Rahe, Weber value playing in-state games

Rahe, Weber value playing in-state games

(Weber State Athletics)

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OGDEN — In-state rivalries are a big deal to Weber State coach Randy Rahe.

Since arriving at the Big Sky school in 2006, the coach has focused on playing high-quality in-state games every year. The Wildcats will face every Division I program in the state this season, minus Utah, and Weber will host BYU and Utah Valley at the Dee Events Center over the next two Saturdays.

Scheduling college sports is a challenge, and coaches have a variety of opinions on how to go about creating the perfect schedule for their team. Rahe said scheduling in-state games just makes sense.

"I just think it's important," he said. "I just think it's important to play all the in-state games you can. I think it's great for our fans, it's great for our kids, but it's great for the state, too.

"We'll play everybody in the state that we can. … Utah is a terrific college basketball state. Where else do you have the kind of universities we have — five Division I universities — within five hours?"

The games aren't always easy or fun, as Weber learned earlier this season in Logan. Despite holding a 47-29 halftime lead over Utah State, the Aggies stormed back to stun the Wildcats 72-61.

Rahe said the nature of in-state rivalries helps players prepare for the adversity of conference play.

"Utah is a terrific college basketball state," said Weber State coach Randy Rahe.

"When you get to conference play, the intensity goes up," he said. "These games have that, so they prepare you well for the conference games. The same kind of environment you're going to be in, the energy, the preparedness — they do a great job of preparing us for those kinds of games. They're priceless."

Rahe learned about the importance of in-state games when he was an assistant to Utah State coach Stew Morrill. Like his pupil, Morrill will face every in-state team, except for the Utes, this season.

Fans love rivalry games, but players love them as well. Weber State forward James Hajek is in his final year with the Wildcats, and noted in-state rivalry games are easy to prepare for.

"When it's two schools as close as we are, you always want to beat the other one," he said. "Try to get bragging rights, not just for the fans but for ourselves. It's fun to say we beat the team this year, so it's always a fun game that we definitely get up for."

Junior forward Richaud Gittens said the atmosphere of an in-state rivalry game is incomparable.

"Every time these games come up, we look at them like the biggest games of the year, besides conference," he said. "It's like a championship to me. The whole gym is packed; you can't hear. Coach has to practice little signals, so we know what he's talking about. It brings out the best in you."

The atmosphere for the annual BYU-Weber rivalry game is expected to be intense Saturday, with the Cougars playing two in-state rivalry games this week.

Rahe said he is appreciative that other coaches in the state continue to play the Wildcats in Ogden regularly.

"I'm really happy that (BYU coach) Dave Rose continues to play us, especially in our building," he said. "He wouldn't have to do that, and Coach Morrill, because the new wave is teams like that want to get away from playing on somebody else's home court that is supposedly lower-level. I understand that thinking too, but (Rose and Morrill) have been really great about maintaining these rivalries. I think they know the importance of them."

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