Springing into the offseason

Weber State center Handje Tamba (32) stealing the ball from a Montana State player.

After losing 60–58 to Montana State University in double-overtime during the Big Sky Conference tournament on March 7, Weber State University’s men’s basketball team’s offseason has officially started.

“I think guys are, even though they’re disappointed in the loss, I think they’re really looking forward to the offseason,” Wildcat head coach Eric Duft said. “We have some continuity in our program now and we can have a good offseason with most of our core pieces, and continue to get better.”

Weber State will have four roster spots to fill before the fall season. Guards Keith Dinwiddie and JJ Louden will be transferring while guards Zahir Porter and Junior Ballard are graduating.

“Right now, our focus is trying to get another playmaking guard. It’s probably a transfer,” Duft said. “We don’t need a lot of guys, so we can really focus in on exactly who we want and make sure that person fits us in every way.”

Duft said the players know what the coaches want out of them going into this upcoming season. They are bringing back the same core and focusing on player development.

Averaging 16.7 points, 10.9 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, Wildcat forward Dillon Jones was a central part of that core. Selected for the all-conference first team this season, Jones recently told the Standard-Examiner that he’ll be returning for a fourth season with Weber State.

Returning with him is guard Steven Verplancken Jr., who averaged 13.2 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game. A new addition to the Wildcats at the beginning of last year, Verplancken landed on the all-conference third team this year.

Sophomore forward Dyson Koehler said the team had a tough start to the previous season, but that once they got comfortable with each other, things turned around.

“We started understanding our roles. We capitalized on that,” Koehler said. “I’m proud of how we defended and we didn’t really fold under pressure. I like how we always tried to fight and didn’t give in to anything.”

The Wildcats started their season 3–7 and finished with an overall record of 18–15.

“I’m looking forward to not having a big change with the roster so everything is going to build off of what we started this year. Just the continuity,” Koehler said.

While the season didn’t end with a title, the Wildcats were able to succeed against noteworthy opponents this season.

“We’ve had some good performances on the road against high-level teams this year,” Duft said. “The win at Utah State is something we can hang our hat on. If we play the right way on a certain night we can beat pretty much anybody.”

A matchup that’s developed into a classic Big Sky rivalry, both Duft and Koehler said they are looking forward to playing Montana State next season.

“I think this year when we played them it was kind of strength-on-strength, it was defense vs. defense,” Duft said. “I think that’s why you got some lower scoring games, some games that were really close down the stretch and lower possession games. I just thought we were kind of mirror images of each other in some ways.”

After winning the conference championship, the Bobcats fell to Kansas State University 77–65 on March 17. While a schedule has not been set for next season, Weber State will play Montana State at least twice in 2024.

“Obviously, we’re always going to have winning the Big Sky regular season and tournament as our main objectives,” Duft said. “Last year, we were kind of the hunter, and teams maybe thought we weren’t going to be quite as good and now we’re going to have some expectations for next year and we’ve got to learn how to handle that too.”

A date has not been currently set for the Wildcats’ opening game.