Joshua Patton didn't get a last hurrah with Sacramento State, but his mark was already left as one of the top centers produced by the men's basketball program.
The redshirt senior and former Sierra High standout has his name all over the school record book despite his final season getting cut short mere hours before the Hornets' Big Sky Conference second-round game against regular-season champ Eastern Washington on March 12.
The postseason tournament in Boise, Idaho was called off by conference officials because of growing concerns with the Coronavirus pandemic.
Seeded ninth, Sac State opened tourney play the night before with a 62-54 win over No. 8 Weber State and embraced the opportunity to knock off the top squad.
“We were literally on the bus about to head out,” Patton said. “Then coach got a call from the AD (athletic director), he hung up, looked at us and said, 'It's over.'”
“We went back to the meeting room and that was our last time together as a team. That hurt really bad, especially for us seniors. None of us thought our season was going to end that way. We wanted to make our own destiny — go out with a bang by winning the tournament, or go down fighting hard on that last game.”
Sac State finished 16-14, and the win total is the second most in a single season in the program's NCAA Division-I era (since 1991). The Hornets ranked fifth in the nation defensively, holding opponents to 59.7 points per game.
Patton is now focused on what is left of his coursework and a future in the professional ranks. He is set to graduate this spring semester with a degree in geography and a concentration in metropolitan area planning.
The 6-foot-8, 230-pound center was the team's leading scorer in his final go-around, averaging 12.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks to make the all-Big Sky third team for the second straight year.
He's the all-time career leader at Sac State for blocked shots with 199, which are also fifth most in Big Sky history, and his 1,226 points are the most scored by a Hornets center and seventh overall in the Division-I era.
Patton also ranks second in free-throw attempts (328), fourth in field-goal percentage (.588), fifth in rebounds (590) and ninth in field goals made (449). His durability was just as impressive — he never missed a game, playing in all 124 while starting in every one in each of his last three years. The streak of 93 games started is the 21st longest in the nation.
Patton said he is most proud of his scoring production.
“When I came to Sac State people were thinking I wasn't a capable scorer, but they knew more more as a shot blocker,” said Patton, whose 109 swats as a senior at Sierra stands as a single-season school record. “Finishing in the top 10 overall in our D1 history is a big thing for me. A lot of people didn't expect that and if I'm being real I didn't expect that either, but through development and hard work with my coaches and teammates instilling some confidence in me I was able to become a scorer.”
Brian Katz, who wrapped up his 12th year as Sac State head coach, said the two-year captain was a go-to threat in the post for the Hornets, and he became more effective as an improved passer.
Patton was a perfect fit at Sac State for many reasons, and Katz was rewarded for sticking with this raw and scrawny kid from Manteca.
“He came to our elite camp and was only about 6-5 — I didn't think he was good enough at that point,” Katz said. “But then he grew and had a really good junior year. I really liked him, and I told our staff I don't know if he's going enough but I really like him as a kid.”
Katz studied game film sent by then-Sierra coach Scott Thomason and made up his mind from there.
Patton was part of three consecutive Valley Oak League championship teams while at Sierra, which went 77-16 overall in that time, and Patton was twice named all-league MVP. The Timberwolves had their best season ever in 2014-15, going 31-3 and claiming their first Sac-Joaquin Section title.
Patton registered 15.3 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.3 blocks as a high school senior but still flew under the radar when it came to college recruiting.
That didn't matter. Sac State was Patton's top choice, and Katz got his guy. Even better, Patton insisted that he redshirt his first season to develop his strength.
“It speaks to what we take pride in, which is developing players,” Katz said. “Here's a guy who is going to grow and get stronger, we get a bonus year and he and his family bought in. He was already part of winning, structured program.
“For us, all those things added up. At the end of the day, he's been the poster child for the guy you take who was not recruited heavily , but three to four years later people say, 'How did you ever get that guy?'”
Patton excelled within structured systems at both Sierra and Sac State, not trying to do more than what was necessary or what he was capable of — one of the many other traits Katz admires about him. He also lauds his maturity, saying, “it was like coaching a 50-year-old man.”
Katz added, “I consider him a friend for life, at this point.”
Moving forward, Patton is looking to expand his skill set while continuing to refine his post game. He is in the process of signing with an agent and plans to jump start his pro career overseas or with the NBA G League.
“I want to become a more competent shooter,” Patton said. “This was the first year I took jump shots. I'll move my game out to the perimeter, handle the ball a little more but I also have to become a better rebounder. With my strength, size and athleticism I should be rebounding more. I'll focus on moving my game to something more perimeter oriented so I can have a longer career professionally.”