Sheila Sobchik

Cal Poly’s men’s basketball team was recently picked fourth by the media and sixth by coaches in recent Big West Conference preseason polls.

Despite such humble rankings, the Mustangs have high expectations for the upcoming 2006-07 season.

Cal Poly finished with a 10-19 overall record while posting a 7-7 record in conference play last year.

However, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic.

For starters, the Mustangs are returning 84 percent of their scoring from the previous year, the most in the conference.

It doesn’t hurt to have leading scorer Derek Stockalper back either. The 6-foot-5-inch senior forward averaged 12.9 points per game last year and was named to All-Big West first team. Head coach Kevin Bromley expects to play Stockalper exclusively at the small forward and power forward positions, although he did play some shooting guard last year.

“(Stockalper) can play the two, three or four,” Bromley said. “He’s a complete player.”

Bromley cited Stockalper’s post play in addition to his ability to shoot the ball as a conduit for matchup nightmares.

“(Stockalper) presents a problem for most teams because he can post most threes up, but he’s quick enough to get around most fours,” Bromley said.

Returning with Stockalper is shooting guard Dawin Whiten. The 6-3 senior led the Mustangs in steals (26) and three-point field goals made with 64.

Bromley also expects big things from sophomore pivot Titus Shelton. Despite being a freshman last year, the 6-7 forward played in 17 games and averaged 5.2 points per contest. Bromley expects those numbers to rise this year.

The biggest surprise of Bromley’s evaluation of his team is the fact that he placed frontcourt depth at the forefront of strengths for the 2006-07 team.

“We’re big and very athletic up front,” Bromley said. “I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do this year.”

This is news considering the Mustangs also return sophomore guards Trae Clark (8.3 points per game) and Chaz Thomas (7.7 ppg) in addition to Whiten.

The biggest revelation in the frontcourt could come in the form of Coby Leavitt.

The 6-9 sophomore missed a bit of time with injuries last year but came on strong at season’s end.

Bromley describes Leavitt as young, athletic and very exciting.

“He’s someone who can make plays above the rim,” Bromley said. “He had five blocks in a scrimmage the other day. He’ll be fun to watch.”

The sixth-year head coach also stressed the fact that the league is wide open right now, as opposed to the last couple of years, in which Pacific has been dominant.

“(Pacific) lost a lot people,” Bromley said. “There’s nobody who really scares me this year.”

Despite the losses, Bromley still voted the Tigers No. 1 in the poll out of “sheer respect.”

Bromley cited the need to carry momentum in order for the Mustangs to attain the goal of being at the top of the conference at the end of the year.

The Mustangs open the season Nov. 10 against Southeast Louisiana at the Oregon State Tournament.

Cal Poly begins home play against Big West foe Cal State Fullerton on Nov. 20.

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