‘The teams back in the glory days, those were all four-year guys.’
After being one of the youngest college basketball teams in the country last season, the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team opened its first practice today with nine players that saw the floor for the Cowboys last season.
CASPER, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - The University of Wyoming men’s basketball program began its first official practice of the 2021-22 season Thursday. Head Coach Jeff Linder has brought the energy back into the basketball program after a few down seasons in Laramie under the previous regime.
The team finished 14-12 including a home non-conference win over eventual Pac-12 Tournament Champions Oregon State. The Cowboys’ season ended in the quarterfinals of the Mountain West Tournament.
Nine players from last year’s team return to Laramie this season, and Linder said on Thursday that cohesion is crucial.
“That’s the key. That’s when the University of Wyoming’s been really good, whether that was under Coach [Larry] Shyatt when they built it with [Larry] Nance and [Josh] Adams and [Riley] Grabau and those guys as younger players. The teams back in the glory days, those were all four-year guys.
“And that’s the trick nowadays in college basketball is can you keep your players together as long as possible because by the way we do things, and that’s why we were so good at Northern Colorado, is just the consistency and keeping the players in the program and then just getting the reps they get. You know when you’re getting 90 to 120 5-on-5 reps every day in practice those guys just naturally get better.”
Among the key contributors that return is Hunter Maldonado, a guard who started all 25 games last season and averaged 12.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game last season. Maldonado is joined in the backcourt by Xavier Dusell, who finished the season strong for the Cowboys and led the team with 57 3-pointers.
In the frontcourt, Graham Ike returns for a full year after joining the Pokes in the middle of the season. Ike saw the floor in 12 games and averaged 11.2 points with 5.4 rebounds per game.
The season tips off against Detroit-Mercy on Nov. 10 in Laramie, but the Pokes are scheduled to visit Cheyenne for a scrimmage at Storey Gym on Oct. 9.
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