OGDEN,UTAH - Weber State, along with the rest of the teams in NCAA Division I men's basketball, opens official practice sessions this coming SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18. The Wildcats will hit the court at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. The weekly practice schedule will be from 3:30 to 5:45 p.m. beginning on Monday, October 20. The ‘Cats will not practice on Wednesday, October 22.
The PURPLE-WHITE Intra-Squad game is set for Wednesday, October 29 beginning at 7:00 p.m. in the Dee Events Center. WSU has two pre-season exhibition games on Monday, November 3 at 8:05 p.m. vs. the University of Guelph from Canada, and on Saturday, November 8 at 5:05 against Colorado Springs-Colorado. Weber State opens the 2008-09 season at the 2K Sports Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer. The Wildcats are part of the Los Angeles Regional and will play Miami (Ohio) on Wednesday, November 12 at Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA. The Bruins play Prairie View A&M. The two winners will met on Thursday, November 13 to see who will go to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and finals on Nov. 20 and 21.
Weber State head coach, RANDY RAHE, begins his third season at the Wildcat helm. Rahe is 36-26 (.581) overall and 21-11(.656) in Big Sky Conference regular season games. In his first season (2006-07), Rahe guided the Wildcats to a 20-12 record overall and an 11-5 mark in Big Sky play. The Wildcats tied for the regular season championship with Northern Arizona but won the tie-breaker and right to host the Big Sky Post-Season Tournament. WSU won that and advanced to the NCAA Tournament where they lost to UCLA in the opening round. Last season, the Wildcats were 16-14 overall, 10-6 in league playing finishing third. WSU defeated Montana State at home in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Tournament, then lost to Northern Arizona in the semifinals held at the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
QUICK 2007-08 RECAP
As mentioned above, the Wildcats were 16-14 overall, 10-6 in Big Sky play. The ‘Cats were a sparkling 12-2 at home losing only to Utah (52-72) and Northern Arizona (56-69). ARTURAS VALEIKA (6-9, 225 Sr. Center) led the Big Sky Conference in Rebounding at 10.2 and averaged 9.9 points. Valeika was named First Team All-Big Sky.
DEZMON HARRIS (6-1, 175 Sr. Guard) led the Wildcats in scoring at 10.9 points per game and was named Second Team All-Big Sky. Harris was also the Big Sky Conference leader in Free Throw Percentage hitting 76-92 for .826. DAVIIN DAVIS (6-4, 190 Jr. Guard) earned Honorable Mention All-Big Sky honors averaging 8.6 points, 3.0 rebounds, 1.2 blocked shots and 1.0 steals per game. The Wildcats led the Big Sky Conference in SCORING DEFENSE holding opponents to an average of 65.7 points per game and in REBOUNDING DEFENSE allowing opponents just 29.2 rebounds a contest.
WSU's longest win streak in 07-08 was five games which came early in Big Sky Conference play. The longest losing streak was four dropping games to Utah (52-72), @Illinois (61-78), @BYU (57-72) and @San Francisco (65-67) in late November and early December. WSU began the season with a solid 78-71 home court win over in-state rival Utah State and had a rare "sweep" of Montana State (78-76) and Montana (68-67) on the road and for the season.
Wildcats Look To Blend New Faces With Talented Veterans in 08-09
Coach Randy Rahe and his staff return just two starters and four lettermen.
A youth movement of sorts is set to sweep through the 2008-09 Weber State University men's basketball team. Third-year head coach RANDY RAHE returns just four lettermen and two starters off a last year's squad which posted a 16-14 record overall and a 10-6 mark in the Big Sky Conference finishing third. The ‘Cats advanced to the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Post-Season Tournament losing to Northern Arizona.
Coming into the 2008-09 campaign, the Wildcats will be without their leading scorer (Dezmon Harris: 10.9 ppg) and the Big Sky's leading rebounder last season (Arturas Valeika: 10.2), and starting point guard (Brody Van Brocklin: 5.0 ppg). With that said, Coach Rahe and his staff beginning the remodeling process around the two returning seniors in forward DAVIIN DAVIS (6-4, 205) and point guard KELLEN McCOY (5-6, 180).
"We will be counting on those two to step up and become leaders on and off the court," said Rahe. "Davin's been in the program two years and has matured physically, mentally and emotionally to the point where we expect him to take his game up a notch or two on both ends of the floor. Kellen got better and better as the year progressed and he's come back this summer more relaxed and focused. They need to set a positive mood and tone for the rest of the team every time we step on the court."
Davis earned Honorable Mention All-Sky Conference honors after averaging 8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds. He started in 19 of the 30 game and led the team with 37 blocked shots and 28 steals.
McCoy came off the bench in 28 of the 20 games and ended up as the team's third leading scorer at 8.8 points a contest. He shot 40 percent from the three-point line and 77 from the free throw line.
Two big post players should figure heavily in any team success this season.
STEVE PANOS (6-8, 240 Jr.) and TREVOR MORRIS (6-9, 245 Soph.) bring some bulk, strength and athletic ability to the post.
Panos started in 28 of the 30 contests as a sophomore and averaged 7.1 points, 3.3 rebounds and shot 55 percent from the field. Morris led the team in field goal percentage making 34-53 (.642) shots from the floor.
"Steve and Trevor made great strides during the year in their offensive games," Rahe said. "We now need them to make that same improvement in their post defense and become rebounders on both ends. Arturas (Valeika) was such a dominant rebounder that a lot of times they become spectators instead of competitors and that's what we need them to become this season."
Rahe said he expects his newcomers come out of the chute from the first day of practice to be aggressive and fight for playing time.
"We need to have our new players come into camp with a strong, aggressive attitude physically, mentally and emotionally," said Rahe. "They need to push the veterans and push each other. A lot of our players can play more than one spot and that will make for some interesting, intense practices the first couple of weeks."
Three junior college transfers are expected to be in that mix.
NICK HANSEN (6-4, 185 Jr. Guard), MARCUS CARSON (6-4, 185 Jr. Forward) and MARCO RAMOS (6-7, 219 Jr. Forward) are names Wildcat fans will get familiar with in a hurry.
"Nick is a tough, hard-nosed player who is very mature. He loves to compete and can really shoot the ball. We look for him to come in and give us a lot of good minutes right from the start," Rahe said. "Marcus is a good athlete. He red-shirted one season and played one season at Southern Utah University before transferring to Paris Junior College. He's got good skills and can slash to the basket. We found out about Marco late in the spring. He's a kid who got hurt his sophomore year at junior college and at the time was averaging around 18 points and 10 rebounds a game. He came back last year and finished up his degree paying his own way. He's really likes to compete and like our players, is a team guy first. He just wants to win and is a tenacious rebounder."
The Wildcats will take the red-shirt off of three players who sat out last season and will be looking to compete for playing time.
KYLE BULLINGER (6-6, 205 Fr. Forward) suffered a severe ankle sprain at the beginning of the 2007-08 practice sessions last October and did not return to practice until December. He averaged nearly 28 points and 12 rebounds his senior year in high school. He brings a tough, physical presence to the frontline and will most likely play at the power forward spot. DARIN MAHONEY (6-8, 220 Fr. Forward) and JOSH COTTLE (5-11, 175 Soph. Guard) were high school teammates at Wasatch High School in Heber City, Utah.
Mahoney was originally signed by the Wildcats in April of 2005 but elected to serve a two-year LDS Church mission to Japan right out of high school. It took him most of the season to get himself back into shape but he made vast improvements in his game the last six weeks of the season and during the 2008 spring conditioning.
Cottle played his freshman year at Utah Valley State College in Orem, Utah before leaving to serve a two-year LDS Church mission to Fort Worth, Texas and decided to enroll at WSU upon his return.
"I expect Kyle to step right in and be ready to play," said Rahe. "He's one of those players who competes each every possession on both ends of the floor. He's a good shooter and can drive to the basket with force and knows how to get to the foul line where he's a pretty good shooter. Darin's really made a lot of improvement the last three months. He has a chance to become a really good defender, rebounder and shot blocker and as time goes along I expect him to become more of an offensive threat. Josh will be in the point guard mix but needs to stay healthy. He's knows the game and knows how, and when, to deliver the ball."
The Wildcat coaching staff signed two premiere freshman guards in TERRANCE DENT (6-1, 185) and DAMIAN LILLARD (6-1, 170). Both players can play both positions and they represent a great future for the Wildcats in the backcourt.
"We were really fortunate to sign Terrance and Damian," Rahe said. "They both had exceptional senior seasons and they both come from solid high school programs but like all freshmen, the transition from high school to college is a big step. If they work hard on both ends of the floor and put the team ahead of any individual goals, they both have a chance to come in and see not only quantity playing time but quality time as well. They give us a solid duo in the backcourt for the next four years."
Dent is the son of former University of Wyoming men's basketball star Sean Dent. He averaged 16 points, five assists and four rebounds in 2008-09 and was named second team all-state. Lillard was named in several basketball publications as one of the top 100 prep guards in the country for the 2007-08 season. He averaged nearly 30 points and four assists at Oakland High.
T.J. BENSON (5-11, 175 Jr. Guard) rounds out the roster. He has been in the program for two seasons - one as a red-shirt and played in nine games last season at the point guard position.
Overall, Rahe says he's excited about this team and says hard work and dedication are the keys.
"I am really excited about coaching this team," said Rahe. "We have really hard working, tough kids, with high character, that I believe will just get better and better as the season progresses. Overall we are going to be a little less experienced than last season and I expect a lot of our freshmen to see a great deal of playing time early in the year."