WCC preview: All is not lost at Santa Clara

SAN BRUNO, Calif. -- No, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating doesn’t think that his team’s season ended on Sept. 6.

That was the day Marc Trasolini went up for a shot, came down on his left leg and suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament playing for the Broncos during their preseason tour of his hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia.

But as much of a disaster it was to lose his top big man in an exhibition game, Keating noticed right away that the Broncos would carry forward.

“They moved past it literally the next day,” Keating said. “They did a good job of not crying over spilled milk. They were mortified for him, but they knew there’s nothing they could do about it.”

Santa Clara still returns conference scoring leader Kevin Foster, who led the nation in 3-pointers as a sophomore. The Broncos can pair him in the backcourt with rising sophomore Evan Roquemore, as those two propelled the Broncos to the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament championship in March and a 24-win season.

Now they just have to figure out how to replace their inside presence, with their top three rebounders from last season missing. Trasolini wasn’t even the only forward to go down with an ACL injury, as projected junior college transfer Chris Caird dislocated his knee and wasn’t able to enroll in school.

That means big men Niyi Harrison, John McArthur and redshirt freshman Yannick Atanga will have opportunities to take on larger roles. In all, the Broncos have eight freshmen on the roster, so they’ll be largely inexperienced this season.

But the strength lies in the chemistry that already exists between Foster and Roquemore. Foster made 140 3-pointers last season while also leading the team in assists and steals. Roquemore showed flashes of brilliance after winning the point guard job mid-season, averaging 11.7 points, 3.7 assists and pouring in 30 points against San Francisco in the CIT quarterfinal round.

Keating said Roquemore, a thin and wiry freshman, got stronger in the offseason and improved his strength and conditioning. He gives the Broncos another perimeter shooter, which allows Foster to feature more of an all-around game.

“If we have to sacrifice 10 or 20 3s for 10 or 20 assists, the end result’s the same but may help us develop more as a team,” Keating said.

In the days following the disaster in Vancouver, the team comforted Trasolini, who is expected to be back next year as a senior.

Now they have to prove that not all was lost before the season even began.