San Diego State put itself on the basketball map in 2011. The Aztecs had a brilliant 34-3 season, losing to only two teams: The Jimmer Fredette-led BYU Cougars and the Kemba Walker-led Connecticut Huskies. The latter loss came in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament, a place San Diego State hasn't visited often in its hoops history, and one that marked the culmination of coach Steve Fisher's total long-term construction efforts at the school.
The biggest question: After losing three senior starters in D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White -- and one bonafide star in likely lottery pick Kawhi Leonard -- where does San Diego State go from here?
If Fisher keeps landing transfers at this rate, the answer is bound to be "nowhere."
A few days ago, San Diego State announced it had landed Utah freshman transfer J.J. O'Brien. Then, on Monday night, more good news: St. John's forward Dwayne Polee II is also transferring to the school, a decision he announced to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Polee II has some close connections with the school. His former high school, Westchester High in Los Angeles, has sent a pair of players the Aztecs' way in the past, players like Tony Bland and Brandon Heath, both of whom Polee's father, Dwayne Polee Sr., counted as factors in his son's decision. Polee II also wants to be closer to his hometown, where his mother -- herself an SDSU alumni -- is suffering from an undisclosed medical condition that requires surgery.
“Dwayne loved the coaching staff (at St. John’s), but it was just wrong timing with my wife’s illness,” Polee Sr. said. “He loves his mom and he wanted to be closer to her. (St. John’s coach) Steve Lavin was great to him. We have no hard feelings. It was just too far away.”
Added Polee: “She’s had my back for this long. Knowing I could be here for her while she’s going through her thing is a real joy for me.”
Thanks to the illness, Polee II will apply for a hardship waiver and hope the NCAA grants it, but also said he'd be OK with sitting out a year if that's what it took. If Polee II can play right away for the Aztecs, then Fisher's team will immediately get a lanky, athletic forward that started 27 of 33 games for a surprisingly good Big East team in 2011, and you don't exactly need me to tell the kind of impact a player like that can have in the BYU-less Mountain West.
But even if Polee II can't play right away, his prospective presence remains a boon. The Aztecs have programmatic momentum unlike any time in their school's history. Another 34-3 season may not be on the way, but a long-term stay in the national college hoops conversation -- even without all the stars from last year's team -- is starting to seem more likely than ever.