Weber State basketball: Wildcat freshmen face early test against Utah State

Thursday , November 09, 2017 - 1:08 PM

MATT HERP/Standard-Examiner

Weber State players huddle before an exhibition game against Western State Colorado University on Thursday, Nov. 3, 2017, at Dee Events Center in Ogden.

BRANDON GARSIDE, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — Weber State coach Randy Rahe and his group of young, new faces will take on their first challenge as they open the regular season against Utah State on Friday night inside the Dee Events Center.

While the Wildcats are dealing with injuries, the Aggies are moving on from losing a pair of talented players.

For Weber State, sophomore center Jordan Dallas is out with a knee injury. That means junior center Zach Braxton will need to do his best to stay out of foul trouble and stay on the floor. Backing him up will be freshman Michal Kozak.

Junior guard Cody John is out for the season with a back injury, meaning freshman guard Trevon Ary-Turner will see more time on the floor. Freshman guard Riley Court is nursing a hamstring injury, but is expected to play in The Islands of the Bahamas Showcase next week.

“Right now, our biggest concern is our depth and a little bit of our experience,” Rahe said. “We’re trying to get the freshmen ready. The next few weeks are going to speed up their progress. In one way, we’ve got to throw them out there and get better. They’re doing a good job of figuring everything out.”

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Rahe said he is expecting a lot from his freshmen. Some will have to play more than one position for the team to get by while injured players recover.

In combining depth issues with freshmen learning a new system, Rahe foresees a few growing pains.

“They’re all fogged up because they’re having to learn so much,” he said. “It’s a lot to put on their plates this early. It happens all the time. Freshmen have to play some games to try to work out of it.

“Once the fog clears and they know exactly what they’re doing and they feel comfortable, now all of a sudden they start playing on their natural ability.”

Of all the new faces on the team, no one is expected to have as much of an immediate impact as junior Brekkott Chapman — but Friday will mark 603 days since the Roy native has played in a Division-I contest.

He can’t contain himself.

“I’m geeked,” Chapman said. “I’m so excited. I’m feeling like a kid in a candy shop. Even in the exhibition game I was in the locker room glowing. I’m just excited and ready.”

The team hopes the second half of its exhibition game, where a 26-point lead was whittled down to just four, served as a lesson to play to their full ability.

Utah State enters the season without stars Jalen Moore and Shane Rector, who graduated after last season.

Talented sophomore guards Koby McEwen and Sam Merrill carry the load in their place.

“They’re very good players, only sophomores. Most people think they’re the best two in the Mountain West,” Rahe said of the duo. “They recruited a couple of junior college kids that are talented, athletic, skilled, and they are a very athletic team overall.

“I think they’re definitely a team that can finish in the upper-half of the Mountain West, talent wise.”

Weber State’s gameplan will include an emphasis on transition defense, rebounding and defending the 3-point line.

USU head coach Tim Duryea has a strong familiarity with the WIldcats — not only for being close geographically, but also from the time he and Rahe spent together as assistants under former Aggie coach Stew Morrill. 

Although he’s only seen the new-look Wildcats in their one exhibition game, Duryea likes what he saw.

“They present a lot of problems defensively,” he said. “They’ve changed their offensive scheme up a little bit this year, but they are always very organized and intelligent in the things they do. They do a good job of putting their players in a good position to succeed. Just watching one exhibition game, I really like Randy’s team.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Dee Events Center. The game will be streamed live on PlutoTV and WatchBigSky.com. Steve Klauke and David Patten will provide the radio broadcast on 1430 AM KLO.

Contact Brandon Garside at bgarside@standard.net, on Twitter @BrandonGarside and on Facebook.com/BrandonGarsideSE.