Utah Valley men’s basketball is back! With many new faces for both coaches and players, the Wolverines will soon be taking the court again in the UCCU Center. UVU will begin their 2019-2020 season with an exhibition game on Nov. 1, against College of Idaho in the Lockhart Arena.
The Wolverines will be led by a new head coach this season. Previous head coach Mark Pope leaving to take the job at crosstown rival Brigham Young University. The new man at the helm is Mark Madsen, and he boasts quite the resume.
With the head coaching shake up came transfers from key players that UVU would have relied on this season. There has been a lot of turnover since the coaching change in the spring, with players leaving and even newer players coming in. Let’s get into it and get to know these new faces.
Madsen will be in his first year with the Wolverines. He brings with him an all-star caliber resume from his past coaching experiences. Madsen started his coaching career in ‘09-’10 with the Utah Flash of the the then NBA D League. From there he was named assistant coach at his alma mater, Stanford University in ‘12-’13.
After SU, Madsen got the head coaching job with the Los Angeles D-Fenders, also of the D League in 2013. After a one-year stint there, he was an assistant coach on the Los Angeles Lakers bench from 13′-19′.
Madsen’s assistant coaching staff will all be in their first seasons with UVU and are as follows: Todd Phillips, Todd Okeson and Jarred Jackson. Phillips is coming over from Salt Lake Community College where he spent nine seasons as the head coach. Okeson was an assistant at the University of Nevada last season. Jackson is coming from UT Arlington where he served as the director of operations last year.
Madsen has high expectations for his players in year one. Hoping for the new faces as well as the players who’ve stuck around to gel quickly.
“One of the biggest things is to install the system, which we’ve done. We’ve installed the offensive system, we’ve installed the defensive system. The players are understanding the goals and the emphasis points,” said Madsen at media day. “Now it’s perfecting it, now it’s taking it from a good level to an even higher level so that we can get the type of results we want.”
Over the offseason, UVU had a big haul of players either graduate or transfer. Those that graduated were guards Ben Nakwaasah, Conner Toolson and Hayden Schenck, as well as graduate transfer Connor MacDougall.
Then there are those who transferred after the news of Pope leaving became official. A few followed him to BYU, like guard Jake Toolson who can play immediately, forward Wyatt Lowell and center Richard Harward who both have to sit out a year. Center Baylee Steele and guards Drew Cotton and Cache Fields all went their separate ways as well.
That left a lot of holes to fill, but filled they were. Senior guard TJ Washington and junior guard Isaiah White are two of five players returning who played minutes last season. The other three each redshirted after transferring the prior season. Redshirt junior guards Brandon Averette and Cavit Ege Havsa as well as forward Casdon Jardine will all look to don the green and white after sitting for UVU last season.
The rest of the new roster goes as follows: junior guard Jamison Overton, senior forward Emmanuel Olojakpoke, freshman forward Travis Wagstaff, senior center Brandon Morley, sophomore forward Jacob Heese, sophomore guard Trey Woodbury and freshman guard Lewis Johnson.
UVU has one player redshirting this season in forward Fardaws Aimaq.
“I’m really excited, it feels like forever that I’ve been waiting for this,” said Averette at media day. “We’ve been coming together real nice, its been a grind since coach Madsen got here but I mean we’re looking great and we’re looking forward to the season.”
“He’s [Madsen] the most interesting coach I’ve ever had,” said Jardine at media day. “His coaching style is different than I’ve ever been apart of, his knowledge of the game is incredible, he’s always calm, he’s always collective and that’s something that’s very different than I’ve experienced in the past.”
In the WAC Coaches’ Preseason Poll, UVU was picked tied for sixth with CSU Bakersfield and in the WAC Media Preseason Poll they were picked sixth overall. As you can see, expectations aren’t too high for the Wolverines in year one with coach Madsen.
But, with the small experience UVU has returned and the upside of the new faces on the court, the Wolverines are a definite dark horse candidate to make some noise in the WAC this season, despite the preseason picks.
UVU did happen to land one player on the WAC media preseason All-WAC second team in Averette.
“I’m really excited, I can’t wait to go out there and just compete against some of the best guards in NCAA. This is just something all great players we work for, just to play against other great players,” said Averette. “I’m really ready to go out there and show my talent.”
You can catch the men’s basketball team in their first regular season game on Nov. 5, at the UCCU Center against Westminster at 7 p.m. MST.