The Wyoming men’s basketball team has been predictable at the start of games, and first-year coach Allen Edwards is fine with it.
The Cowboys (16-9 overall, 6-6 Mountain West) almost always look to get the ball to sophomore post Jordan Naughton on its first few offensive possessions. It did so in their 102-100 four-overtime win over Fresno State Wednesday night. Naughton scored in the pain on UW’s second offensive series.
“I don’t care if opponents know we’re going to him or not, we’re going to him,” Edwards said. “We want to get him going because I think he can be a really good player in this league. When he demands the ball, he’s a much different basketball player than when he’s just out there.”
The 6-foot-10, 235-pound Naughton has played in all 25 games this season for UW, and started 24. His numbers aren’t eye-popping at 5.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 14.8 minutes per game.
But he’s had some good games and moments for the Cowboys this season.
He made his first 12 shots over the Cowboys’ first three games. In UW’s 80-70 win at San Jose State on Jan. 18 he had 15 points and five rebounds, and added 10 points and four rebounds in the Cowboys’ 77-68 loss at San Diego State Jan. 31.
UW isn’t a post-dominat team with Edwards. Most of the players he puts on the floor are perimeter oriented guys who have abilities to push the ball in transition, drive to the basket and do some good things inside. But this definitely isn’t a team that simply relies on one or two big men inside to get 20 points and 10 rebounds a game.
Very few teams in college basketball are like that in this day and age.
But that doesn’t mean Naughton isn’t an important part of what UW wants to do.
“When he demands the basketball, I tell the guys to go to him if he’s open,” Edwards said. “But only if he’s open. If he’s not demanding the ball, I tell the guys not to throw it to him. I want him to want the basketball. When he does that, he does a good job.
“It’s a process for him to take that next step. It takes maturity, and he has to continue to mature.”
Edwards said Naughton is more of a quiet guy, and needs to be careful with how he coaches him. Edwards said Naughton is a player that if he or another of his staff “jump all over him, it can deflate him.” That’s also part of the maturing process for Naughton, as well as UW’s first-year coaching staff and how they want to play.
One other part of that process, Edwards added, is getting Naughton to learn how to run up and down the floor. Sounds easy enough, but with how UW likes to get into transition, there is a lot more to it than simply running in a striaght line.
“It’s not that he can’t, but it’s part of that overall process,” Edwards said.
See Saturday’s Wyoming Tribune Eagle and Laramie Boomerang, and log on to wyosports.net for my story on another somewhat quiet guy for the Cowboys who is having a good season, and must continue to if UW hopes to be playing its best basketball over the final stretch of the season — including at 7 p.m. Saturday at Utah State (10-13, 4-8).
Any guesses on who this player is?