It is a Double XL kind of day for Fresno State basketball with the Bulldogs retiring the No. 24 jersey of Paul George and five-star recruit Jalen Green in on an official visit.
George, the six-time NBA All-Star, will be honored Sunday at halftime of the Bulldogs’ home opener against Winthrop at the Save Mart Center, joining Jerry Tarkanian as the only basketball players to have jerseys retired by the university.
Green, the former Memorial High star now at Prolific Prep in Napa, is regarded as the top shooting guard in the nation in the Class of 2020 and is also considering Auburn, Memphis, Oregon and USC with a decision to come at the end of the season.
But there also is a basketball game and a chance for the Bulldogs to take some decisive steps away from an opening 71-57 loss at Oregon in which they hit only 9 of 36 shots from the 3-point line, turned over the ball 17 times and were out-rebounded by a 45-31 margin with the Ducks grabbing 16 offensive rebounds.
“The positive is we played hard, we were aggressive,” coach Justin Hutson said. “But we had some shots that were turnovers, too, so we have to take better shots. When you have young guys and new guys and you don’t have a more experienced guy out there on the floor, a lot of times they don’t know how to get to a better shot.
“They’ve worked on it. They can tell you what to do, but they can’t work to get there all the time. We’re going to have to get there quickly because we can’t take that many bad shots. We have to take better shots, we have to rebound the ball and we have to take care of it better.”
The Bulldogs (0-1) played 11-deep in that game at Oregon and seven players were making their Fresno State debuts including true freshmen Jarred Hyder (29 minutes), Orlando Robinson (25), Anthony Holland (17) and Niven Hart (16).
They figure to work different combinations again against Winthrop (1-0), which opened its season with a 67-57 victory at Hartford and was solid at the defensive end. Hartford hit just 37% of its shots including 5 of 18 (27.8%) at the 3-point line and had 13 turnovers to 12 assists.
But it was frustrating to not see the ball go down, said senior New Williams, who 2 of 8 and 0 of 6 at the 3-point line in scoring six points at Oregon.
“You don’t really want to blame one thing,” he said. “You just go back and look at the things that you could have done – we missed that rebound, we should have boxed out better on that play.
“You look at all the other things that you can improve so you can control what you can control. Shots are going to go down, you’ll miss some and you’ll make some, so that part of the game you can’t put all your focus into. But you have to make sure that you’re doing all the things correctly.”
The Bulldogs went through long practices on Thursday and again on Friday, but there are a lot of pieces in play at this point for Hutson and his staff. Fresno State will get Noah Blackwell on Tuesday at San Diego – the senior point guard will miss the first two games of the season due to a violation of institutional policy.
“We have to do it (today),” Hutson said. “We expect to do it now. Now, we’re smart enough to know it’s going to be a process and we understand that, but we expect to do it (Saturday). It’s not going to be a perfect game for us or for them, but we’re going to have to be better at that coming out.”