The Cuesta men’s basketball team is all of a sudden trying to forge a new identity as it enters conference play, and without point guard Casey Rogers — who left the school to return to his Montana home after winter break — the Cougars are fighting an uphill battle toward a run at a third straight Western State Conference title.
If they don’t stop their current three-game losing streak soon, they might be too far back in the WSC to compete for a playoff spot. This is the pivotal point in Cuesta’s season.
But whether or not the Cougars can turn things around, there’s still a big draw out on Highway 1.
The 6-foot-7 German import is having a monster season, and it may end up being his only year in San Luis Obispo.
Kramer went into Wednesday night’s 72-68 WSC-opening loss to L.A. Pierce ranked second in the conference in scoring at 20.8 points per game, fourth in free-throw shooting (85.4 percent) and eighth in 3-point field goal percentage (43.3). Against the Brahmas, he scored 23 and went 5 of 10 from 3-point range.
Unlike many junior college players, the freshman said he would be academically eligible to transfer to an NCAA Division I school after one season and could make the leap if he gets what he feels to be a quality scholarship offer.
Only Kramer can judge the type of offer that would pull him away from Cuesta, but he said he’s received interest from USC, St. Mary’s, Idaho and Montana.
The biggest thing that jumps out to me about his recruitment is that there are no Big West schools involved yet, which he confirmed when I asked if any had made contact.
The way he’s playing, I would expect that to change.
Though eighth in the conference (52-127, 43.3 percent) might not sound like the greatest placement for a 3-point specialist, Kramer maintains a good shooting percentage at a volume that far surpasses anyone else in the WSC.
His 127 attempts on the season are 32 more than the top three WSC percentage shooters combined, and of all conference players with 85 or more attempts, Kramer ranks first in a landslide. His next closest competitor is Santa Monica’s Everett Brown (44-114, 38.6 percent).
Add to that the fact that Cuesta has relied on Kramer to create shots for himself and others off the dribble since Rogers quit the team. That has certainly forced him to take more ill-advised shots and has lowered his shooting percentage.
Kramer conceivably works best as a spot-up 3-point shooter. He’s big enough and has a quick enough release to get up rhythm shots on close-outs. You literally cannot leave him alone on the wing.
Across the street, inconsistent outside shooting is one of Cal Poly’s holes this season. The Mustangs are converting just 28.7 percent from 3-point range, and the lack of a high-percentage threat allows the defense to sag off and help more inside, clogging the offense in general.
Help is on the way for the Mustangs. Their lone early-period signee — Reese Morgan of Palos Verdes High — is a high-volume shooter that’s averaging 26.9 points per game as a high school senior while hitting on 44 percent of his 3s.
With Shawn Lewis being the team’s only senior, Morgan’s appears to be the lone scholarship Cal Poly has to offer, and I’m hearing the coaching staff is now focused on evaluating prep juniors at this point. They’re presumably out of the running for late signees.
So, if Kramer is to leave after one year at Cuesta, and it’s looking more and more like he might, it’s also looking increasingly likely that it won’t be to Cal Poly.
If you want to get a look at Kramer, do so while you can. Cuesta’s next home game is Wednesday at 5 p.m. against Oxnard.