Posted by Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Banging bodies with big college centers is a tough initiation for former All-Empire Player of the Year Lucas Devenny.

But the UC Santa Barbara freshman is getting more court time as he adapts to playing closer to the basket than the forward position Devenny was recruited to play.

“I’m getting more and more minutes, just working in as best I can,” Devenny said as the Gauchos prepare for their Big West Conference opener Saturday at UC Irvine.

Usually the only freshman in the regular rotation, Devenny has played in every game of the Gauchos 5-5 campaign. Eighth on the team in playing time with over 12 minutes a game, Devenny averages 2.5 points and 2.3 rebounds a contest.

As the backup center, Devenny’s job is to defend the basket and grab rebounds. Playing tough down low always has been a matter of pride for Devenny, and he wants to help UC Santa Barbara live up to its preseason billing as the second best team in the Big West.

“That’s my job, to rebound and play defense. If I score, that’s a bonus,” he said.

An inch taller and a dozen pounds leaner at 6 feet 9 inches and 248 pounds, Devenny said he is more physically able to compete at the highest level of college basketball.

Devenny’s best game so far was a 7 point, 5 rebound effort at Montana State.

“But we got the loss, so that’s kind of discouraging,” he said.

UC Santa Barbara is better than its record, having played flat and struggled with a few teams the Gauchos should have beaten, Devenny said. Working to cure those woes, the team is excited about league play and competing for the Big West’s bid to the NCAA tournament, he said.

“We’re pulling together,” Devenny said. “We’re a lot better than this. We’re just not showing it right now.”

As he improves on the court, Devenny also is doing well in the classroom. Devenny earned a 3.0 grade point average his first quarter and said plenty of students take school seriously.

“I thought it was going to be more of a party school than it is,” he said. “I like it more than I expected.”