Surprised? Changing Face of Wyoming Basketball Making Good Impression

Tracy Ringolsby

Wyoming basketball has undergone an overhaul, on the bench and the roster, and it has translated into respect from outside observers.

The Cowboys went 8-24 overall and 4-14 in the MW for the 2018-19 season, and followed that up with a 9-24 overall and 2-16 MW record in 2019-20. 

That resulted in a coaching change -- Jeff Linder taking over as head coach and keeping only one assistant (Shaun Van Diver) from the previous staff.

And then Linder undertook a roster overhaul, which led the Cowboys to earn the early projection from Fansided as the fifth best team in the Mountain West for the 2020-2021 season. It's upper middle of the pack but after finishing in 10th and 11th place out of 11 teams in the Mountain West the last two seasons, it is a major jump back to earning respect.

As well as losing senior guards Jake Hendricks and AJ Banks, the Cowboys had five players enter the transfer portal -- TJ Taylor, Greg Milton, Brandon Porter, Tyler Morman and Javier Turner. And while the transfer portal allows a player to stay with his original team if there is a mutual agreement, Linder said none of the five will return.

Meanwhile, after the Cowboys failed to sign a player in the fall recruiting period under the previous regime, Linder added six scholarship players in the spring period, and the class earned the No. 1 ranking in the Mountain West.

In addition to junior college transfers Eoin Nelson (Otero Junior College), Drew LaMont (Indian River State College), Drak Jeffries (Indian Hills Community College), Linder signed high school commitments Xavier DuSell (Arizona Compass Prep), Ike Graham (Overland High School in Aurora, Colo.), and Marcus Williams (Dickinson, Tex). 

DuSell, ranked the third best player in Arizona, and Williams, among the top 10 in the Houston area, both originally committed to Northern Colorado but opted instead to follow Linder to Wyoming.

The Cowboys also added preferred walk-on John Grisby, who played his senior year at Park Central High School in Brooklyn Park, Minn., after beginning his high school career at Monarch High School in Louisville, Colo. Grisby's older brother played for Linder at Northern Colorado.

The Fanside review of the Cowboys:

5. Wyoming

Few teams in the Mountain West got a bigger win this offseason than Wyoming did when Hunter Maldonado announced he was sticking around for another year. The Cowboys lost a couple of pieces who were important to their success late in this season, but hopes have to be high after the run they just made in the Mountain West tournament.

In Maldonado, they retained one of the early frontrunners for next year’s Mountain West Player of the Year award. He averaged nearly 16 points, six boards, and four assists this year, as he did whatever he could to make the Cowboys a competitive team.

The losses they’ve suffered were Jake Hendricks and Trevon Taylor, who were 2nd and 4th on the team in scoring. However, they added 4 JUCO transfers to the roster who should all be ready to contribute early on and some freshmen who might be able to help out down the stretch.

All of the development at Wyoming probably won’t be enough for them to compete with the top couple of teams in this conference, but it will keep them far away from the 11th place finish they suffered through this season. This Wyoming squad should be fighting for a 1st round bye in next year’s Mountain West.

For a look at Fansided's overall projections on the Mountain West click:

https://bustingbrackets.com/2020/04/30/mountain-west-basketball-way-early-2020-21-power-rankings/

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