Williams nursing a sore back, backup big men will be key

Isaiah Williams goes up for a shot during the 2010-11 season.

Isaiah Williams goes up for a shot during the 2010-11 season.

Men’s basketball head coach Dick Hunsaker has been loathe to make specific predictions for this season, but he did tip his hand a little this week, throwing in two key factors for good measure.


“We have high expectations for a fine team,” Hunsaker said. “It will all hinge on our health and the development of our bench.”

The first is already a concern. Returning All-American guard Isiah Williams is still battling a sore back that affected him most of last season. For the Wolverines to improve on last year’s 19-11 overall record and play any games beyond the GWC tournament, having a healthy and productive Williams is essential.


Hunsaker took the optimistic approach, alluding that Williams’ performance last year merely shows how much more lethal he could be if/when healthy.


“He played the last two thirds of last season at 75 percent,” Hunsaker said. “If Williams is 100 percent, he’ll be my most improved player. Anytime your best player can be your most improved player, that’s a pretty good position to be in.”


Bumps and bruises


Starting point guard Holton Hunsaker is dealing with “soreness with his knees,” coach Hunsaker said. Starting center Ben Aird is also getting over a similar ailment


The younger Hunsaker figures to be an improved and more prominent threat from the outside this year after hitting 50 3-pointers last season on 32 percent shooting last season. Aird, Second Team All-GWC last year, averaged 12 points and 7.8 rebounds per game in 2010-11.


Speaking of the bench…


Aird is the starting man in the middle, but the coaching staff is keeping a close eye on backups Rory Fannon and Will Sinclair in hopes of some semblance of consistent post production off the bench.


Ironically, Fannon (New Zealand) and Sinclair (Australia) both hail from the southern hemisphere and share a unique relationship on the team due to that fact. Sinclair, a true freshman, said that despite occasional smack talk concerning their respective countries’ rugby teams, Fannon has taken on a “big brother” role.


Hunsaker would be content with either of them simply taking on the role of a dependable big man. Last season’s power forwards Justin Baker and Jordan Swarbrick were the only key players not to return this year, making frontcourt depth a high priority.


Fannon, a 6-9, five-year senior, has reportedly made significant strides in camp after inconsistent play marred his previous seasons.


“Losing Justin Baker and his versatility, his experience, his poise is a big loss for us,” Hunsaker said. “Rory’s going to need to be more consistent. We have seen significant improvement, tangible improvement in fall practices with Rory. Better decisions, just more solid play.”


The 6-8 Sinclair boasts more athleticism and potential than his New Zealand counterpart, but Hunsaker admits giving him a fixed position, along with its subsequent playing time, will be a challenge.


“Will is a young man with talent, kind of that unharnessed talent that you need to reign in and shape,” Hunsaker said. “He’s kind of caught between a five and a four, physically. The hardest thing with him right now is trying to teach him two positions because we’re not real sure where he’s going to get in on the floor.”


Tomorrow online: This week’s sports report, touching on all Wolverine athletic programs and their recent and/or upcoming games and news.


Monday in print: An inside and in-depth look at New Zealander Rory Fannon and Australian Will Sinclair.


Matt Petersen can be reached at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter @SportsWriter93.


Photo by Shane Maryott/UVU Review

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