By Stephen Trembley
By Stephen Trembley
FRESNO, Calif. --- Fresno State senior guard Tyler Johnson is one of the few known commodities that the Bulldogs' men's basketball team can turn to for leadership, scoring and defense this year.
During the offseason, Johnson remained focused on improving his game while showing the Bulldogs' newcomers the way to attack this process.
It's unrelenting, unforgiving and largely not seen - except by the nets in the gym, the equipment in the weight room and his teammates and coaches.
"I've seen a lot of things that can happen on the court and off, and faced a lot of adversity," Johnson shared. "Hopefully by sharing those experiences with the younger guys, it can help us. Our younger guys have no choice. They have to pick it up fast."
With Fresno State entering its second season in the Mountain West - the nation's highest-rated conference in 2012-13 based on the NCAA's Ratings Performance Index (RPI) - third-year head coach Rodney Terry once again designed a tough non-conference slate to prepare the 'Dogs to compete for its first postseason appearance since 2007. Fresno State plays road games at BCS conference opponents Pittsburgh, Utah and Cal, and has a neutral site meeting with Florida in the 2013 MetroPCS Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla.
This is one of the reasons that forced the young Bulldogs to quickly work through any learning curve in adjusting to playing Division I opponents.
"Our younger guys have done a great job understanding that they don't have the same amount of time as other young guys might have - as far as their skill development," Johnson noted. "Luckily, Tanner (Giddings) and Marvelle (Harris) played as freshmen. They understand the ups and down that you have during your freshman season and so, it worked out that they can really relate to them."
Even though the Bulldogs' field just two seniors - Johnson and versatile guard Allen Huddleston - the 'Dogs have also added veterans to the team. Alex Davis, who played his first two collegiate seasons at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas, provides size inside, a physical rebounder and someone who can score around the basket.
"Alex is a guy, who is a transfer that is a junior and an older guy," Johnson said. "He understands the work that you have to put in and the mental aspect of everything. He's done a great job in stepping up and helping out."
Meanwhile, two Division I transfers - redshirt sophomore point guard Cezar Guerrero (who sat out last season) and junior guard Julien Lewis (who will sit out this year) - bring experience competing in the Big-12 and in high-level pressure situations.
"Julien is another vocal guy, who can relate to all these younger players, and Cezar's going to be a leader on the court and a game manager," Johnson said. "You see how (Fresno State quarterback and Heisman candidate) Derek Carr is out there orchestrating that offense. He's making sure everybody is in the right spots and picking up their offensive signals. Cezar has a tough assignment having to do defense as well. "
But as the pieces come together for the Bulldogs' 2013-14 campaign, Johnson's excitement has added a sense of urgency knowing that this will be his final season playing at Fresno State.
"It's exciting and a little bit nerve wracking knowing that this season will be the last time I get to suit up with these guys and play for this community," Johnson said.
The Bulldogs open the regular season on Nov. 8 at UC Irvine and host their home opener on Nov. 16 versus Cal State Northridge. The first opportunity to get a preview of the 'Dogs will be Nov. 1 and Nov. 4 during Fresno State's two home exhibition contests at the Save Mart Center.
Season ticket packages are available starting at $149 by calling 559-278-DOGS or by visiting www.gobulldogs.com.
"Catch the Wave" - 2013-14 Fresno State men's basketball season tickets are now on sale and can be ordered online at www.gobulldogs.com or over the phone at 559-278-DOGS (3647). The official home of the Fresno State Bulldogs is 940 AM ESPN Radio.
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