Brick by Brick: Sac State men’s basketball aspiring for new heights

New head coach David Patrick embracing Hornets hoops revamp


Jordan Latimore

Sac State head basketball coach David Patrick blowing his whistle during a drill at practice Friday, Sept. 23, 2022, in The Nest. With a revamped roster and coaching staff, the Hornets will have a big test ahead of them in their season opener against #7 UCLA on Monday, Nov. 7.

Jordan Latimore

Brick by brick.

That’s the mantra for a newly re-tooled and re-loaded Sac State men’s basketball squad that is setting the foundation for a new era in Hornet hoops. As Sac State’s season opener against UCLA on Nov. 7 draws near, there is a lot to be said about the total revamp of this team. 

Everything is new. 

The roster, the staff, the goals, the energy and even The Nest has a new paint job. Everything about this program is fresh, including the most important aspect of any team aspiring for real success — first-year head coach David Patrick.

RELATED: Sac State formally introduces David Patrick as new men’s basketball head coach

When the former Oklahoma and Arkansas assistant was hired by Sac State Athletic Director Mark Orr, he brought with him a very obvious message; it’s a new dawn in the sense of this team, its program and more importantly – its personnel.

Shortly after the hire, Patrick got to work putting together his staff, that includes a ton of experience at the Power 5 level while also maintaining local ties

“I thought, the second time around, the most important component for me was getting my team together and first of all, getting my staff together,” Patrick said.

Before serving as an assistant for Eric Musselman at Arkansas and Porter Moser at Oklahoma, two programs that made it to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 over the past three seasons, Patrick got his first collegiate head coaching gig at UC Riverside in 2018.

Though the stint wasn’t that long, it was generally successful, with Patrick leading the program to the most wins in their Division I history. Seventeen in just his second season.

Despite having some success at UCR, Patrick believes that some of the challenges he dealt with as the leader of the Highlander program has only prepared him to lead the Hornets to success.

“I think being my second time taking over a program, I’ve seen it from a second perspective,” Patrick said. 

Patrick elaborated that he tried to handle too many different aspects of the program that weren’t entirely in his control.

“The first time I took over at Riverside, I tried to fix everything,” Patrick said.“I felt everything was broken, from marketing, the class schedule — I took on too much,” Patrick said.

The real question is, can Patrick duplicate the same success in Sacramento? Well, with the talent he and his staff he’s been able to acquire over the past six months, the answer to that question leans toward yes.

Putting together this team was the challenge, but Patrick leaned on an important tool – the transfer portal.

Some of those transfers include senior guard Gianni Hunt, who comes in from Oregon State looking to provide very stable and reliable products in the lead point-guard role. Patrick’s pitch to Hunt was very simple; he wanted Hunt to be himself as a part of this team.

Hunt said he appreciated the genuine nature of Patrick’s recruitment of him. 

Everything was real. For Hunt, he described that Patrick always prioritized his success as a player — and nothing else.

“All of our conversations weren’t just what I could do for him or him bragging or talking about himself,” Hunt said. “It was him asking [to] get to know me. Showing me the offense; showing what type of style we play.” 

Patrick and his staff completely overhauled this roster, imploring guys from all over the country and abroad. 

“I thought this time around I was able to do that,” Patrick said about assembling his roster efficiently. “It was easier with the portal, yet better. A little quicker than having to wait a year with guys sitting out.”

Of the 13 players on the roster, six are transfers, with two of those transfers — senior 7’1 center Callum McRae and junior 6’7 forward Akol Mawein — both played for Patrick at one point collegiately.

“I think I was fortunate to get some guys out of the pool that I’ve recruited before and coached before,” Patrick said. “That’s kind of helped the transition move quicker than probably it would’ve.”

Another big-time add to this team was 19-year-old forward Kiir Kiir Chol Deng, who comes in from the NBA global academy. Standing at 6’9 with a 7’1 wingspan and extremely promising signs of athleticism and finishing ability around the rim, Deng is easily one of the most promising prospects to come through this program in years.

For Chol Deng, he is just happy to continue his hoop journey in a place where he fits in on the court.

“[Patrick has] brought his experience from coaching big-time programs to this program. I feel like that’s going to be a big part of us winning,” Chol Deng said. “This is the right place for me.”

Promising new faces aside, there is still a lot to highlight about returning players to the Hornet’s roster and from before Patrick’s appointment.  Patrick said he made it clear when he was hired that anyone who wanted to stay would be embraced.

With the assumption that there would likely be stiff competition with the personnel Patrick brought in, no one was more up for that challenge than senior guard Zach Chappell. Chappell was the Hornets’ second leading scorer last season with 11.6 points per game.

Chappell, who spent the last two seasons under former coaches Brian Katz and Brandon Laird, noticed the different vibe compared to the previous regime, just from the practices alone.

“The pace is different; we moving from drill to drill a lot faster; the energy, as you can see, is everybody’s bouncing off the walls,” Chappell said. “It’s fiery. We got a real competitive group and everybody’s fighting for their spot.”

Also returning for the Hornets is junior forward Cameron Wilbon, sophomore guard Teiano Hardee, sophomore guard Xavier Ford and sophomore guard Rick Barros III.

Patrick said he is very appreciative of the group that decided to stay, crediting the culture they’ve created and the character they embody as young men.

“I’ve said this to Coach [Brandon] Laird before, but one thing I inherited was good kids,” Patrick said. “You know, sometimes you take over programs and [the players] are not going to class, they’re late to different events, so you gotta deal with some off-the-court issues. I never had that issue here.”

Sac State has seen the other major programs hit the stride of their success, with football soaring to an 8-0 start and women’s basketball making historic strides start under head coach Mark Campbell in his just first  season. Orr has seen immediate success from his coaching hires, and men’s basketball has the chance to continue the recently earned phenomenon. 

The culmination of a top-notch coaching staff, amazing talent and good players seems like a healthy mix that could produce a winning men’s basketball product in Sacramento.

Time will show us if this program succeeds, and that time starts on Monday, Nov. 7, at 8:30 p.m against #7 UCLA at Pauley Pavilion in the Hornets’ season opener