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Shooting for a good season

Forward Dillon Jones (2) getting past a Utah Tech player. Photo taken in Dec. 2022 at the game against Utah Tech University.

Women’s basketball
After finishing the 2022-2023 regular season with a 6–25 overall record and a 2–16 record in the Big Sky Conference, the women’s basketball team made a handful of off-season staff and roster changes.

Last year’s season ended in a 63–52 loss to the University of Northern Colorado at the Big Sky Basketball Tournament in Boise, Idaho. After a tough season, the women’s basketball made a total of three staff changes including the head coach position.

After the loss in the Big Sky Tournament last season, former head coach Velaida Harris stepped down after five seasons as the head coach for the Wildcats. During Harris’ five seasons as the head coach, she had a total record of 29–117.

“When I was hired, I was charged with changing a culture, building community, raising academic standards, and graduating players. We did that,” Harris said. “This is a basketball business and my job was to produce wins. We fell short. I would like to thank every Wildcat that played for me, all of our fans, and my wonderful assistant coaches.”

In her place, Jenteal Jackson was appointed as the new head coach, bringing a fresh perspective to the team. Jackson’s experience includes two years as the head coach and nine years as the assistant head coach at Westminster College in Salt Lake City. During her first season as head coach, she led the Griffins to a 17–9 overall record and a 16–5 conference record.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be named the next head women’s basketball coach at Weber State,” Jackson said. “I truly believe Weber State is a special place and I’m excited to be a part of this incredible community.”

Heading into the preseason exhibition game, Wildcat guard Daryn Hickok was one of six players that was named to the All-Big Sky Preseason Team. Hickok finished the 2022-2023 season with an average of 16.3 points per game and 6.3 rebounds per game, she also finished third in scoring in the Big Sky and she finished 10th in rebounding. Hickok is in her last season as a Wildcat with a total of 103 games played at Weber State.

“I feel that we are going to be a completely different Weber State team than what people are used to seeing, people are used to a specific type of basketball that they’ve seen over the past five years with coach Harris,” Hickok said. “Coach Jackson brought in a whole new system so I think it will be very fun to watch and I think we’ll be good, definitely better than the past.”

The women’s basketball season commences with an exhibition game against Fort Lewis at the Dee Events Center on Oct. 31 at 3 p.m., followed by the regular season opener on Nov. 6, with an away game against Utah Valley University.

Men’s basketball
Getting ready for the 2023-2024 Big Sky Season, the Wildcats men’s basketball team is set to have high expectations for this season. The team was selected to finish first in the coaches poll and the media preseason poll for the Big Sky preseason rankings. Eastern Washington University was selected second, followed by the University of Montana, Montana State University, Sacramento State University and Portland State University.

In the 2022-2023 season, the Wildcats finished the regular season with an 18–15 overall record and a 12–6 record in the Big Sky Conference. After beating Sacramento State University 70–64 in the opening round in the 2023 Big Sky Tournament, Weber’s season ended in a 60–58 double overtime loss to Montana State University in the semi finals.

Head coach Eric Duft returns for his second year in charge at Weber State. In his first season as the Wildcats head coach, Duft was able to secure third place in the Big Sky Conference and take the team to a semi finals appearance in the conference tournament.

“We have a group here that is very focused and very serious,” Duft said. “We’re going to rely on their maturity and their competitive spirit to make sure that we’re connected throughout the whole season.”

All five starters from last year’s roster returned this year, led by junior Dillon Jones, senior Steven Verplancken, senior KJ Cunningham, junior Dyson Koehler and junior Alex Tew.

Jones, who earned All-Big Sky Honors and All-District Honors last season, played a pivotal role by leading Weber State in points, rebounds, assists and steals. He recorded an impressive 20 double doubles, solidifying his status as a key player.

“We’ve prepared well over the offseason and I think we’re going to be ready to be up for the opportunity,” Jones said. “ We have a lot of older guys returning, a lot of continuity back, things will go our way on the court and at the end of the day we at least prepared our hardest for it.”

The Wildcats preseason preparations have been thorough, with Jones participating in NBA G League games and the NBA draft combine. With a strong blend of experience and talent, the wild cards are ready to seize the opportunity.

During the offseason, the Wildcats added five new players to their roster through the transfer portal, Blaise Threatt, Arnaud Ravaz, Viljami Vartiainen, Marko Sarenac and Nemanja Sarenac.

The season tips off with an exhibition game against Adams State on Nov. 2 at the Dee Events Center at 7 p.m. The Wildcats will tip off their regular season with a home opener on Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. against Benedictine Mesa.

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About the Contributors
Collyn Cowles
Collyn Cowles, Sports editor
Adam Montgomery
Adam Montgomery, Editor at Large

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