Ethan Alvano always knew his way around the basketball court. Now in Year Two, he can confidently traverse the Cal State University San Marcos campus, too.
“It’s definitely good to have that experience,” Alvano said.
The Cougars, ranked No. 3 in the California Collegiate Athletic Association preseason poll, are good with having Alvano as they open their season this weekend.
Cal State San Marcos plays two games in the CCAA/Pacwest Conference Challenge, opening against Biola University on Friday and facing Concordia Irvine the following day.
All the action is at the sparkling Sports Center at Cal State San Marcos, which, like Alvano, is also in its second season.
“We’ve got four starters back so we are definitely a veteran team,” Alvano said. “And we can do a lot of things on offense.”
That includes Alvano, a transfer from Eastern Michigan University. He arrived on campus last year and quickly showed his game played well out west.
“We make sure the ball is in his hands,” said coach B.J. Foster, who’s had the interim tag stripped from his title.
Hands down, Alvano was the spark that paced last year’s Cougars to an 18-12 record and a 12-6 mark in the CCAA. He supplied the clutch baskets, he made the tricky passes and he gave the Cougars hope as they officially became a Division II athletic program this season.
In most games Alvano went off, although sometimes he wasn’t sure of the direction.
“Last year I didn’t know what to expect,” said Alvano, a prep star at Corona High. “I didn’t know about the whole grind of the CCAA.”
The conference requires teams to often play on consecutive days and that can be draining. Or if you’re Alvano, you just keep sinking your jumper and hustle back on defense.
The 6-1, 180-pound senior guard paced the CCAA in scoring (17. 9 points) and assists (5.6) per game. He set a Cal State San Marcos record when collecting 36 points in a thrilling double-overtime win at Cal State East Bay. He tied a school standard with 14 assists in a triumph at Stanislaus State.
Is it any wonder when the Cougars bus departs for games, Foster makes sure Alvano is aboard?
“He won the CCAA Newcomer of the Year Award and now he’s come back in great shape,” Foster said. “And he’s a terrific leader.”
Alvano directs a squad that includes Joe Boyd, a 6-8, 215-pound bruiser on the boards, and Josh Spiers, a sweet-shooting guard from Australia. In any language, with Alvano, those three are the core of the Cougars.
With Boyd’s numbers, teammates are reminded of a hamburger joint: he averaged a double-double: 13 points and 10 rebounds a game. His rebounding average and total of 280 established school marks.
Spiers is from Down Under but he usually burns rivals with his play up above the 3-point arch. His 10 3-pointers at Cal State Los Angeles was a school record and the 6-7, 195-pounder had the conference’s second-highest shooting percentage from behind the stripe.
“If he has a big guy guarding him, he can drive around him,” Foster said. “And if he has a smaller guy on him, he can step back and hit the 3. He’s versatile and has really improved his game.”
Everyone can get better, even Alvano.
“I think I can improve a lot on my defense and rebounding,” Alvano said. “Obviously I did well scoring the ball last year but I want to do the other things to help the team.”
It’s a team, and program, that is headed in the right direction.
Contact Jay Paris at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @jparis_sports.
Sportswriter Jay Paris has written his “Sports Talk” column since joining the Coast News in 2013.
Paris, a Cardiff resident, is a longtime Southern California writer, getting his start with the Orange County Register before coming to San Diego in 1992 to cover the Chargers.
He had the Chargers beat for more than two decades with Oceanside Blade-Citizen, the North County Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune, before being named a sports columnist with the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Paris has won numerous awards voted on by his peers in the Pro Football Writers of America. He has also been a staple on countless media platforms, everything from the KPBS to MLB Network and various radio outlets.
Paris is also the author of three books, with his latest one being, “Shohei Ohtani: The Amazing Story Of Baseball’s Two-Way Japanese Superstar.” He has also written “Game Of My Life Chargers” and “Game Of My Life Rams.”
He currently covers the NFL in Los Angeles for Forbes. com and is a contributor to USA Today Sports Weekly. Follow Jay on Twitter @jparis_sports