The men’s basketball preseason is officially under way. Following the Purple and White Game last week, the Wildcats are now preparing for their loan preseason game against Western State Colorado University before kicking off the regular season.
Head Coach Randy Rahe said he is excited about the mixture of new and returning players the team will have this season, and that he hopes to have a strong season.
“I’m excited about the group we have coming back, as well as the new players that have joined our program,” Rahe said. “We have a great group of kids here, and everyone is ready to get the season going.”
WSU will have a strong group of returning players, with all but three members of last year’s team returning. This season, the Wildcats will be without Damian Lillard, Kyle Bullinger and Darin Mahoney.
Seven players are returning for the team this season. Returning for the Wildcats is senior Scott Bamforth, who has received conference honors in the previous two seasons. Last season, Bamforth averaged 14.5 points a game and shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point arc.
Frank Otis will also be back for the Wildcats. Otis played 12 games last season, but was hampered by knee injuries for much of the year. Otis averaged five points and 3.8 rebounds per game. He also led the team with a 69-percent shooting average from the field.
Also returning will be upperclassman Byron Fulton, who averaged seven points and four rebounds last year; Jordan Richardson, who averaged four points and two assists, and Kyle Tresnak, who earned a Big Sky Honorable Mention. James Hajek and Gelaun Wheelwright will also be back this season for WSU.
“We obviously lost some incredible players and leaders off last year’s squad,” Rahe said, “so that will be a big change for us, but we do have some players returning that have seen a lot of playing time and understand what needs to be done. This is a chance for the returning group to step up and become leaders.”
Rahe also said he is excited about the new group of players joining the team. Nine new players will be on the roster this season, including Davion Berry, who sat out last year after transferring to WSU.
“I’m looking forward to this new group of players coming in,” Rahe said. “I’m excited to see what they can offer us. We need to get them to understand how hard they need to play and what they need to do.”
Berry said he is excited for the chance to play this year after sitting out last season. He also said he’s hopeful he’ll be able to make an impact on the team this year.
“It felt good to play (in the Purple and White Game),” Berry said. “We’re looking forward to this season.”
Following the game against WSCU on Nov. 5, WSU will start the regular season on Nov. 9 against Arizona Christian University. WSU has nine non-conference games, four of which will be played at home this year, including a mid-December matchup against Brigham Young University.
The Wildcats will also face new opponents in Big Sky Conference play this year. The University of North Dakota and Southern Utah University will be joining the conference this season. This year will feature 20 conference games, which will kick off for WSU on Dec. 20 when it travels to Eastern Washington University. The Big Sky Tournament will be held March 14-16. The regular season champion will host the tournament.
This season will mark the 50th anniversary of WSU competing in Division I basketball.