Fresno State forward Jerry Brown to finish career at Santa Clara

Jerry Brown, who is graduating from Fresno State this spring, will use his final season of eligibility at Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference.

The 6-foot-7 forward played in 30 games for the Bulldogs last season, starting 21. He averaged 5.3 points and 4.3 rebounds per game and was selected as the team’s outstanding defender.

Fresno State has 6-9 Braeden Anderson and 6-10 Tanner Giddings returning next season as sophomores, and in the Class of 2013 has recruited forwards Alex Davis from Hutchinson Community College and Soma Edo from Berkner High in Richardson, Texas, as well as wing Paul Watson from Paradise Valley High in Phoenix and point guard Emmanuel Owootoah from Codria High in Hazard, Ky.

Tyler Johnson honored as Bulldogs’ most valuable player

Tyler Johnson was named team MVP at Fresno State’s postseason awards banquet on April 15, 2013.

Fresno State guard Tyler Johnson, who scored a team-high 12.1 points per game and 58 assists, was honored as the Bulldogs’ most valuable player on Monday at the men’s basketball team’s annual banquet.

The other Bulldogs honored:

Outstanding defender: Jerry Brown III.

Outstanding rebounder: Kevin Foster.

Four-year Achievement and Commitment Award: Garrett Johnson.

Bulldog Award: Brad Ely.

Top free-throw shooter: Kevin Olekaibe.

Outstanding student-athlete: Braeden Anderson.

Outstanding service: Allen Huddleston.

Playmaker Award: Marvelle Harris.

Most improved: Tanner Giddings.

To this point, the Bulldogs are not on the rebound

Fresno State’s Robert Upshaw, right, snags a rebound away from UC Irvine’s Conor Clifford, left, and Adam Folker during their game at the Save Mart Center Saturday, December 15, 2012. (CRAIG KOHLRUSS/THE FRESNO BEE)

The first step will be to get Air Force to miss a few shots, which will not be easy for the Fresno State Bulldogs because it hasn’t been easy for any team that has matched up against the Falcons. They are leading the Mountain West Conference and ranked 17th in the nation in field goal percentage, have three starters hitting better than 51 percent of their shots.

After that, they can think about rebounding the basketball better and turning around a season-long soft spot that has cost them opportunities to win some basketball games.

The Bulldogs are last in the conference and 310th of 345 in the nation in rebounding margin at minus-4.8 per game, have been out-rebounded in 12 of their 17 games against Division I opponents and by 10 or more rebounds in eight of those games including a minus-19 in losses to UC Irvine (49-30) and Colorado State (40-21).

Like most things with this young group, which includes 7-foot freshman Robert Upshaw and 6-foot-10 freshman Tanner Giddings, it is a learning experience. Minutes on the court count.

‘’That’s something that, again, through experience, through guys getting stronger, we’ll be better in the future for,’’ Coach Rodney Terry said. ‘’Our young guys have learned to do a pretty good job on the first block out, but, I mean, there could be two, three opportunities on one possession to hold that block out.

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For Fresno State freshmen Upshaw and Giddings, only time will help heal some wounds

Robert Upshaw and Tanner Giddings, the freshmen bigs at Fresno State, were on the short end of quite a few skirmishes against New Mexico center Alex Kirk and forward Cameron Bairstow in a 72-45 loss to the Lobos on Saturday at The Pit in Albuquerque.

Kirk, a 7-foot, 250-pound redshirt sophomore, made eight of his 13 shots and grabbed 14 rebounds, eight on the offensive end. Bairstow, a 6-9, 250-pound junior making his fourth start this season, hit his first six shots of the game and finished with 16 points and five rebounds. And they were  a big reason the Lobos were a plus-18 in rebounding margin (43-25), the largest they have had this season.

The second half was better than the first for Upshaw and Giddings, who were playing at a deficit in experience, size and strength. But both should have been very instructive for the Bulldogs’ freshman, Coach Rodney Terry said.

A stronger second half, by no means is enough to put things right, though.

‘’You know what it’s going to take? It’s going to take a whole season of that,’’ Terry said. ‘’That’s what those guys have been through.  Guarantee you, you go take a look at Kirk, I bet he averaged three points a game, four points a game, as a freshman. I know the other kid, Bairstow, averaged two points a game.

‘’Go look at the other players in the league. (San Diego State wing) Jamaal Franklin, he averaged two points a game as a freshman.’’

Terry was pretty close – Kirk averaged 4.7 points in 15.0 minutes a game as a freshman, had only 21 points in his final 16 games and went scoreless in nine of them, while Bairstow averaged 2.6 points playing an average of 9.7 minutes in 31 games.

Franklin, who scored 20 points, had 18 rebounds and one crazy dunk when the Aztecs beat the Bulldogs in the Mountain West opener for both teams, played in only 22 games his first season. He averaged 2.9 points per game.

‘’We’re building with young guys right now and it’s going to take some time,’’ Terry said. ‘’It’s not going to happen overnight. And we happen to be playing in one of the best leagues in the country, that’s probably the best that’s ever been, and you just have to grow through it. You have to grow through it and that’s the challenge for us. I’ll say this, they’re getting on the job training right now.

‘’There’s no team in this league that’s playing with freshmen right now or relying on freshmen to win games. Look at it, they’re all older players and they’ve all been through the wars in this league. This league is a monster, and it will continue to be a monster.

‘’But our guys are getting a chance to learn on the job as we go through it here. I’m not making any excuses for them, but they’re going to be getting it all year and we’re going to be better for it.’’