OGDEN — After the heartbreak of last year's conference final, Weber State is looking to improve on its performance over last year.
The Wildcats will have a difficult road ahead of them, losing two star players and being picked as the runner-up in the Big Sky Conference. The Wildcats are returning three starters and a transfer from the University of Utah.
Weber State University men’s basketball team is coming off a third-place finish in the Big Sky Conference last year, going 12-6 in conference and 20-14 overall. The Wildcats made it to the Big Sky championship game, where North Dakota beat the Wildcats in overtime, 93-89.
This year, the Wildcats come into the season picked second in the Big Sky preseason polls. The Wildcats have been the top preseason pick to win the Big Sky eight times in the past 10 years. The Idaho Vandals are the top pick this year in the Big Sky by both the coaches and media polls.
Wildcats head coach Randy Rahe is returning for his 12th season at Weber State. Rahe has won 228 games as head coach at Weber State, which is the most in school history. Rahe can also become the winningest coach in Big Sky Conference history if the Wildcats can win 19 games.
Weber State graduated three seniors last season, one of which was the all-time leading scorer in school history, Jeremy Senglin. The Wildcats are returning three starters from last year's team: Ryan Richardson, Zach Braxton and Cody John. The production lost by losing Senglin will be a difficult hole for the Wildcats this year. Senglin averaged 21.1 points per game in his senior year, and the only returning player over 10 points per game is junior Zack Braxton.
The three returning starters for Weber State combined for 25.9 points per game and 11.2 rebounds last year.
Weber State played an exhibition against Western State on Nov. 2 and proved it can replace Senglin’s scoring production. During the exhibition, sophomore Jerrick Harding had 26 points, was perfect from the free-throw line and had six assists, four rebounds and two steals. Junior Brekkott Chapman also had 20 points in his first game for the Wildcats, along with seven rebounds and three blocks.
Junior Brekkott Chapman is new to Weber State, transferring from the in-state power University of Utah. Chapman was on the Ute team that made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament two years ago. The Utes recruited Chapman as a national top-50 recruit.
Returning starters Richardson and Braxton also recorded over 10 points. Braxton also had seven rebounds against Western State.
The area of concern for the Wildcats last year was the team's lack of offensive rebounds. Last year, Weber State was out-rebounded on the offensive boards 243-368. In the first game, the Wildcats only had four offensive rebounds, and Western State had nine. Weber State out-rebounded the Mountaineers 33-30 for the game.
Weber State's first challenge is against in-state foe Utah State. Utah State's point guard Koby McEwen, who will likely be first team all-conference this year, winner of the Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year last year, led the Aggies. McEwen finished the season with 14.9 PPG and 3.1 APG.
The Wildcats host the Aggies Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center in Ogden.
Weber State won the last meeting against the Aggies in Logan last year, 77-71.