Playing the what-if game

A couple things happened this week that had me dreaming and pondering, ‘What could the University of Wyoming’s basketball team have looked like if a few dominos had fallen the other way?’

To set the stage, a brief glance must be given to the current state of the Pokes. Wyoming is currently shorthanded and struggling. The backcourt has seen an injury to Hunter Maldonado that could have him missing anywhere from a month to the rest of the season and a suspension to Ny Redding for an incident in downtown Laramie.

The frontcourt was dealt a bad hand before the season even started when Jordan Naughton hurt his knee stretching — he returned for the first time Friday night against East Tennessee State. Fellow post player, Austin Mueller, tore his ACL in practice a couple weeks ago and is lost for the season.

Those aforementioned circumstances have made for a difficult start to the season, which has featured just three wins in the first 11 games.

Two players, competing just east of the Pokes in the state of South Dakota, would have helped dearly this season, and both of them had noteworthy weeks.

The first player is Mike Daum of South Dakota State. The 6-foot-9 stretch forward — who recently corralled the 1,000th rebound of his career — could not only help the Pokes out but start for a vast majority of teams in the country. The future NBAer averages a double-double with 24.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Daum hails from Kimball, Nebraska, a town of 2,300 people 20 miles east of the Wyoming border. The small-town baller has brown and gold blood flowing in his veins, it’s just not as pure as it once was.

Daum’s mother Michele didn’t just attend UW but excelled. She garnered All-American status for her play as a Cowgirl, eventually earning inclusion to the school’s athletic hall of fame. Daum’s father Mitch played tight end for the Pokes.

The Cowboys remained high, if not on top, of Daum’s list of potential schools out of high school, not only because of the rich family connection, but also for the fact that Laramie is just over 100 miles from Kimball.

But UW’s recruitment of Daum — under then head coach Larry Shyatt — cooled during his junior season of high school and he eventually decided to attend SDSU and will likely score 3,000 points as a Jackrabbit. I can’t even fathom how Shyatt missed on this kid. Shyatt made a living out of finding under-recruited diamonds in the rough like Larry Nance Jr. and Josh Adams and developing them into All-Mountain West players. How did he miss on a kid of this caliber who likely wanted nothing more than to attend the school his parents went to?

That would have cured some of the frontcourt issues this year but also helped immensely over the last few years.

The second player is Cody Kelley at South Dakota. The former two-time Gatorade Player of the Year out of Gillette stabilized the guard position for the Pokes the last two years. He wasn’t overly flashy or explosive but he was a sure hand.

After transferring from UW last offseason, Kelley is enjoying his best collegiate season to date this year with the Coyotes, averaging 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.6 assists per contest.

Kelley was recently named Summit League Player of the Week for helping USD to win at Colorado State.

It’s a dangerous game and one can venture into some dark places playing the what-if game. I’m still happy with the players UW currently has in its program — Justin James is worth the price of admission. It’s just difficult to not ponder what could have been had a couple players, who are currently balling out in South Dakota, had attended or stayed at Wyoming.


Pokes notes

• The University of Wyoming football team signed 18 players during the early signing period Wednesday. Sheridan High School standout Parker Christensen was one of those signees.

• UW wrestler, and former Sheridan Bronc, Hayden Hastings busted into FloWresting’s rankings for the first time in his career. The redshirt freshman is ranked No. 19 in the 174-pound weight class.

• The UW’s women’s basketball toppled South Dakota State 77-70 Thursday night, improving to 7-2 on the season.

By |Dec. 24, 2018|

About the Author:

Bud Denega joined The Sheridan Press in November 2017 as the primary sports reporter. He is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the University of Wyoming. Prior to working in Sheridan, Bud spent time as a sports reporter for the Minot Daily News in Minot, North Dakota, before being a sports reporter for the Laredo Morning Times in Laredo, Texas. Email Bud at:


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