Year two of the rebuilding process for the University of Wyoming men’s basketball program officially begins today with the first practice of the 2012-13 season.
Coach Larry Shyatt and his staff will put a squad consisting of seven returning lettermen and eight newcomers through a two-hour session, beginning at 5 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.
Last year, Shyatt took a UW squad that had finished 10-21 in 2010-11 and turned it into a 21-12 team. Not only was it UW’s first 20-win season since 2002-03, it earned the Cowboys program its first postseason berth since 2009.
The year was highlighted by a 68-66 upset win over No. 11 UNLV, Wyoming’s first win over a ranked opponent since 2002.
“Our staff is excited and anxious for the start of practice because we like the energy and focus around this team heading into this season,” Shyatt said. “We have three hungry seniors and several letterwinners returning that will allow us to have a deeper rotation this year.”
The three seniors are returning starters Luke Martinez (guard) and Leonard Washington (forward), plus Derrious Gilmore (guard), who saw considerable action off the bench.
“We always rely on our seniors,” Shyatt said. “We need their leadership, not just on the court, but also in the game of life. These guys have an understanding of what it took to win 21 games last year, and I don’t think they are satisfied to do the same this year. They want more. That’s a good quality to possess.”
Also among the returnees is sophomore forward Larry Nantz Jr., who had a major impact on the UW program as a true freshman last year.
Despite losing six seniors off last year’s team, including three starters in center Adam Waddell and guards Paco Cruz and JayDee Luster, Shyatt is extremely optimistic.
“Losing six seniors and three starters may seem like a lot, but it is actually a smoother transition than last season,” Shyatt said. “At this time last year, we were teaching coaches and players an entirely new system. We have seven players returning this season that understand how we want to play at both ends, in addition to a terrific coaching staff back, so that puts us farther ahead already.”
The Cowboys got a jump start on this year when they were able to practice and take part in a short trip to Canada, where they played three exhibition games.
Wyoming will play two more exhibition games, including one against Fort Lewis on Oct. 31 in Ethete, before opening the regular season against Western State on Nov. 10 in the Arena-Auditorium.
COWBOYS BASKETBALL ROSTER
DERRIOUS GILMORE: (G, 5-10, 170, Sr.), Baltimore (Jones County CC, Lake Clifton HS); LUKE MARTINEZ: (G, 6-4, 190, Sr.), Bismark, N.D. (Williston State C, Bismark HS); LEONARD WASHINGTON: (F, 6-7, 230, Sr.), Lake Charles, La. (USC, Mt. Vernon Washington HS).
*CHARLES HANKERSON JR.: (SG, 6-5, 220, Jr.), Miami, Fla. (Alabama, Miami Coral Reef HS); NATHAN SOBEY: (G, 6-4, 185, Jr.), Warrnambool, Australia (Cochise College, St. Patrick’s HS)
+JACK BENTZ: (G, 6-1, 175, So.), Chagrin Falls, Ohio (University School); DEREK COOKE JR.: (F, 6-9, 210, So.), Washington D.C. (Cloud County CC, Friendly HS); RILEY GRABAU: (G, 6-2, 170, So.), Boulder, Colo. (Boulder HS); LARRY NANCE JR.: (G/F, 6-8, 210, So.), Richfield, Ohio (Revere HS); MATT SELLERS: (C, 6-10, 250, So.), Champlin Park, Minn. (Western Wyoming, Champlin Park HS); SHAKIR SMITH: (G, 6-1, 160, So.), Tucson, Ariz. (Tucson HS).
JOSH ADAMS: (G, 6-2, 175, Fr.), Parker, Colo. (Chaparral HS); AUSTIN HALDORSON: (F, 6-9, 190, Fr.), Highlands Ranch, Colo. (Highlands Ranch HS); JASON McMANAMEN: (G/F, 6-5, 180, Fr.), Torrington, Wyo. (Torrington HS); +AARON TYSER: (G, 6-4, 200, RFr.), Buffalo, Wyo. (Sheridan College, Buffalo HS).
*Transfer who will sit out 2012-13 season