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Up in the air

After the Big Sky Conference tournament trips for Weber State University’s men’s and women’s basketball didn’t end how they wanted them to, both programs have a future full of uncertainty.

Senior Kori Pentzer takes possession of the ball. (Weber State Athletics)
Senior Kori Pentzer takes possession of the ball. Photo credit: Weber State Athletics

The men’s basketball team finished 21–12 overall and 13–7 in the Big Sky. They had a terrific start of the season, standing at 11–1 in the conference before going 2–6 in the last eight games.

Losing to Montana State 69–66 in the semifinal matchup sent Weber State packing early and ended the careers of three starting seniors this season that played a part in the success they saw throughout this campaign.

Wildcats center Dontay Bassett and guards JJ Overton and Koby McEwen all exercised their fifth and final year of NCAA eligibility after the association gave all athletes an extra year because of the COVID-19 pandemic shortening the 2020-21 seasons for universities nationwide.

WSU forwards Michal Kozak and Donatas Kupsas both left the program as well, which leaves five open spots left to fill before the upcoming 2022–23 season starting this fall.

So far, only one player has committed to play for Weber State next season, and that recruit is guard Chris Dockery, who currently plays for Middlebrooks Academy in Los Angeles.

As of right now, all signs point toward the return of everybody who was on the team this past season, but major holes in the lineup will persist until recruits are announced.

The starting center position is up for grabs as Bassett looks elsewhere after graduating.

Freshman Alex Tew and junior David Nzekwesi will look to battle it out for that lucrative role on the team. After former center Cody Carlson left the team about halfway through the season to go overseas to play professionally in Greece, Bassett started and Tew came off the bench.

When former point guard Isiah Brown entered the 2021 NBA draft and forwent his last year of eligibility, McEwen transferred from Marquette University to WSU to take Brown’s place.

Head coach Randy Rahe and his staff have to come back together again and find an ideal player that can fit right into the position.

Junior KJ Cunningham is the only “true point guard” that the Wildcats still have, and next season is his fifth and final year as a Wildcat.

There is a possibility that a transfer or a high school player can enter the program and grab the position, but there is also a possibility that guards Josh Sanders, Seikou Sisoho Jawara or Chance Trujillo may shift to point guard if nothing else pans out.

Overton mentioned after the 78–57 loss to Montana State on Feb. 5 that he will look to play professionally after the season is over.

Because Overton has departed for bigger and better things, the shooting guard position is now available as well, and based on what happened last season, either Jawara or junior Zahir Porter transitioned into that role as the lineup rotated and Overton was subbed off.

Senior Aloma Solovi against Sac State. (Weber State Athletics)
Senior Aloma Solovi against Sac State. Photo credit: Weber State Athletics

As for the women’s program, two major blows to their starting lineup have emerged as WSU guards Kori Pentzer and Aloma Solovi both have completed their tenures as Wildcats.

The women’s program at Weber State was 11–20 overall and 6–14 in the Big Sky, but there were flashes of improvement after having a combined record of 12–71 from 2018-21.

WSU forwards Daryn Hickok, Emma Torbert and Jadyn Matthews will all likely return to Ogden alongside the rest of the lineup.

There are plenty of guards on the women’s team that can help fill in the void that both Solovi and Pentzer left.

WSU freshmen Aaliyah Ellis, Charlotte Hevgold, Emri Lovell, Kaiija Lesane, Nakilah Johnson and juniors Ava Williams and Laura Taylor are all guards who will look to enter head coach Velaida Harris’ starting squad next year unless other changes happen.

Both teams have big decisions they need to make before next fall with some potential recruits, transfers and interchangeable moves around the current rosters that will get things all set up for the 2022–23 basketball season.

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