Where are the Jazz and the rest of the NBA? Never fear, the Wolverines are here. Isiah Williams and crew are revved up and ready to provide all the excitement fans can handle to fill the void left by David Stern and the players union during the NBA lockout.
Last season the Wolverines posted a record of 19-11 overall but dominated conference play with an impressive 11-1 mark on their way to a conference championship. This season head coach Dick Hunsaker returns four starters from last year and his crew will shoot for more postseason play in the NIT, but there won’t be much talk about that for now.
That’s a tall order for any team, even one as talented as this year’s squad. In order to be considered for a possible NCAA bid the Wolverines would have to shave off at least six losses from last year’s record to gain appeal and garner more national attention. That would leave them with a 25-5 record and get at least a peek by the selection committee.
UVU will travel to play Houston, Utah State, Wyoming, Arkansas, and last year’s Cinderella – Oakland University. That slate of non-conference games may turn out to be what keeps the Wolverines out of the big dance. All of those games are potential losses and if they do not win any of those they would have to go 25-0 for the rest of the year to overcome that challenge.
The engine of this team comes in the form of dread. Dread-locks to be more specific. Senior Isiah Williams received an AP honorable mention All-American after averaging 17.5 points per game and starting all 30 games last season. His high score came against Texas Pan-American with 33 points and he pitched in with 30 points to go with Geddes Robinson’s 17 boards in the quadruple overtime win over North Dakota.
The saying goes that a good team has an extension of the coach on the floor in their point guard. For UVU’s Holton Hunsaker, that couldn’t be more true. The sophomore from Salt Lake City is not just the point guard, he’s the son of Coach Hunsaker.
“He’s his mother’s child when he’s out there,” Hunsaker said with a smile. “He’s just my point guard and runs my system, but if he were your player he would run your offense.”
A lot of their success this year will be determined by how well the Hunsakers, both on the sideline and on the floor, can quarterback this team. Holton Hunsaker was 49th nationally last year in free throw percentage, knocking them in at an 85.5-percent clip.
6’9” sophomore Ben Aird provided a solid inside presence last season averaging 7.8 rebounds per game and chipping in 12 points per contest. The 4A MVP out of Bountiful was named second team all-conference as a freshman and will be relied upon heavily with a smaller line-up behind him. He will need to stay out of foul trouble to continue to be a solid contributor.
Geddes Robinson brings much needed toughness and leadership to this team. The 6’5” senior from the Bronx ranked 37th nationally in rebounding, averaging 9.4 boards per game. Robinson pulled down a season-high 17 rebounds in a quadruple overtime win over North Dakota. He and Aird form a solid front court that is more than competent in scoring and excellent at pulling down a lot of rebounds.
A player to watch out for will be Keith Thompson. The 6’6” senior forward can play both inside and out and contributes some much needed athleticism. The Bellflower, California native plays a solid game that will benefit Utah Valley in any situation he’s called to take on.
With the cancellation of at least one month of NBA action, the Wolverines are prepped for the challenge of defending their conference title and poised for what could be a special season.