The Weber State University men’s basketball team will begin official practices today. The Wildcats are two weeks away from their annual Purple and White Game. The season will officially open on Nov. 8, when the Wildcats travel to the Marriott Center to face Brigham Young University.
The Wildcats are coming off of one of their most successful seasons in school history. The team went 18-2 in the Big Sky Conference. It finished the season 30-7, advancing to the championship game of the College Insider Tournament. With all the success, though, the team still wasn’t satisfied.
“We are tired of being second,” said senior center Kyle Tresnak. “That’s all I can really say. We come into the offseason, even in the summer, thinking, ‘There is no more second place.’ I’ve been here three years now, and we’ve come in second place twice and third place once. I’ve been let down a lot. I don’t want to be let down anymore. “
The Wildcats played in two championship games last season, losing both in the final seconds of the game.
“We’ve come close,” said WSU head coach Randy Rahe. “The last two years, we finished 14-2 and 18-2. Montana finished 15-1 and 19-1. They have had their best two teams in school history these last two seasons.”
Rahe applauded the season the Wildcats had last year, but he still is focused on his goal of a Big Sky Championship and a bid in the NCAA tournament.
“We don’t like (finishing second),” Rahe said. “The kids have had terrific seasons, and they have come one game short. And that sticks in your craw. We remind our guys of it all the time. We won 30 games last year, but we are still one game short of what we wanted to do.”
Players shared the same sentiment — that the ultimate goal is the NCAA tournament.
“The expectation is to win every game and try and win the NCAA Championship,” said senior guard Davion Berry. “But we want to win the Big Sky Championship this year. We keep coming up short. We got to get it this year.”
To accomplish its goal, the team will play a tough pre-conference schedule.
“It’s probably the toughest schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here, top to bottom,” Rahe said. “And I did it on purpose. We can’t get home games. Nobody is going to come here and play. We can either choose to go out on the road and play a low- to mid-major school, or we can go out and choose to play a really quality program.
“I’ve always believed that we need to play quality. I want to play the best teams we can. Those games we are going to play are going to make us better. You can’t win big if you are afraid to lose big.”
The team lost a few players, but gained others. Coaches and players said they are excited about the new additions and the things they bring to the team.
“Athletically wise, we are a little different than we have been in the past,” said senior guard Byron Fulton. “We have a few guys that can run a little faster, jump a little higher — guys that are just physically gifted. Physically, we are going to be a different animal.”
After the offseason, the team is ready to get started and see what it’s made of.
“We are hungry,” Berry said. “We haven’t done anything yet. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. We are just a young team excited to play this year.”
After the Purple and White Game, the Wildcats will host an exhibition game on Nov. 2 against Adams State University. The game will begin at 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center.