AZUSA, Calif. -- Azusa Pacific men’s basketball head coach Justin Leslie has announced the signing of four new players for the 2012-13 season, which will be the Cougars’ debut campaign as a member of NCAA Division II’s Pacific West Conference.
Troy Leaf, a transfer from UC Santa Barbara (NCAA Div. I), is a 6-foot-2 guard with three years of eligibility remaining, and he is one of three guards who have committed to Azusa Pacific in the four-player recruiting class. Leaf was an all-state, all-CIF guard at Foothills Christian High in El Cajon, averaging 28.1 points, 4.9 assists, and 5.7 rebounds his senior year to finish his prep career as San Diego County’s all-time leading scorer (3,318 points). He played his 2010-11 freshman campaign for the Gauchos, who went 18-14 and made a first-round NCAA Tournament appearance. He played in 29 games that year, averaging 2.2 points while playing 10 or more minutes in seven of his final eight games.
“Troy is a dynamic scorer with an advanced feel for the game,” Leslie said. “He’s crafty, he shoots with great range, and he’s just as capable of making plays with the ball in his hands off the dribble as he is shooting off the pass. He’s a tough competitor, and I think he’s a great fit for Azusa Pacific on and off the court.”
Leaf is joined in the backcourt by true freshmen Nick Price and Clay Ragsdale, while forward Will Ward bolsters the Cougars’ frontcourt depth.
Price, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound guard, was a first team all-area selection for Issaquah (Wash.) High, where he was his team’s leading scorer (19.7 points) as a senior and ranks as one of Issaquah’s top three scorers all-time.
Ragsdale, a 6-foot, 170-pound point guard, graduated in 2011 from Corona Del Mar High where he was a two-time all-CIF selection and the Pacific Coast League MVP his junior year. As a senior, he averaged 15 points and seven assists per game while earning all-league first team honors again.
Ward is a 6-foot-5, 270-pound forward who led Sierra High in Manteca, Calif., to a 27-4 record en route to a CIF Sac-Joaquin Section finals appearance as a 2012 senior, averaging 14.7 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. Ward was named Valley Oak League MVP, his third straight year on the all-league first team, after leading Sierra to a perfect 14-0 conference record his senior year.
In addition to this year’s four-player class, Azusa Pacific also returns four players who redshirted their freshman campaign last year. Collectively, that gives the Cougars a young roster featuring 11 players who will be in either their freshman or sophomore year of collegiate eligibility in the 2012-13 season.
“We knew we wanted to get as much young talent as we could possibly accumulate, which goes with what we did last year when we redshirted the majority of that class,” Leslie said. “They complement each other very well, and this is the group that’s going to carry us into the university’s transition through the NCAA membership process while establishing our culture and identity heading into the PacWest. This is a talented group of freshmen, and they’re certainly going to have an opportunity to make a big impact, this year and into the future.”
Azusa Pacific, which is entering its second year in the three-year NCAA Division II membership process, has a new conference home for the 2012-13 season. The Cougars, who have posted 20 consecutive 20-win campaigns and appeared in NAIA national tournaments 18 times during the same stretch, begin play this year in the Pacific West Conference, which now has 14 member institutions to make it the largest NCAA Division II conference in the West.
The Cougars’ Pacific West Conference opener is a Dec. 1 visit to fellow PacWest newcomer Point Loma, and the 18-game conference slate includes a four-game road trip to Hawai’i in February.