The Wyoming Cowboys basketball team under the leadership of coach Larry Shyatt (103-60, during his two stints in Laramie) are preparing to defend their Mountain West title this year with a new look squad. Gone is forward Larry Nance Jr. (16.1ppg, 7.1rpg) who was drafted in the first round of the NBA draft by the Los Angeles Lakers. The Pokes also lost three other starters to graduation in Derek Cooke Jr. (8.1ppg), Riley Grabau (9.1ppg) and Charles Hankerson Jr. (6.9ppg) who helped lift that Mountain West trophy last spring in Las Vegas.
This year’s team will undoubtedly be led by the squad’s lone senior energetic guard Josh Adams (12.8ppg), who will be relied on for both scoring and leadership with a young team that now consists of five freshman and six sophomores. The Pokes can be successful this season, the key questions for Wyoming basketball are:
- How quickly will the new players buy into Shyatt’s defensive oriented team first philosophy?
- Who will step up and provide the needed scoring to replace the departed seniors who accounted for 65.3% of last season’s offense?
The first question is the key one as we all know a player will not see the court unless Shyatt feels that he understands and can execute the defensive work required of them. Any of the newcomers could make an immediate splash if their defense is to Shyatt’s liking and the one player I think very well could be clicking come conference season is JUCO transfer Morris Marshall who averaged 16.8ppg and 6.1rpg last season at Sante Fe Community College in Gainesville, Florida. The more of these new players who can make the leap the more depth Wyoming will have which will help make the Cowboys more competitive this season.
As for the second question, the main returning players who I would expect to increase their offensive production with more playing time this season are: guard Alexander Aka Gorski, forward Alan Herndon and guard Jason McManamen.
The Swedish guard Aka Gorski is an athletic player with a smooth shot that I can see making a big improvement this year. To realize this potential he will have to beat out a host of new comers at the guard position and perform defensive duties as needed.
Colorado Springs product Alan Herndon has the chance to develop into a solid Mountain West player due to his size and all around skill set and that development could be seen as soon as this season. Herndon is almost a lock to be in the starting lineup and should step right into the Larry Nance role as he is a player who can score points both inside and outside. Herdon needs to get stronger and improve his footwork and we should see improvements from him in both this areas when games tip-off in November.
This past season McManamen the lone Wyoming native on scholarship was a sharp shooting 6th man for the Pokes. No one will forget his three point shot late in the Mountain West title game versus San Diego State. The question is can he/will earn a starting role this season at shooting guard or small forward or is he better suited to be a player who can provide some scoring off the bench?
We will start to get some answers with this basketball team on October 17th at the open scrimmage before the football game and November 7th with the exhibition game versus Fort Lewis on the slate to open the 15/16 season.