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International basketball players thrive in Cuesta basketball scene

Coach Rusty Blair in the huddle, coaching one of his former teams.
Coach Rusty Blair in the huddle, coaching one of his former teams. Photo by Cuesta College Athletics

Of the 11 players on this year’s Cuesta College’s Men’s Basketball team, five are international, representing four different countries.

The team roster includes five freshmen from Australia, Argentina, Switzerland, and Belgium.

Cuesta’s Men’s Basketball program started receiving international recruits 10 years ago. Since then, many players from all over the world have learned about the success of the program, making it an attractive destination.

According to Cuesta College’s Athletic Director Bob Marriucci, international athletes have since come to San Luis Obispo, playing a year or two on the teams. Being a community college, many athletes are playing in order to reach the next level, and earn themselves an athletic scholarship while attending a Division 1 and/or four year university.

“Head Coach Rusty Blair is to be credited for the success of Cuesta over the years and for being able to recruit these international guys,” Marriucci said. “They want to play for him because he can get them to the next level, like he’s done for many players before.”

Since 1993, under the reign of Blair, Cuesta has sent 89 players to four year universities to play basketball. Twenty-nine of those players transferred to D1 schools including Cal State Fullerton, Pepperdine University and Montana State University. Blaire has 20 winning seasons and seven Western State Conference Coach of the Year honors under his belt.

Juanie Dassi, from Argentina, and Kobe Pearson, from Australia, were two of the team’s top international players this year. The two forwards scored in double figures, 11.9 points per game for Dassi and 10.8 points per game for Pearson.

Dassi also logged 24.3 minutes per game, while Pearson logged 26.3 minutes per game. The highest international totals for each stat amongst the team.

Dassi, 6’5’’, averaged 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game, while shooting 81.0% from the free throw line and 41.7% from three.

Pearson, 6’3’’, averaged 2.9 rebounds and 1.0 assist per game, while shooting 74.1% from the free throw line and 38.5% from three.

Reumang Emagna, from Belgium, and Moritz Schneider, from Switzerland, both had notable seasons. Emagna averaged 6.4 points per game, while Schneider averaged 6.6 ppg. Ben Linkin, from Australia, played in 18 games this past winter, averaging 1.7 ppg.

Cuesta finished the season 8-4 in conference play, winning nine of their last 14 games.