Sept. 25, 2013
LARAMIE, Wyo. -
The University of Wyoming men's basketball team officially begins preparations for its 2013-14 campaign on Friday with a two-hour practice at 4 p.m. inside the Arena-Auditorium. Friday is the first day the NCAA permits formal team practices for the upcoming season, as the Cowboys are coming off a summer where the NCAA allowed more individual practice time. The Pokes will also be able to start team practices two weeks earlier this fall.
"In our case more time with the team in the summer and an earlier start to team practices is a positive because we have so many young players in the program," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "We've had a chance to observe them and listen to them and, most of all, coach them. It's been a huge advantage for all Division I programs to be able to embrace their teams more in the offseason."
Shyatt and company crafted another successful season in 2012-13. Wyoming surpassed expectations with a 20-14 overall record en route to another postseason berth in the College Basketball Invitational. The Cowboys began the season red hot with a 13-0 mark, the best start in program history, to climb into the nation's top-25 rankings for the first time since 1991. Now a balanced 2013-14 UW squad will look to build on back-to-back 20-win seasons and postseason bids. This season's Pokes feature two seniors, six juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen, as three starters and 10 letterwinners return.
"We relied heavily on eight quality seniors the past two seasons, but now we flip the page," Shyatt said. "We have a new era this season with two seniors that have only been here a combined one year. Fortunately, we have several other team members that, over the last two seasons, have been a part of 41 wins and three wins over top-20 ranked foes, so they have a solid foundation to build off of."
Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. is Wyoming's top returner after averaging 10.7 points and 6.9 rebounds last season, while fellow junior Riley Grabau could take over the point guard position after his 2.5 assists were second on the team last season. Sophomore guard Josh Adams was thrust into a starting role midway through 2012-13 and averaged 6.6 points down the stretch. He looks to be a contributing starter right from the start this fall. UW's strength in 2013-14 could be its depth, as several other letterwinners that saw extended minutes last season return. Junior forward Derek Cooke Jr. and senior guard Nathan Sobey both averaged 13 minutes in action off the bench in 2012-13.
Five newcomers will also add immediate depth for Wyoming this season. Redshirt junior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. sat out last season after transferring from Alabama, while redshirt senior guard Jerron Granberry has one year of eligibility after graduating from North Florida this spring. Both could push for a starting spot on UW's perimeter. Freshman guard Trey Washington III is in the mold of former Cowboy and 2012 MW Defensive Player of the Year JayDee Luster, while freshman forward Keonta Vernon was impressive in California during his prep career and adds physicality inside.
"The one thing we can't control is the credibility of men's basketball in the Mountain West, as that is at an all-time high," Shyatt said. "Because of that we are going to focus on who we are and understand who we are not. Hopefully these guys can grow with us this season. They have done everything a coach could ask this spring and summer on and off the court, so now we just have to put our best foot forward."
The Cowboys will host CU-Colorado Springs for an exhibition game on Oct. 31, before opening the regular season against Tennessee-Martin on Nov. 8 in the Arena-Auditorium. The 2013-14 home schedule features 19 home games, as postseason play begins at the Reese's MW Championships on March 12-15 in Las Vegas. Fans can purchase season tickets by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or going online at GoWYO.com.