Fresno is a city known for its blue-collar attitude. It's a place built on sweat, dedication, and most importantly, hard work.
And conveniently enough, the Fresno State Bulldogs fit that mold perfectly.
Heading into this season, sixth-year head coach Rodney Terry and his Bulldogs are coming off an impressive 25-10 season that saw the program win its first Mountain West title and qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 15 years. By just about any standard, it was a banner season for a program that's been fighting to create its identity.
“I think it meant a lot to our community,” Terry said. “It had been 15 years since we’d been. A lot of the time you take for granted the impact it has.”
Terry made the leap to Fresno State after a decade as an assistant to Rick Barnes at Texas because he felt the Bulldogs’ impending move to the Mountain West gave him the potential to create a winning program.
While at Texas, Terry helped recruit and coach multiple NBA players, including Kevin Durant, Tristan Thompson and Lamarcus Aldridge. In order to help build a winner at Fresno he used what he learned at Texas as the blueprint for success.
“We want our guys to be able to make plays instinctively and not have robots on the floor,” he said.
Moving into the 2016-17 season, Fresno State returns what Terry calls a “battle-tested” roster that should have the Bulldogs in the conversation again for a run to the NCAA Tournament.
But this time, Fresno State will have to make its run without its two leading scorers from last year. MWC Player of the Year Marvelle Harris graduated while forward Torren Jones was dismissed from the team following the season.
Terry points to two incoming transfers to have an immediate impact on his lineup, including 6’6 guard Jaron Hopkins, who played in 67 games for Colorado from 2013-15 and 6’1 guard Deshon Taylor, who played in 33 games as a freshman for Missouri-Kansas City and averaged 7.6 points per game.
William McDowell-White is a five-star freshman guard from Australia who Terry says he expects to rely on. McDowell-White is supposed to have incredible court vision and passing ability, and he is already being touted as an NBA-ready prospect, having impressed scouts with his performance at the 2015 U19 FIBA World Championships. Terry pointed out that the national exposure of making the NCAA Tournament allowed him the opportunity to attract a player of McDowell-White’s caliber.
Other freshmen expected to make an impact include local product Bryson Williams, a 6’8 forward who put up jaw-dropping numbers during his senior year of high school (33.8 points and 18 rebounds per game). Terry expects him to contribute early and often for the Bulldogs, while 6’6 freshman guard Johnny McWilliams will also have the opportunity to make his mark.
With this mix of old and new, watch out for Terry and his Bulldogs.