If Wolverines fans are hoping to feel a little more confident about this season, they should take a look around.
Head Coach Dick Hunsaker is probably in the same boat.
Wolverine basketball returns after an injury-riddled season in which not a single player started every game he played. Hunsaker openly expressed his frustration over the last year’s only consistency —the lack thereof.
“Last year was the most disjointed of my thirty-three years of coaching,” Hunsaker said. “We got bit over and over by the injuries, by unfulfilled individual expectations of players for a variety of reasons. We never hit stride as a team. It seemed any time we started to move forward, we ended up stumbling. We never really got continuity over the course of the year.”
Pre-season signs aren’t encouraging. Returning guard Kevin Woods is battling plantar fasciitis. Hunsaker said senior forward Justin Baker is the only one of the five returners who “hasn’t had to miss substantial practice time due to lingering injuries.”
The Wolverines plan to counter any injury woes with eight newcomers. With all the uncertainty surrounding his injured veterans and untried rookies, Hunsaker plans to find the best of the old and new and hope for the best.
“Nobody ever likes to hear this term, but we are in a rebuilding phase, reforming our foundation,” Hunsaker said. “For a variety of reasons, certainly not by design, we have a very solid class of incomers. I think this season will be a blend.”
Hunsaker wouldn’t commit any one of his players as main contributors, expressing only the desire to see how it will all play out on the court.
“I think [everyone will contribute] collectively,” Hunsaker said. “When kids surface and play, those things will need to be established with their play on the court.”
Hunsaker repeatedly lauded the work ethic and attitude of his returners, who he admits come in feeling like they have something to prove on the heels of their injuries. As for the newcomers, which include former Timpview standout Eli Robison, Hunsaker is eager to see their unique skill set.
“They bring some very high standards and intangibles that don’t measure sometimes up in boxscores,” Hunsaker said. “I feel very good about the foundation this year.”
That foundation will try to do what last year’s squad couldn’t—win on the road, where the Wolverines went 0-12 last year while going 11-4 at home. To do that, and get past the first round in the Great West Tournament, Hunsaker hopes to see the Wolverines’ trademark defense and an improved offensive flow.
“We’re a hard-nosed team that likes to play solid defense and do little things, be unselfish and have some backbone while we play,” Hunsaker said. “We do need to be a more efficient offensive team. That breaks down to your ability to score, your ability to take care of the basketball, and maybe above all your decision-making skills. Those are all things with our solid core of returners and our group of incoming guys, I certainly do look for improvement in those areas.”
If any of that can happen, Hunsaker and Wolverine fans may feel a little more comfortable this season.
The Wolverines will open up their season at home as whey host Mesa State in an Exhibition game on November 3 at 7 p.m.