Back at full strength?

Matt Weir / The Collegian Online

Despite having a full complement of scholarships, as well as being removed from probation for NCAA violations, the Fresno State men’s basketball team struggled to open the season.

Through the first seven games of the season, the Bulldogs have a record of 3-4, losing four out of their last five games.

Head coach Steve Cleveland believes having a full allotment of scholarships has not led to a good start because of the young players that comprise the team.

“We haven’t had a better start, in part, because of our inexperience,” Cleveland said. “We have a very young team still. The teams that we have played [in previous seasons] have been older and more experienced.”

Although the team had the possibility of awarding all 13 scholarships available, the coaching staff decided to use only 11 of the 13.

Cleveland said the decision to reduce the number of scholarships this year was to help the program in the future.

“I didn’t want to have five or six kids from the same recruiting class,” Cleveland said. “Having that many scholarship players in one class is not good. The long-term goal outweighs the present goal. Now we can have extra scholarships for next year.”

Cleveland did note that if the decision was made to use all 13 scholarships this year, those two extra players would have added depth to the roster.

Although the team is off to a slow start, Cleveland said having a full amount of scholarships has been a great thing.

“Having those added scholarships has been great for practice,” Cleveland said. “There is more competition and a different sense of urgency.”

According to Cleveland, the most important aspect of having a full allotment of scholarships is the competition in practice.

“We can now really improve in our practices,” Cleveland said. “We are able to have more intense practices and are able to do everything we want to in practice.”

Cleveland also said that the team will improve as the season progresses.

“We will be playing our best basketball later on in the season, in the months of January, February and March,” Cleveland said. “We will play our best basketball in the most important months. The added depth will help down the line. The more competition in practices will help immensely and our team should be more experienced by then.”

Cleveland added that even though the team is young, it is important for the team to have success this year.

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