The University of Wyoming men’s basketball team rounded out its recruiting class Wednesday with the second signing of a big man this week. In all likelihood, the 2019-20 roster is set, and they have a tall task in front of them. Wyoming is seeking a bounce-back year in an effort to save head coach Allen Edwards’ job.
And I don’t see how that’s possible.
UW athletics director Tom Burman went on record stating that the men’s basketball team, and most especially Edwards, needed to make a “dramatic improvement” in 2019-20. He didn’t give a win total to specify what “dramatic improvement” precisely meant, but it most certainly needs to be night and day better than the eight-win campaign this past season.
Keep in mind, that eight-win season occurred with an NBA-talent in Justin James filling up the stat sheet every night. How are the Pokes supposed to “dramatically improve” when the player that led them in every major statistical category exhausted his eligibility?
Now sometimes teams do improve when its do-it-all player departs. The team bands together, shares the ball well and improves. But I don’t think that’s the case for the Pokes.
James was Wyoming basketball this past season. James elected to come back to Laramie — he could have kept his name in the NBA Draft last season — returning to a team with little to no help for him.
James was not a cancer in the locker room.
He was not a complainer and did not make excuses when it would have been very easy to do so.
He was a team player through and through that deserved better for his senior season.
But alas, how will Wyoming “dramatically improve” next season? The final two recruits surely didn’t move the needle.
Tyler Morman, who committed to UW Tuesday, was the ninth-leading scorer on his junior college team, Florida SouthWestern State College. In that same breath, Florida SouthWestern’s seventh-leading scorer is going to Winthrop. Can you even name the state in which Winthrop resides? Wyoming can’t do better than Winthrop?
With all due respect to Morman, he’s not a Mountain West Conference talent, and not one that’s going to help Wyoming “dramatically improve.”
And isn’t that the whole idea with junior college players? They are players that have competed at the collegiate level that can come in, fill a much-needed role — and let’s face it Wyoming has plenty of those — and improve the team.
Is 4.4 points and 4.7 rebounds per game at Florida SouthWestern going to tip the scales for the Pokes? Probably not.
Javier Turner, who committed Wednesday, is another post player, but he’s coming straight from high school. He will likely be a project because let’s be honest, not too many high schoolers come to Wyoming and make a significant impact their freshman season.
The 2019-20 recruiting class also featured Kwane Marble II and Colorado Gatorade Player of Year Kenny Foster. Foster can ball, but again, the jump from high school basketball in Colorado to the MWC is a steep one. While I like Foster’s future in Laramie, I don’t think he makes an immediate impact for UW.
That leaves Edwards and company with the remaining pieces from an eight-win team. Hunter Maldonado will return from injury, and he can certainly score in double figures. Hunter Thompson has all the offensive tools necessary but needs to improve his defense and rebounding. Jake Hendricks can fill it up from 3-point land.
But the fact of the matter is all three of the aforementioned returnees played together this past season — albeit brief due to injuries — and that team struggled.
So how is this Wyoming team supposed to “dramatically improve?” How is Edwards supposed to save his job?
Knowing what we know now, with the recruiting class filled out, I don’t see how next season is anything but lost. I don’t see how this team “dramatically improves.” I don’t see how Edwards is retained as head coach.
That means a complete rebuild is in store. That means it could be quite a while until Wyoming basketball is even respectable again.
University of Wyoming sprinter Jerayah Davis set a school and meet record in the 100-meter dash (11.18 seconds) at the Beach Invitational in Long Beach, California, last weekend. She also set a school record in the long jump, leaping 21 feet, 2.5 inches. She’s now the only female in the country to hold a top-10 time in track and a top-10 mark in the field.
UW’s men’s golf team finished eighth at the BYU PING Cougar Classic last weekend. Former Sheridan Bronc Kirby Coe-Kirkham placed in a tie for 67th.
UW golfer Erin Sargent set a school record scoring record this season at 74.7.