Ten Reasons to Be Excited About Saint Mary's Hoops

10. McKeon Pavilion now sports chair-back seating behind team benches, leather seats in the VIP section (oooh), and a new sound system (better to hear the mellifluous tones of long-time announcer Dick Callahan).
9. Paul Thomas, whose teams have won two Division II national titles, was wooed from Cal Poly-Pomona to lead the Saint Mary's women's hoops program.
8. Fans can catch three basketball tournaments this season at McKeon: the Shamrock Invitational (November 10-12) and Shamrock Office Solutions Classic (December 28-29) for the men, and the Hilton Concord Thanksgiving Classic (November 24-25) for the women.
7. Men's basketball will host 22 (yes, 22) basketball games, 17 of them involving the Gaels (the other five involve tournament invitees). It's the busiest home schedule in the West Coast Conference.
6. Four recruits join Randy Bennett's men's squad: Tron Smith, Yusef Smith, Omar Samhan and Dubois Williams. Smith, a shooting guard, was California's No. 2 junior college scorer last season, averaging 25 points per game at Citrus Community College.
5. Five 2005 All-WCC honorees return: Diamon Simpson (all-freshman, men); Jontelle Smith (all-freshman, women), and Serena Benavante, Maija Lahde and Monica Mertle (honorable mention, women).
4. Three newcomers and one familiar face join first-year coach Paul Thomas' women's team. The newbies are Kira Kojola (from Finland), 6-foot-6 Lindsey Ellis and Mattianna Thalley. Former Gael Lauren Shaughnessy returns to the squad after sitting out 2005-06.
3. The men's team will play schools that advanced to postseason tournaments in 2006: UConn, Nevada, Seton Hall, San Diego State, Murray State, Gonzaga, Belmont, Southern Illinois, and Saint Joseph's.
2. The women's non-conference slate includes contests against major-conference foes California, Miami (FL), Oregon, San Diego State, Missouri, and Alabama.
1. And, if you can't be there in person you can watch two men's home games on ESPN: the Jan. 15, 2007 tilt against Gonzaga and the Feb. 19, 2007 game against USF. At least a dozen men's games will be televised locally; check www.smcgaels.com for schedules.