The Weber State University men’s basketball team began its preseason work last week. The team is coming off of one of the most successful seasons in school history, going 30-7 and advancing to the finals of the College Insider Tournament.
Veteran players had the chance to work with new recruits during the summer, and they said they have liked what they have seen from the new players so far.
“We love them,” said senior guard Davion Berry. “They fit into our system. They’ve brought in guys that come bring it every day. I just can’t wait to see them out on the court this year.”
With preseason workouts officially starting, head coach Randy Rahe looks to have the players come together and develop chemistry that will help them throughout the season.
“I like our group,” Rahe said. “We’ve got a good mix of veterans with some new guys. What’s important to use these first few weeks is establishing our culture and how hard we are going to work — how good of teammates that we are going to be, how together we’re going to be, our toughness. That’s really what we start off with here.”
The program has received a lot of recognition and praise in the last few months, being named one of the 10 most promising up-and-coming college basketball programs in the country and being projected as a 13th seed in the NCAA March Madness tournament.
“It’s obviously too early for that stuff,” Rahe said. “When we came here, our whole goal was to play at the top of our conference every year. We’ve been able to do that. But it’s nice to hear that people respect your program and think that every year you have a chance to be very good.”
Rahe said the added attention is welcome and he is proud of his players who have bought into the program.
“That’s what we want,” Rahe said. “We don’t shy away from that stuff. That’s what we’re here to do is try to win championships. We’re excited about the challenge of it. What we are trying to do is to enjoy the process of getting to be as good as we can be. And if that’s good enough at the end, then that’s what we are shooting for.”
Rahe attributed some of the recent recognition to Damian Lillard and the success he has had since leaving the program. He also said that although Lillard is the biggest success story, the program has never changed over the years.
“When you have some success and then you have a guy like Damian that comes through your program, it gives you a little more attention, which is all great,” Rahe said. “It’s great for our program, it’s great for Weber State University, it’s great for the city of Ogden that we get recognized. We just do what we do. Nothing has changed in how we do things.”
With the newest additions to the program, players say they are ready to take the next step and win the Big Sky Championship.
“I see us going far,” said senior center Kyle Tresnak. “We’re returning a lot of players from last year. It’s tough losing Scott (Bamforth) and Mook (Frank Otis), but we have found some pieces to help replace that. People have stepped up.”
By reaching deeper and paying attention to little things, the team is ready to hoist the banner in the rafters for the first time in six years.
“I think it’s just going to take a little more focus and paying attention to details to get over that hump,” Tresnak said. “We were there last year. There were just some minor things in those games that kind of were our downfall. I feel like this year we are going to have the focus and the mental toughness to get over that hump.”
The team will finish the preseason with the annual Purple and White Game on Oct. 23, then have its first exhibition game against Adams State University on Nov. 1.