Edwards Has Settled On The Great Eight -- And Looking for More

LARAMIE – Okay, so it wasn’t a blowout for the Cowboys in their exhibition basketball game against Division II Colorado Christian University. But the Cowboys did win, hanging on for a 72-69 victory when the visitors made a run in the final two minutes to cut the Wyoming lead by nine points.

It was, however what coach Allen Edwards wanted to see.

“I needed to answer some more questions for the new guys, and who is going to be able to help us,” said Edwards. “I was happy with the opportunity to play some of the new guys.”

The search for answers was why Edwards did not play Justin James, a returning All-MWC selection, and junior college transfer A.J. Banks, a 6-2 guard from Pratt (Kan.) Community College, junior college transfer Jake Hendricks from College of South Idaho, and 6-9 freshman Trace Young from Mount Zion Prep School.

“Hendricks was the only one who sat with an injury (wrist),” said Edwards. Trace Young and I had a good sit down. We are thinking about redshirting him. I didn’t want to play J.J. I know his game. Banks was the same thing.

“He is a kid that fits what we are doing as a basketball team. I love his energy and enthusiasm.”

Edwards said Hendricks has been practicing with the team, and is expected to get clearance for Tuesday’s regular season opener against California-Santa Barbara. Hendricks arrived in Laramie early and has fit in nicely with the team.

The encouraging developments for the Cowboys was the way Hunter Maldanado assumed more of a presence on the floor, the fact that Jordan Naughton did not have any lingering trouble from a nagging back injury that limited him so much last year, and the presence of redshirt-freshman Hunter Thompson, the 6-10 addition from Pine Bluffs.

While the number of newcomers on the floor did lead to some lapses, the overall picture was fine, Edwards said.

“I thought we had some spurts,” he said. “I liked what I saw on defense, especially (Colorado Christian’s five) shot clock violations and (17) turnovers. It was something to build on.”

It also reaffirmed to Edwards what the makeup of the eight-man foundation for the Cowboys in the coming season. Along with James, Banks and Hendricks, the Cowboys’ base will include guards Nye Redding and Hunter Maldanado, guard/forward Austin Mueller, and big men Naughton and Thompson.

“I don’t know if (Naughton) can be a 30-to-35 minute guy, but he can be 25-to-28 minutes within spurts. I felt comfortable with Thompson as well.”

Naughton, who recently underwent a medical procedure to alleviate lower back pain that lingered from a year ago, said while he occasional thought about the back it was not a problem in his limited time on the floor (eight minutes), but he did “tweek” a knee. He did look comfortable. While he only had one rebound in the eighth hits, he was 5-for-5 from the floor.  With Thompson scoring eight points, the Cowboys big men combined for 18 points, hitting eight of 10 shots from the floor, and Thompson converting both of his free throws.

“It was something I dreamed about, coming from Wyoming,” Thompson said of his first Division I game, even if it was an exhibition. “I felt good about playing a game since it was my first game in more than a year. To get back and feel that competitiveness again was awesome.”

Postion 8-Man Rotation Class Ht/Wt 2017-18
Guard Justin James Senior 6-7, 190 Wyoming
Guard Hunter Maldanado Sophomore 6-7, 200 Wyoming
Forward Jordan Naughton Senior 6-10, 234 Wyoming
Guard Nye Redding Senior 6-2, 172 Wyoming
Forward Augstin Mueller sophomore 6-6, 210 Wyoming
Forward Hunter Thompson redshirt freshman 6-10, 235 Redshirt
Guard A.J. Banks junior 6-2, 163 Pratt CC
Guard Jake Hendricks junior 6-5, 170 College of So. Idaho

While Thompson fouled out, Edwards liked what he saw, saying that several of the fouls were more touch type issues than anything.

“I felt comfortable with Thompson,” said Edwards. “Especially when J.J. is on the floor, his ability to score inside and shoot the ball will help open up J.J.’s ability to operate.”

James was good last year, and Edwards things he will be better this year.

There was some growth when he went to tryout camps in the summer, while mulling the possibility of going out early for the NBA draft, which he decided against.

“I think (the NBA camps) helped,” said Edwards. “I thought it helped his confidence. He felt just as talented as the guys he was competing against, but understood it is not going to be his offensive power that helps his long-term goal or his team’s long-term goal.

“We had a great time talking one-on-one about his prospects and how he can be successful with what we are doing, him being a complete player.”

Tracy RingolsbyComment