Considering three-fifths of the Seattle University men’s basketball starting lineup transferred from Division I teams, you could make the argument coach Cameron Dollar has built a program that’s become a safe haven for second-chance hoopsters.
He doesn’t deny it.
In fact, the fifth-year coach has proudly invoked a “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” recruiting philosophy while assembling what he called the most depth since he took over in 2009.
But make no mistake, Dollar isn’t giving scholarships to charity cases.
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“This isn’t a rehab for wayward boys,” he said, laughing. “By no means am I Father Flanigan. We’re not doing that.
“But if you’re talking about quality kids that are looking for a different situation or are looking to being … used differently. Whether it be playing a little freer or playing for somebody who just understands them a little bit better, then yeah, I’m more than OK with that.”
The preseason attention surrounds fifth-year senior Clarence Trent, the former Washington Husky, who was tabbed a second-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection in a preseason poll of league coaches.
Dollar believes the 6-foot-6 wing, who averaged 9.8 points and 5.8 rebounds last season, has pro potential.
“His defense has taken the next step to where he’s grooming himself to be an NBA wing defender,” Dollar said. “I’m excited for him.”
Still, SU’s season will likely hinge on the performance of transfers Isiah Umipig and Emerson Murray, who comprise the Redhawks’ new backcourt.
The roommates sat out last year due to NCAA transfer rules and forged an unexpected friendship.
When the Redhawks were away for games, they stayed at home and worked out with a team strength coach. In practice, they simulated opposing teams, and the private joke on the Capitol Hill campus was SU’s scout squad was better than the starters because of Umipig and Murray.
“We’ve been through the grind together, and going through that with him made us a lot closer,” Murray said. “He can say anything he wants to me on the court because I know there’s a respect there.”
Umipig, the former Federal Way High star who led the Eagles to a 2009 4A state title, cemented their friendship when he invited Murray, a Vancouver, B.C., native, and his family to his grandmother’s house for Thanksgiving dinner last year.
“We had a great time at Zeke’s house,” Murray said. “He’s like my brother. We talk about and joke about that all the time. His uncle is hilarious. His grandparents are so funny. It was just a lot of laughs.
“It was my parents’ first time having Thanksgiving here. They definitely enjoyed themselves. They always talk about it. The fact that he was that welcoming and I only knew him a couple of months, that says a lot about him and says a lot about his family.”
Said Umipig: “The thing I learned about him is that we have the same values and morals. We have a lot of things in common.”
For instance, both are looking for a fresh start with the Redhawks, who finished last in the Western Athletic Conference last season (8-22, 3-15 in league) partly because of an inept offense that averaged 65.6 points and 18.2 turnovers.
Umipig, a 6-foot, 195-pound junior, averaged 13.5 points at Cal State Fullerton two years ago and was an honorable-mention All-Big West selection. In 2010-11, he was named the conference’s sixth man of the year. Meanwhile, Murray, a 6-3, 195-pound junior, played two seasons at Cal and was a backup on the Golden Bears’ 2012 NCAA tournament squad.
“We needed more shooters and we needed to handle the ball better,” Dollar said. “We addressed both of those areas, so I’m expecting much better results all across the board.”
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @percyallen