Reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Joel Bolomboy dunks the ball during practice on Friday. Bolomboy was third in the nation last year, averaging 11.0 rebounds per game.  (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)
Reigning Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year Joel Bolomboy dunks the ball during practice on Friday. Bolomboy was third in the nation last year, averaging 11.0 rebounds per game.
(Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

The Weber State men’s basketball team held its first practice Friday afternoon, and for the team it was great first step in the season.

Prior to the start of practice, junior forward Joel Bolomboy had vigorous skill workouts and was pushed by assistant coach Garrett Lever, all while the other teammates warmed up.

But at the sound of the first whistle from head coach Randy Rahe, the whole team clapped enthusiastically and congregated at center court with the passion of a team on a mission.

The first team drill was full court dribbling skill, passing, layups and shooting. The gym looked like chaos, with players flying around the court, basketballs flying from player to coach.

With much hype and focus in the air, all players and coaches fully engaged with every drill, each drill coming with more intensity than the last. There was a sense of pride returning to practice for the Wildcats.

When it comes the coaching, there was one recurring theme mentioned by Rahe: “high active.” Every player on the floor was well-conditioned but because the coaching staff pushed every player to the brink, it was as if that moment was the most important.

Senior center James Hajek goes up for the layup during the Wildcats' first fall practice on Friday. The Wildcats start their season Nov. 14 at Utah State.  (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)
Senior center James Hajek goes up for the layup during the Wildcats’ first fall practice on Friday. The Wildcats start their season Nov. 14 at Utah State.
(Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

Towards the end of a very physical practice, coach Rahe had the Wildcats simulate half of a real game by scrimmaging against themselves. Fast paced and in control, the Wildcats were ready.

This year, the Wildcats are returning with five players from last year’s NCAA tournament appearance against the Arizona Wildcats, including Bolomboy, who was named the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year last season.

Bolomboy also earned All-Conference Honorable Mention honors and finished third in the country in rebounding at 11.0 rebounds per game.

“This year I’m a completely different player, and I have a lot of expectations,” Bolomboy said. “But those are what drives me, and I’m ready to meet all those expectations.”

Junior forward Jaelyn Johnson-Coston drives to the basket during the Wildcats' first fall practice.  (Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)
Junior forward Jaelyn Johnson-Coston drives to the basket during the Wildcats’ first fall practice.
(Ariana Berkemeier / The Signpost)

Three sophomores are also back for the Wildcats. Jeremy Senglin, the 2014 Big Sky Newcomer of the Year started all 31 games last season and finished third on the team in scoring at 10.9 points per game.

“With the awards comes a lot of responsibility,” Senglin said. “The confidence comes from the work ethic in the gym outside of practice and coaches.”

The Wildcats will wrap up their fall practices with the annual Purple and White game on Oct. 22. They will have two exhibition games against St. Katherine and Western State, before starting their season on the road Nov. 14 at Utah State. Their first home game will be on Nov. 17 against Presentation College

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