Team preview: UC Santa Barbara

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(Information in this team report is as of October 1.)

If there's one thing coaches love, it's senior leadership.

Which is why UC Santa Barbara coach Bob Williams is thrilled to have Cecil Brown on his side -- for a sixth season.

"It's a great thing to have a sixth-year senior, especially someone who's a productive scorer like Cecil is,'' Williams said. "Having his experience and maturity is a huge luxury.''

Another year of Brown's scoring and all-around game certainly won't hurt the Gauchos' quest to climb back to the top of the Big West. The 6-4 guard, who was awarded an extra season of eligibility after having missed two previous years with various injuries, led the team with an average of 13.1 points per game last season and added 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists per night to earn second-team all-conference recognition.

Brown is the outside half of a potent inside-outside combination that led the Gauchos to a winning season in 2005-06 and could carry them ever further this year. The big man in the tandem is 6-8 junior Chris Devine, who after two injury-wrecked seasons finally lived up to the potential Williams had seen in him as a high school phenom in Eagle River, Alaska.

In his first season on a collegiate court, Devine (12.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg, .553 FG) was just that, displaying a solid scoring touch with a wide range of offensive skills, rugged defense and strong rebounding ability. He was also chosen second-team all-league.

And he accomplished all that after two seasons of inactivity. Now, with a year behind him, Devine seems poised for even bigger things.

"Last year, he showed what a great competitor he is,'' Williams said. "He was a little rusty in his timing and when to make moves. He tried to play too fast. But he was such a fierce competitor and a well-rounded ballplayer -- a great defender, pretty good passer, good scorer, good back-to-the-basket, good driver and a very good rebounder. He looks like a difference-maker in the league.''