Painting a perfect picture

Men’s basketball coach Steve Cleveland is facing a major crossroads right now.

Facing the adversity of injuries, suspensions and a tough-as-nails conference schedule, will the Bulldogs make a push for a conference title or look to next season?

After the suspension of guard Bryan Harvey, the potential for a legit chance at the Western Athletic Conference championship (WAC) is looking a bit gloomier for the Bulldogs.

At the beginning of the 2007-2008 season, Fresno State looked like the team to beat in the WAC. They had a deep roster full of shooters and seniors who had played together for a couple of years. They had all the materials to paint a solid season.

The Bulldogs would have had Kevin Bell at point guard, Eddie Miller at shooting guard, Dwight O’Neil at small forward, Hector Hernandez at power forward and Rekalin Sims at center. This would have left players like Harvey, Alex Blair and Ned Golubovic as primary bench players.

All of these players were like different colors, and though the colors were still coming together, the painting started looking something like a respectable postseason.

In the process of painting, some of the colors that Cleveland thought would be there were gone. Cleveland was forced to make due with what paint he had.

After the suspension of Sims, Harvey’s academic ineligibility, a season-ending wrist injury to O’Neil and Tyson Parker giving up his eligibility, the picture painted at the beginning of the season looks very different.

The biggest question perhaps is if Cleveland will to continue to paint with six seniors on the roster, or start thinking about rebuilding for next season.

It seems as though Cleveland is at a crossroads. Continue on with six players, six colors and continue to go; or decide to put more attention and time into the next project – next year.

Cleveland did an extraordinary job of picking up the pieces after the suspension of Sims and the injury to O’Neil. When Parker gave up his eligibility for next year, it changed the way the Bulldogs played, changed the way the colors worked with one another. Parker gave a spark to the Bulldog bench immediately, playing with an extremely good basketball IQ and intensity.

Now Harvey is out for the year due to academic ineligibility. Harvey contributed 10.6 points per game and 30.8 minutes a game. This now leaves the ‘Dogs with six players playing any real time. In the last two games, the team’s starting lineup is averaging a little less than 35 minutes a game without Harvey.

With approximately two months to go in the season, this will present the threat of a worn out team come the end of conference play.

So should the Bulldogs close up shop and start looking to next year, or maybe try to win the conference tournament in Lac Cruces, NM in March?

Cleveland might have to channel Van Gogh to make that happen.

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