Ale On Star Watch For BYUH

The Brigham Young University-Hawaii men’s basketball team won’t wait for conference play to start enjoying the comforts of home. The Seasiders are currently in the midst of a seven-game stand that they hope will help set the tone for their 2012-13 season.

They host Montana State-Billings at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Cannon Activities Center, and an eight-day layoff will follow. The home stand concludes with games against Hawaii Pacific Dec. 1, Urbana Dec. 8 and Cedarville Dec. 13. A preview of the Seasiders is below.

At a glance: BYUH went 17-10 overall and 14-4 (for second place) in the PacWest Conference last year, and hopes are high for another solid season.

Head coach: Ken Wagner (431-199 for a winning percentage of .683)

Star watch: Kahuku High product Junior Ale is beginning his final year in what has been a stellar college basketball career. Ale originally enrolled at BYUH in 2007 and soon became a missionary to Missouri for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from 2007-09. He then resumed his playing career and immediately became a starter for the Seasiders and was a key component in their March 2010 run to the title game of the NCAA Division II tournament. Ale recently kicked off his senior season with a big effort against Western Washington, posting a double-double with 10 rebounds and 12 points to go with 7 assists and 3 steals.

Newcomer to watch:

Junior De Andre Medlock quickly made a big impact upon his arrival at BYUH and should soon be on everyone’s radar. The Fresno native made good on 11 of 19 shots to tally a team-high 27 points (and 8 rebounds) for BYUH in its season-opener with Western Washington. Medlock is plainly among the newcomers to watch in the Pacific West Conference.

Can’t-miss game 1: versus Chaminade Feb. 2 at the Cannon Activities Center. As in past years, both the Silverswords and the Seasiders figure to be in the mix in the PacWest race, so any meeting between them could have huge implications in the league. The rematch a week later (Feb. 9) at McCabe Gym on the Chaminade campus should be equally entertaining.

Can’t-miss game II: at Hawaii Pacific University Feb. 5. The Seasiders always receive HPU’s best effort in town, and this year figures to be more of the same. Among BYUH’s trademarks in the Wagner era has been its ability to win on the road. A win here could figure big in the league race. The teams also meet in Laie Dec. 1 in the PacWest opener for both colleges.

Biggest road challenge:

at Dixie State Feb. 23. Because of PacWest’s expansion, league members don’t play every opponent twice a season. In BYUH’s case, they only play Dixie State on the road Feb. 23. This scheduling arrangement is bittersweet for the Seasiders. While playing Dixie State only once might lighten up the schedule, the result of this one-and-only meeting will be a key tie-breaker if both teams should finish with the same record.

Game to be on upset-alert for: Jan. 3 versus Holy Names at home. The Seasiders will be playing their first game in 11 days, so they will need to shake off the effects of the long layoff as they resume PacWest play.

Fearless prediction: It says here that BYUH will tie for second (along with Chaminade) in the conference (behind league champion Dixie State) en route to an at-large berth in the NCAA DII tournament.