LARAMIE — Convincing high school and junior college players to continue their athletic careers at your school is a difficult, time-consuming sell for coaches considering the various options most players have during the recruiting process.
Allen Edwards doesn’t want it to sound like it’s been more challenging than usual for him given the way his third — and by far his most challenging — season at Wyoming has played out.
“It’s difficult whether we’re banged up or not,” Wyoming’s coach said. “Anybody can say that because recruiting is a different ball game all around anyway.”
In fact, Edwards said he doesn’t think a season that’s on pace to be the Cowboys’ worst in almost 50 years has negatively impacted his ability to recruit. Wyoming was 4-14 overall and winless in Mountain West play before snapping a five-game losing streak Wednesday with a 59-46 win over San Jose State — the only team in the league with fewer wins.
Edwards spent a couple of days last week on the road recruiting, including stops in Arizona and his native Florida. The season is always a hot topic of conversation as is the situation that’s played a large part in how the Cowboys got here — three season-ending injuries, Jake Hendricks’ torn LCL, Ny Redding’s indefinite suspension and Lwal Dung’s decision to leave the team that have left Wyoming with seven scholarship players, five of whom are going through their first year of Division I basketball.
Whether it’s in-person conversations or talks over the phone, Edwards said recruits understand the Cowboys’ current predicament.
“They kind of laugh sometimes when you say you’ve only got seven guys,” said Edwards, who led Wyoming to consecutive 20-win seasons his first two years at the helm. “You kind of go down the line, and to be honest with you, after having phone conversations with recruits, they kind of brought it to my attention when I started naming bodies, and I was like, ‘Oh wow, that is a lot of guys at the end of the day.’
“Everybody has dealt with injuries. Everybody’s dealt with multiple guys being out. I don’t know if they’ve dealt with it with injuries, multiple guys being out and then having to do it with a younger group. I talk to the staff about it being more like a tsunami than a regular tropical storm if that makes sense.”
There’s some proof in the Cowboys’ 2019 recruiting class to support Edwards’ opinion.
Smoky Hill High (Colorado) three-star guard Kenny Foster inked with Wyoming during the early signing period back in November. Kwane Marble Jr., a combo guard out of Denver East High who also has an offer from Washington State, backed off his verbal pledge before the season started but committed to the Cowboys again on Jan. 6 when Wyoming was 4-11 and had lost its first two league games.
Assuming Marble sticks with his decision and signs with Wyoming this spring, the Cowboys would have one scholarship left for the 2019-20 season with Justin James and Jordan Naughton being the only scholarship seniors Wyoming will lose. Lwal Dung's decision to leave the team back in December freed up a scholarship while transfers or other defections could always open up more scholarships after the season.
Edwards said most of his time talking to recruits is spent pitching how they would fit in when the Cowboys have a full complement of players.
“Recruiting comes back to relationships,” he said. “Even in the process, it’s no different when you’re talking to guys and you say that we’re playing slow right now, but that’s not our intent. We talk more about the first two years with the kids we had in the program and the style of play and how that young man would fit in to what we’re doing. It hasn’t affected it to the sense where they’re saying it’s a bad program or anything like that.”