OGDEN — Weber State men’s basketball opened its doors for a scrimmage Friday afternoon at the Dee Events Center and a few things were apparent.
Jerrick Harding can still get buckets, many freshmen were hard to pick out and all the talk about up-tempo, fast-paced play was not just talk.
“I thought we played well together. We moved the ball well, we shared it really well,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “The guys played our system, we’re starting to see how it’s supposed to be played.”
The scrimmage consisted of three 10-minute periods during which the two teams shuffled players.
In the 30 minutes, junior Jerrick Harding racked up 35 points, hitting efficiently from outside and converting his usual tough drives to the rim.
Senior Brekkott Chapman added 21, including a 14-point flurry in the third period that began with a driving dunk, then a pair of 3-pointers, then a putback layup and finally a baseline jumper off a no-look pass from Israel Barnes.
The pace was indeed fast. Rahe’s most common encouragement and/or chastisement was to go faster. Averaging out the three sessions, the teams each scored 25 points per period — a pace of 100 points in a standard 40-minute college game, despite the increased focus on pressure defense.
“We gave up a lot of easy baskets to each other. That’s a compliment to our offensive style this year, we want to run it really fast and get easy buckets like we did,” Chapman said. “But our focus this year is we want to be a really good defensive team. So we’ll have to fix that defensive side. But I’m loving the offensive side of the game. We’re playing well.”
Rahe said it was the team’s longest session of five-on-five play this offseason as it works to build a foundation of conditioning necessary to play an up-tempo, pressuring style.
Chapman is moving into a more natural role as a forward instead of the swing-type position he played last season. It looked more natural in his scoring Friday, as well as on the defensive glass.
“Now he’s totally at the 4 and maybe even a little 5, and he’s comfortable,” Rahe said. “He’s a lot more confident. I’ve seen it right from the start ... I think he feels a lot better about it and he’s going to produce a lot more from there.”
As for the freshmen, Barnes totaled 15 points and Donatas Kupsas had 13, with Spencer Johnson adding 10 points and Dima Zdor 9. Zdor’s points included a tip-in off a Harding miss at the buzzer to end the second period.
Barnes, a shooting guard, knocked down three 3s in the first session. Kupsas, a forward, looked comfortable on all parts of the floor offensively, hitting from the 3-point line, operating in the paint and in a point-forward role at the high post, making several good passes to open shooters.
“Those new guys are playing really well,” Chapman said. “They fit our system. They come in to work hard every single day. They’re trying to accept their roles and do what they can to help the team get better and I just really love those guys.”
On first look, the fit appeared good enough that a person unfamiliar with the team might have had a hard time picking out the freshmen.
“We brought them in here with that expectation, that they’re going to play ... Now it’s just a matter of them learning our system and how we want to play,” Rahe said. “There’s no question now that all six freshmen could contribute. Now, I’m not sure if we’ll redshirt some guys. We’ll figure that out down the road. But I feel good about every one of them that they are going to be strong contributors to our team.”
Cody John and Zach Braxton each scored 11 points, with Doc Nelson adding eight and Caleb Nero five. Michal Kozak scored a quick six in the first period before turning an ankle and sitting for the rest of the scrimmage.
Instead of a Purple and White Game, WSU will hold one more open scrimmage at 10 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. Fans can enter through the east concourse.
The Wildcats then host an exhibition game against Chadron State on Nov. 1 before the season opener Nov. 6 at San Diego.