The Utah Valley men’s basketball is going to look almost unrecognizable in 2020 — even for those who closely followed last year’s team. Head coach Mark Madsen has worked all offseason to replace some of the talent that left last year, including Brandon Averette who transferred to Brigham Young, and T.J. Washington who graduated and is now playing professionally for APOP Paphou in Cyprus. Looking only at the numbers, it seems as if Madsen has succeeded in bringing in a fresh crop of talent — the Wolverines added three true freshman players and nine transfers from other schools.
While it is too soon to determine how all the new talent will fit together as a team, we will get to know some of the players individually in preparation for the upcoming season.
Josh Lear, Freshman, #0
Josh Lear is a 6’3”, 175-pound guard who played for Sumner High School in Sumner, Washington. Lear will be joining the team as a preferred walk-on, which means he will not initially receive a scholarship. According to The News Tribune, Lear is “a knockdown 3-point shooter and a strong defender.” He was named to the Tribune’s 2020 All-Area basketball second team and helped Sumner finish in sixth place in the Class 4A state basketball tournament. Lear’s high school coach, Jake Jackson, told The News Tribune that he believes Lear has the “confidence, belief, IQ [and] toughness” that “gives him that it factor.”
Le’Tre Darthard, Sophomore, #1
Originally from Denton, Texas, Le’Tre Darthard spent last season at McCook Community College. Darthard was listed as a guard/forward on the McCook roster, and will likely primarily play shooting guard and small forward for the Wolverines. At 6’4” and 180 pounds, Darthard will be an outside scoring threat for UVU — he shot nearly 45 percent from behind the arc while he averaged 18.5 points per game.
Darthard said he is proud of his scoring numbers from last season, especially since some doubted his scoring ability coming out of high school. He said he models his game after former NBA MVP Kevin Durant, who he said proves “you don’t have to be big to get buckets.”
A self-proclaimed “locker room guy,” Darthard said he is the type of teammate that anybody can talk to and thinks his genuine demeanor will help the team.
Evan Cole, Graduate Student, #2
Perhaps the flashiest signing of the offseason for the Wolverines, Evan Cole transferred to Orem after three seasons with the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. While he averaged just under 13 minutes per game, Cole was highly sought after — he reportedly received offers from Boston College, Ohio State and Washington State. Cole’s lack of significant playing time with Georgia Tech was not due to a lack of talent and the 6’10”, 230-pound forward will be given ample opportunities to shine with UVU.
Cole will bring a lot of experience and maturity to the UVU squad, not only as a grad transfer, but as someone who spent three years in arguably the most competitive college basketball conference in the country. The Atlantic Coast Conference is home to powerhouses such as Duke, North Carolina, Virginia, Louisville, Notre Dame and Syracuse. Cole said the biggest challenge of his career was guarding Zion Williamson one-on-one. The former Duke star was selected by the New Orleans Pelicans with the first pick of the NBA draft a year ago and is one of the most highly anticipated prospects since LeBron James — meaning Cole has been tested in ways few other Wolverines have.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win,” Cole said of his role with UVU. “If I have to go out there and get ten rebounds and not touch the ball at all, that’s fine with me. I want to win, so I’m willing to do whatever coach Madsen needs.”
Cole has been featured on SportsCenter’s Top 10 twice during his career, showcasing his finishing ability with impressive dunks.
Blaze Nield, Junior, #3
A local product out of Lehi High School, Blaze Nield played at Utah State Eastern as a freshman and BYU as a sophomore before transferring to UVU for his junior season. Nield was the first player recruited to BYU by former UVU head coach Mark Pope. He played only 59 minutes for the Cougars last season but showed his scoring talent in his freshman year by shooting over 40 percent from 3-point range with USU Eastern.
Nield said he hopes to improve his shooting percentage again this year, and at 6’1” he needs work to be more competitive getting rebounds. He said he knows how important UVU fans are to the team and hopes to be able to put on a show for them this fall.
“I always give it my all, I’m here for them,” said Nield. “I like to be a friend to them. I’m a winner and I’m coming here to do great things.”
Bridger Beal-Cvetko is a junior at Utah Valley University where he is studying journalism. He has been with The Review since 2019, where he has covered the UVU men’s basketball team and the softball team before becoming the Sports/Valley Life Editor. Bridger also covers the BYU football and basketball teams as a writing and producing intern for ESPN 960 Sports on KOVO 960 and espn960sports.com. Aside from sports, Bridger is an ardent cinephile, and writes reviews and commentary on films for his personal website.