Cowboys get little respect in preseason from MW media

The Mountain West held its annual Men’s Basketball Media Summit Wednesday, which is a fancy term for media day, here in Las Vegas at the Hard Rock Casino & Hotel.

Aside from the odd name, the oddest thing to me was the predicted order of finish for Wyoming. Selected media members picked UW seventh in the 11-team league. I voted in this, and had UW 4th.

Nine returning lettermen, most of which played big roles in the Cowboys’ 23-win season and CBI championship didn’t get a lot of respect from others who cover the conference.

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Another new experience for many Cowboys as MW Men’s Basketball Tournament begins

There’s been a lot of firsts for Wyoming men’s basketball this season.

A first-year coach.

First-year players, and others with bigger roles.

Five UW players will go through another first Wednesday when the No. 7 seed Cowboys (18-13) play No. 10 Air Force (11-20) at 2:30 p.m. MT  in a first-round game. They will play in their first-ever MW Tournament game.

Justin James

Two in particular are sophomore guard Justin James and junior forward Hayden Dalton. Both were on the team last year, but were suspended prior to the tournament after being cited by Laramie police for drug use. James and Dalton are UW’s two leading scorers at 15.5 and 12.5 points per game, respectively.

“It hurt knowing I couldn’t be out there helping my team in some way. This year I’m ready to play,” James said.

Needless to say, UW needs both players to have good games Wednesday, but perhaps the biggest area is ball security. James and Dalton lead UW in turnovers. Between both, they average about five turnovers per game, and many of them are careless turnovers that can easily be avoided.

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James evolving, still growing as a player for Cowboys

Wyoming sophomore guard Justin James, at 6-foot-7, is the Cowboys’ leading scorer this season at 15.3 points per game. All of those points have been off the bench, but James is among the team leaders in minutes at 24.2 per game.

Justin James

Justin James

James often is the Cowboys’ point guard, and of all the players on the team, has the ball in his hands more often than not. A by-product of that is turnovers. His 55 are second-most on the team.

The Port St. Lucie, Florida, product is coming off back-to-back 20-point games, including a game-high 26-point effort in the Cowboys’ 83-74 road win at Air Force last Saturday. James also had a career-high seven assists in that game.

The only other time this season James had consecutive 20-point games was back in late November when he had a career-high 28 at California, and 21 at home against Denver. In those games, James had a combined three turnovers. Against Air Force and the previous game against Boise State, he had nine.

“We’ve been harping on it,” said first-year UW coach Allen Edwards on the turnovers by James this season. “The thing with Justin is he’ll continue to get better. Sometimes he tries to rely on talent, and that’s where he gets into trouble. Sometimes it may not be the ultimate respect for guy guarding him.”

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Cowboys return home for two straight games

As Wyoming enters its third week of conference play, it also starts a critical stretch.

Allen Edwards

Allen Edwards

The Cowboys (11-5 overall, 1-2 Mountain West) are coming off two road losses to UNLV and Fresno State, play their next two games at home this week. The first is at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Utah State (8-7, 2-2). The second is at 4 p.m. Saturday against Nevada (14-3, 3-1). The Cowboys are 9-0 at home this season, and are one of three teams in the MW undefeated at home. Boise State and Nevada are both 7-0.

Do you consider Wednesday’s game a must-win for UW? First-year coach Allen Edwards doesn’t.

“It’s a big game, but as a staff we’re trying to get guys to understand every game is that way,” Edwards said. “We want to protect our home floor, but we also know if we want to compete for a championship we have to take some on the road.

“However, I never try to put pressure on guys that we need this particular game. We play our game, and at the end of the day we believe our game will put us in position to win. The spirit of our guys has not changed. They’re still confident, but they also know that it doesn’t matter who you play. They  better be ready to play every night.”

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Initial thoughts of UW men’s hoops

It was nice to break out of football mode for a couple of hours Thursday night to watch the Wyoming men’s basketball team. The Cowboys easily defeated Division II Chadron State 75-50 in front of a packed house of 1,187 at Eastern Wyoming College.

After a slow start for UW, the game was never in doubt, which is what you would expect in an exhibition game.

First, here is first-year UW coach Allen Edwards after the game:

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Cowboys say they will be more focused in regular-season opener

I don’t think anyone felt good about Wyoming’s 77-69 overtime loss to Division II Fort Lewis last Saturday.

Yes, it was an exhibition game. Even though the Cowboys’ three best players — senior guard Josh Adams, junior guard Jason McManamen and sophomore forward Alan Herndon — didn’t play the last 15 minutes or so based on the decision coach Larry Shyatt made earlier in the week, there was a level of disappointment.

Talking to the players this week, they seem determined that won’t happen Friday when the Cowboys open the regular season against Bristol University out of Anaheim, California.

Alan Herndon

Alan Herndon

“Increased focus,” said Herndon on what practice has been like so far this week. “Coaches have been more on edge. We know we have to prepare a lot better. We know we have to prepare and respect every single team we play no mater what their name is.”

Added McManamen: “It was tough. You don’t want to lose any game no mater who you’re playing. We have to learn from it. It will make us hungrier for this game Friday. We’re going to be ready.”

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UW men’s basketball signs four in 2014-15 recruiting class

Here is a list of the four players the Wyoming men’s basketball team signed Wednesday:

G Austin Conway, 5-10, 165, Overland HS, Aurora, Colorado

F Justin James, 6-7, 180, Oldsmar Christian School, Port Saint Lucie, Florida

F Andrew Moemeka, 6-8, 200, Oldsmar Christian School, Lake City, Florida

F/C Jordan Naughton, 6-10, 220, Etiwanda HS, Rancho Cucamonga, California

This class addressed immediate needs from the 1-5 positions for UW, and it still has one scholarship left to give.

Here is video highlights from Conway’s junior year, who was the first to commit in this class back on July 1:


James was the last to commit in mid-September, and UW beat out Mississippi State to get him. A player Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt said can play four different positions on the floor, including point guard. Here are his junior highlights:


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UW men’s hoops adds key piece to 2014-15 recruiting class

The verbal commitment of 6-foot-7 versatile guard/forward Justin James may have capped off the best recruiting class the Wyoming men’s basketball program has landed in recent memory.

Granted, all five players committed must sign, and all are supposed to during the early signing period in November.

Here is the full list:

G Austin Conway, 5-10, 165, Overland HS, Aurora, Colorado

F Justin James, 6-7, 180, Oldsmar Christian School, Port Saint Lucie, Florida

F Andrew Moemeka, 6-8, Oldsmar Christian School, Lake City, Florida

F/C Jordan Naughton, 6-10, 220, Etiwanda HS, Rancho Cucamonga, California

F Eric Turner, 6-5, 193, The Villages HS, The Villages, Florida

The class seems to address the future needs of the program. Conway is regarded as one of the quickest point guards in the region — and perhaps in the country. James said Conway is “crazy fast” when I talked to him on the phone Monday.

Turner, who averaged nearly 24 points per game as a junior in high school, seems like a good scorer along the wing. Moemeka and Naughton add size.

Justin James

Justin James

James is the wildcard here because he has played the 1, 2 and 3 spots in high school, and his coaches think he may be able to do that at UW. Whether he does or not remains to be seen, but his versatility is what stands out, and what has made programs like San Diego State, UNLV and New Mexico so good in the Mountain West in recent years is players who can play numerous spots on the floor.

Wyoming has not had a lot of players like that in the most recent past.

Here are some video highlights of James as a junior in high school to give you a taste of what I’m talking about:

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