‘It’s all business’: Koby McEwen picks Weber State basketball for development, team success
With the possibility of an extra college season afforded by the COVID-19 pandemic, Marquette guard Koby McEwen wanted a new opportunity and a fresh start, especially after MU head coach Steve Wojciechowski was fired after seven seasons.
While weighing turning professional, McEwen’s circle wanted the 6-foot-4 combo guard to consider finding a program known for player development and take advantage of the unique opportunity to play one more college season.
That quickly led McEwen, who prepped in Utah at Wasatch Academy and played two seasons at Utah State before transferring to Marquette, into contact with Weber State. Two weeks after entering the transfer portal, McEwen announced his commitment to Weber State and Thursday, WSU announced his signing.
“I’m a better player than what I showed, and believe that going to another school, getting a fresh start and playing for a coach like Randy Rahe is going to help elevate me into being the pro I’m ultimately capable of being,” McEwen told the Standard-Examiner. “I’m definitely trying to win a lot of games and have a great time with my team … a lot of this decision coming to Weber is a business decision. It’s all business.”
He said he chose WSU after “heavily considering” interest from Arkansas, Oregon, Cal and Fresno State.
Gary Kazanjian, Associated Press
In the preseason workout period before his two-year Utah State career began, McEwen worked out with USU development coach David Marek before Marek left to take an assistant job on Weber State’s bench. McEwen went on to become the Mountain West freshman of the year, started 61 of 62 games for the Aggies and averaged 15 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in two seasons there.
He transferred to Marquette and played two seasons after sitting out one, starting in 52 of 56 games, averaging 9.9 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists. His 118 games, 113 starts and 3,597 career minutes might make him the most experienced player available among transfers.
“We feel so blessed that Koby decided to join our program,” Wojciechowski said in a March 6 senior day video for Marquette. “He’s been a tremendous competitor on a daily basis. He pushes his teammates to be at their best and he’s really been an integral part of our team.”
McEwen reconnected with Marek early after entering the transfer portal and felt strongly about the combination Weber State had to offer: a big-time role with a chance to help run a team, and a track record for landing pro contracts for alums.
“I’ve seen them turn a lot of guys into pros, first-hand. They didn’t even really have to tell me because I’ve seen it … what they presented with that was very intriguing,” the Toronto native said. “Coach Randy Rahe is an amazing guy and me coming back to my second home in Utah, it just felt right.”
He already knows where he wants to improve: 3-point percentage (he’s a career 34.5% shooter, looking to get back near his 42% freshman clip), ball-screen efficiency, turnover rate and assist rate.
And, McEwen will be one of five at WSU playing a second senior year afforded by the pandemic. He joins senior big men Dontay Bassett, Cody Carlson and Michal Kozak, as well as incoming wing player JJ Overton from Utah Valley, in that group.
WSU also returns rotation players in junior wing Zahir Porter, sophomore guard Seikou Sisoho Jawara, and Big Sky freshman of the year Dillon Jones. It’s a recipe he’s looking forward to.
“I’m excited for that,” he said. “We can win a lot of games, go to the NCAA Tournament and make a lot of noise. But also, just getting back to the player I know I am and showcasing the things that got me to the D-I level. That’s what I’m excited for.”
McEwen said he doesn’t know any of his new teammates, though several reached out to congratulate him on his commitment and fellow Toronto-area native Cody John has told him about some of the players. He stands to fit into a lineup that will look atypical in the Big Sky.
The Twitter account for Marquette blog Paint Touches noted this season that McEwen was usually tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player but still had a plus-9.2 adjusted D rating in on/off splits.
“Koby is a strong, powerful, and very athletic guard who can score the ball at all three levels,” Rahe said in a statement announcing McEwen’s signing. “He really affects the game in a variety of ways. He is an excellent guard rebounder, a high assist player, and is a terrific defender.”
Few paths in life are as linear as best-laid plans intend them to be. Going from the Mountain West, to Big East, to Big Sky and returning to Utah feels like an unusual route. McEwen says it’s all about the right opportunity and the right coaches to maximize his potential, regardless of where that is.
“I feel like I’m a way better player than I was when I was at Utah State. I think I’m a lot smarter, and a lot better defensively. I’m a better passer now. And little crafty things offensively that I picked up in the Big East that will help me a lot,” he said. “It’s not really trying to recapture anything, it’s more just proving to myself that I know how to win and that I’m a good basketball player, prove to myself that I can do all the things that people are used to seeing me do.”
Basketball fans in Utah took notice of his choice to play at Weber State on social media. Some USU fans, viewing their program as better than Weber’s, seem to have found his indirect road a sign of failure.
“I have no bad blood but I can’t speak for anybody at Utah State or for the fans. I know there are people who love me, and I know some people probably despise me. It is what it is,” he said. “I honestly don’t care. Whatever people want to say about me is cool, but lots of those people don’t even know me.”
In addition to what he sees as an opportunity to showcase his full potential, McEwen bases his excitement on being able to play in front of full crowds again, and knows his new teammates are eager for the same.
“I’m excited to get to work. I want to put on a show for our fans,” he said. “I know our team is excited to put on a show. … You’re going to get a guy who’s competitive, who works hard, and is extremely passionate about this game. I hope the fans are as excited about that as I am.”