Credit: Diego Rivera | Mustang News

Going into his second season as the Cal Poly Men’s Basketball head coach, John Smith has added seven freshmen to his roster. Smith said he is confident in the talent and potential in his first recruiting class with the Mustangs going forward. 

“They’re talented young guys that are learning more and more everyday,” Smith said. “They’ve been doing a great job at taking advantage of the opportunities given to them.” 

Jumping in as head coach last season, Smith was working with a group of players that he was relatively unfamiliar with and did not scout or recruit himself. However, this season’s freshman players were all scouted, recruited and signed by Smith.

“These young guys were brought here for a purpose,” Smith said. “They fit the mold of what we are trying to do here at Cal Poly.”

Freshman point guard Camren Pierce had a very successful high school career at Etiwanda High School in Rancho Cucamonga, California. Pierce said he is looking to come in and make an immediate impact with the Mustangs in his first year.

“Coming here, coach John has a plan laid out for success and now we just have to do it at the next level,” Pierce said. “Executing that will make the tradition of winning continue for the people that come after us.”

One of the most important qualities of the freshman class, according to Smith, is where they come from. Six of the seven freshmen joining the Mustangs this season went to high school in southern California, and all seven were recruited from very successful high school basketball programs. 

“All these guys come from winning programs and have that culture of winning,” Smith said. “Coming from a winning program fits our culture and what we’re trying to do here at Cal Poly.”

Kobe Sanders is another freshman guard that comes from the southern California area. Sanders, who had a successful career at Christian High School, said he believes the majority of freshmen coming from Southern California help them a lot moving forward.

“The chemistry with the freshman has been great,” Sanders said. “We all come from winning cultures in SoCal and most of us knew each other from AAU [Amateur Athletic Union] and the general basketball scene. We all know our playing styles, which makes it easy for us to play together.” 

While the freshman players on the team continue to build on their relationships as new teammates, they’re also working with the returners to the program. According to Smith, the upperclassmen on the team have done a lot for the freshmen throughout the first weeks of practices. 

“[The returning guys] have poured into these young guys more than I thought they would or even could,” Smith said. “It’s beneficial for us as a program because the culture must be cemented with the young guys to go where we want to go.”

Pierce, when asked about the impact that the returners have made on him so far in practices, highlighted senior point guard Keith Smith and sophomore guard Colby Rogers.

“I’ve learned a lot from all the older guys,” Pierce said. “Keith [Smith] has helped me a lot because we are both point guards and Colby [Rogers] has helped me and told me how he was able to succeed so early last year as a freshman.”

Sanders also said he has benefited from the knowledge of returning Mustangs.

“The older guys and the coaches have made it easy for us to jump into the team and the program as a whole,” Sanders said. “They’ve taught me a lot about everything I need to know going into my first game in college.”

Despite having a team full of young players, Smith said he believes that the program is on track to succeed in the coming years built around the core group of freshmen this year.

“My expectation is for them to take advantage of their opportunities and to learn through experience on the court,” Smith said. “Doing that this year will set us up for success in future years to come.”

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