Andrew Murawa is the RTC correspondent for the Mountain West and Pac-10 Conferences.
Around the MWC:
- NBA Draft Early Entries: At the end of the season, there were a handful of players around the conference that seriously considered giving up their eligibility to play in the NBA. San Diego State’s Kawhi Leonard committed early on to returning to school for his sophomore season and BYU’s Jimmer Fredette went right up to the deadline before announcing his decision to return for his senior season, but New Mexico was not so lucky, as the 2009-10 Mountain West Player of the Year and third-team All-America selection Darington Hobson left his name in the draft and was taken by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 37th pick in the draft.
- Trouble With the Law: Likely the biggest story of the summer in the MWC was the arrest of UNLV’s leading scorer, senior Tre’Von Willis, following some ugly accusations involving a domestic disturbance that led to felony charges. Willis has pleaded not guilty, and as of this report is still a full-fledged member of the Runnin’ Rebels, but his status for the upcoming season is still very much in doubt. Teammate Matt Shaw’s future is in less doubt, as he will not be playing for the Rebels this season after dismissal from the team from a failed drug test.
- Remaking a Roster: After struggling through an up-and-down season last year, Utah hoped to reap the benefits of the time they gave to their young prospects this season. Unfortunately, they’ll have to start all over again as their leading scorer and would-be senior Carlon Brown led an exodus from Jim Boylen’s program. Promising rising sophomore Marshall Henderson was the second big blow, and combo guard Jordan Cyphers and power forward Matt Read round out the list of ex-Utes. In an effort to replace those departed, along with a couple of seniors, Boylen will welcome in eight new players this season, including four junior college transfers.
- Transfers In – there are quite a few impact transfers in the conference this season, with the biggest splashes at New Mexico, where Steve Alford welcomes 6’9 center Drew Gordon from UCLA (eligible at the semester break) and 6’7 forward Emmanuel Negedu from Tennessee, who is eligible immediately after the Vols would not clear him following his scary cardiac arrest during a workout last September. Negedu has been cleared by New Mexico doctors (although not without plenty of controversy) and is ready to play a big role for the Lobos. Elsewhere, San Diego State will add the services of Santa Clara transfer James Rahon, and he should help bolster the Aztecs’ limited outside shooting. Colorado State will welcome Iowa State transfer Wes Eikmeier after his year off. TCU will get the services of Virginia Tech transfer Hank Thorns, a tiny little jitterbug point, after he sat out last season. For UNLV, forward Quintrell Thomas is now eligible after transferring from Kansas, and the athletic sophomore should be ready to make an immediate impact. The Rebels also welcome UCLA transfer Mike Moser, but he’ll sit out this season. Finally, Wyoming just got a commitment from USC transfer Leonard Washington, who’ll have two years of eligibility remaining when he suits up for the Cowboys in 2011-12.
- Transfers Out: Although the Lobos have a couple transfers coming in, there are some going out, with point guard Nate Garth headed out on his own volition and center Will Brown dismissed from the team. BYU’s Michael Loyd, who had a huge 26-point game in BYU’s opening round NCAA win over Florida and figured to play a big role in this year’s edition of the Cougars, transferred to Division-II Midwestern State, a move that apparently didn’t exactly leave coach Dave Rose all that upset. San Diego State guard Tyrone Shelley opted for his second transfer in three seasons after losing his starting role at the end of last season. TCU loses point guard Xavier Roberson after a promising freshman season and forward Kevin Butler also moves on.
- Welcome Back: Colorado State will welcome back point guard Jesse Carr, who started 18 games as a true freshman but missed most of last season with a hip/pelvis injury. San Diego State will have forward Tim Shelton back for his junior year, after his third knee surgery in four years caused him to miss the last month and a half of last season.
- Mission-Critical: BYU brings back Chris Collinsworth as a sophomore, following an eventful LDS mission. Luckily, Collinsworth is back to full strength and will join his brother, Kyle, for a season on the Cougar roster before Kyle likely goes on his own mission. At the same time, the Cougs lose talented forward Tyler Haws for a couple years as he goes on his mission. Expect him to be back in Provo in 2012-13.
- San Diego State: The Aztecs return all five starters from last year’s Mountain West Tournament championship team, plus get a couple big fellas (Tim Shelton and senior Mehdi Cheriet) back from injuries. But the biggest improvement awaiting Steve Fisher’s squad may be Leonard’s improvement from his freshman to sophomore seasons. Leonard was always a high-flying rebounder for the Aztecs, but as his rebounding numbers soared down the stretch, so did his offensive game. They’ll need to shore up their free-throw shooting, but this is the most talented starting five in the conference, with senior point D.J. Gay, sophomore guard Chase Tapley, senior forward Billy White and senior center Malcolm Thomas expected to join Leonard in the starting five, and worthwhile depth to boot.
- BYU: Jimmer Fredette returns for his senior season as the likely co-favorite (with Leonard) for the conference player of the year. With underrated backcourt mate Jackson Emery giving coach Dave Rose an all-senior backcourt and young frontcourt players like Chris Collinsworth, Noah Hartsock, Brandon Davies and James Anderson all ready to take on bigger roles, the Cougars will be gunning for the conference title. One out of the group of Kyle Collinsworth, returned-missionary Nick Martineau or incoming freshman Anson Winder will need to step into the backup point guard role left by the departed Michael Loyd.
- UNLV: While the availability of Tre’Von Willis hangs over the head of coach Lon Krueger and his program, the Rebels have a talented roster either way. Assuming Willis returns, he’ll join Oscar Bellfield in a strong backcourt, with skilled and athletic frontcourt threats like Chace Stanback and Derrick Jasper helping initiate the offense. Junior center Brice Massamba showed drastic improvement, despite continued inconsistency at the end of last season, and any contributions he can bring will be a bonus. Additional young talent such as sophomore wings Anthony Marshall and Justin Hawkins litters the roster. Read the rest of this entry »