight state titles. Terry Nolan Jr. earned first-team Baltimore Sun All-Metro honors after guiding Mount Carmel to a 29-11 season as a senior, when he averaged 17 points, six rebounds and five assists per game. Maceo Jack spent a postgrad season at St. Thomas More School following a standout prep career at Williamsville North in Buffalo, N.Y., where he averaged 24 points and seven rebounds as a senior.