As the Weber State men’s basketball team begins their season, the young WSU team will rely on its lone senior, James Hajek, for guidance and leadership.
“It’s a role that I’ve just taken and run with. I try to be kind of a mentor to the younger guys,” Hajek said. “When I was a freshman, I know that there were some guys that I looked up to. I’m just trying to be kind of like that to some of the younger guys.”
Hajek said that playing the role of one of the team leaders is something he feels a little used to, as he spent most of the season on the sidelines due to a knee injury suffered during summer practice.
“It’s a role that, I don’t know if ‘more comfortable’ is the word, but I feel like I kind of played that role last year,” he said. “I was injured, so I was on the sidelines more. I feel like I still played that role of being a leader, of being a player that guys would look up to.”
WSU head coach Randy Rahe said that he is going to rely on Hajek to help lead the team this season, and also keep the players calm and focused while in the game.
“James is an incredible leader, an incredibly tough guy, a great chemistry guy and just as solid as you can be on the court,” Rahe said. “I’m looking for James to be our stabilizer. He needs to be the guy that, when things get a little crazy out there, he’s gonna be our guy to calm everyone down, stabilize the ship, keep everyone in the right focus and the right direction.”
In nine games last season, Hajek did not score any points, shooting 0-2 from the field and 0-5 from the free throw line. In 29 minutes played over nine games, Hajek pulled down five rebounds, while also recording two blocks and a steal. After being limited due to injury, Hajek said that his main goal this season is to stay healthy.
“First of all, staying healthy. Knock on wood,” Hajek said. “I’ve had some injuries in the past, but I feel healthy really for the first time since my freshman year.”
In his career at Weber State, Hajek has pulled down 110 rebounds, while recording 21 blocks and 10 steals in 58 career games. He has also scored 124 career points, averaging 2.1 points per game.
“I always take pride in my defense and rebounding. I think that’s what our team needs,” Hajek said. “If they need me to score, I’ll score. Right now I think my role is to be a defender, and try to be a tough guy down low and grab some rebounds and help those other guys out, be a leader out there.”
Rahe said that he sees Hajek as playing a big role with the team this season, not just as a leader but also with his play on the court.
“James just doesn’t make mistakes. One thing about James, he’s been with us for five years, he has not had one bad day, and that’s because he has a great attitude and a great work ethic and he’s tough as heck,” Rahe said. “James is gonna have a really big role on the team this year. He’s gonna be a very good defender, a very good rebounder. He can score the ball when he’s one-on-one in the post. But his attitude and his leadership is going to be something that’s invaluable to our team.”
The Wildcats will play their first exhibition game on Saturday at 7 p.m., when they host St. Katherine College at the Dee Events Center. Their regular season schedule will start on Nov. 14 when they go on the road to play Utah State. Looking forward to the season, Hajek said that he feels the key for the Wildcats will be to make sure they play hard throughout the entire game.
“We just need to go 40 minutes. Compete hard for 40 minutes,” Hajek said. “I remember our early season games last year we had success early and then we let up for a 10-minute stretch. So I feel like we need to compete hard for the whole game.”