Season previews are fun to write up. This is especially true in late July. There are still a lot of unknowns. And with the influx of newcomers to a squad, there are questions aplenty. For the GCU men’s basketball team, it is no different.
Following a loss to New Mexico State in the WAC semifinals, there was quite a bit of roster turnover. Leading scorer Holland Woods is gone due to graduation. Taeshon Cherry moved on via the transfer portal. Dima Zdor took his talents to South Texas to join the UTRGV Vaqueros. Liam Lloyd, Jayden Stone and Jalen Blackmon all transferred to various other schools.
And the high-flying Sean Miller-Moore also departed due to graduation.
But, even with all the departures, head coach Bryce Drew might also argue that he has arguably the most experienced team in the WAC. All-WAC guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. is back. Experienced big man Gabe McGlothan returns. Sophomore guard Chance McMillian is back again after coming on strong in mid-February. Add in a pair of big men in Aidan Igiehon and Yvan Ouedraogo and the cupboard isn’t all that bare. Even the wild and crazy Walt Ellis returns for the Lopes.
And in the offseason, Drew and his staff added more experience to the roster. Four Division I transfers will don the purple and white. Drew brought in an athletic scorer, two Power 6 transfers, and another hometown kid. Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding the Lopes once again.
So let’s take a look at the 2022-23 version of the GCU men’s basketball team.
At Grand Canyon:
2021-22 Season Record:
Lost to New Mexico State in the WAC semifinals
Holland Woods – Graduated
Sean Miller-Moore – Graduated
Taeshon Cherry – Transferred to Marian University
Dima Zdor – Transferred to UTRGV
Jayden Stone – Transferred to Detroit Mercy
Jalen Blackmon – Transferred to Stetson
Josh Baker 6-4, Jr, Transfer (UNLV)
Noah Baumann 6-6, Gr, Transfer (Georgia)
Isaiah Carr 6-11, Fr, Las Cruces
Rayshon Harrison 6-4, So, Transfer (Presbyterian)
Logan Landers 6-9, So, Transfer (Kansas State)
Derrick Michael Xzavierro 6-9, Fr, NBA Global Academy
Jovan Blacksher Jr. 5-11, Jr, G
Walt Ellis 6-5, Sr, G
Aidan Igiehon 6-10, Jr, F
Gabe McGlothan 6-7, R-Jr, F
Chance McMillian 6-3, So, G
Yvan Ouedraogo, 6-9, Jr, F
Projected Starting Lineup:
1 – Jovan Blacksher Jr.
2 – Rayshon Harrison
3 – Noah Baumann
4 – Gabe McGlothan
5 – Yvan Ouedraogo
Whenever a team have a floor leader like Jovan Blacksher Jr., it takes a huge load off a coach’s shoulders. Since his time at GCU, Blacksher Jr. has started all 85 games he has played in. Add that stat to the fact he plays 33.4 minutes per game. Not to shabby to have a floor leader with that much experience. And Blacksher Jr. has increased his offensive production every season. In 2021-22, the junior guard averaged a career-best 15.8 points per game while also dishing out 124 assists.
Due to a lack of scoring threats in 2021-22, Blacksher Jr. had to adjust his role and become more of a scorer. He never missed a beat in the transition. And his basketball I.Q. is off the charts.
The big question now is: what will he do for an encore? With the depth the Lopes have on paper, keep an eye on Blacksher Jr. as a candidate for WAC Player of the Year.
On paper, GCU looks to be very good once again. Rayshon Harrison is a proven scorer at the Division I level. Noah Baumann is a sharpshooter. Josh Baker has length and athleticism. Logan Landers and Isaiah Carr add more depth in the paint. And these are just the transfers that Bryce Drew and his staff brought in. Harrison averaged over 17 points per game at Presbyterian in 2021-22. And, Harrison was the Big South Freshman of the Year two seasons ago.
Baumann started 20 games in the SEC last season, averaging 8.1 points and 3.5 rebounds. Along with those numbers, Baumann shot nearly 41 percent from 3-point land. Baker averaged 3.9 points, 1.4 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 25 games at UNLV last season. Landers saw action in 11 games at Kansas State and comes to GCU with three years of eligibility left. And per Bryce Drew, Las Cruces native Isaiah Carr adds size and depth to an already experienced group of big men at GCU.
Now, we have just focused on the transfers. But the returners will be key for the Lopes, especially the big men.
The Big Men Effect
If you were unable to watch GCU play in 2021-22, you probably won’t understand the sentiment regarding the big men.
But, if Yvan Ouedraogo and Aidan Igiehon have improved their offensive game in the offseason, watch out for GCU. These two big men are strong and willing to body up their opponents. They are also extremely athletic and can defend the rim and paint. The biggest thing lacking in 2021-22 was their offensive output. But, both players were able to play with their respective International teams this offseason. According to Bryce Drew, Ouedraogo is in the best shape of his life and Igiehon got valuable experience and he is excited for his two big men.
Add in these two with returner Gabe McGlothan and you have a really deep group of big men. But, like it was stated, if GCU wants to go back to the promise land as it did in 2020-21, Ouedraogo and Igiehon have to be better offensively.
GCU will play Conference USA regular season champion North Texas in the Jerry Colangelo Classic. That is a neutral site game at the Footprint Center in Phoenix. The Lopes will also head to Kansas City Nov. 21-22 to play in the Hall of Fame Classic against either Wichita State, Northern Iowa, or San Francisco.
According to Bryce Drew, the Lopes wanted to challenge themselves in the nonconference slate to prepare them for WAC play.