LARAMIE — Jeff Linder’s work with Wyoming’s men’s basketball program is just getting started.
Now that the Cowboys’ first-year coach has his coaching staff finalized, the next priority is finalizing the roster for next season. With natural attrition, underclassmen transferring out of the program and trying to sign recruits to take their place, it’s a process that’s taken some time to get UW closer to the NCAA-mandated 13-scholarship limit for the 2020-21 season.
But Linder and his staff have taken a major step toward completing that task by inking seven players since the start of the spring signing period April 15. Between current and prospective players, UW has accounted for 12 scholarships next season, leaving one more available for the 2020 recruiting cycle.
Here’s a breakdown of where UW’s roster stands for next season. Additions and subtractions will be updated as needed.
Guards Jake Hendricks and A.J. Banks were the only seniors on last season’s roster. But with Allen Edwards being fired and replaced by Linder shortly after the season ended, more attrition was inevitable.
Fellow guard Greg Milton III and forward Tyler Morman are both transferring. TJ Taylor was the first UW player to enter the NCAA transfer portal after the coaching change while Brandon Porter has also decided to leave the program.
Freshman big Javier Turner became the latest UW player to enter the transfer portal, a team spokesman confirmed. Linder said after signing the first six members of UW's 2020 class on April 15 that Taylor and Turner are both leaving the program, meaning none of the players that have entered the portal will be returning to UW next season.
Linder may have pulled off his biggest recruiting coup of the offseason by convincing leading scorer Hunter Maldonado to stick around. Maldonado, who averaged 15.8 points and 5.8 rebounds this past season, has announced he’s returning to the program. So has forward Hunter Thompson, who’s started 45 of the 53 games in which he’s played the last two seasons.
The fact that freshmen guards Kwane Marble II and Kenny Foster as well as forward Austin Mueller never entered the transfer portal was a good sign for UW. Linder confirmed last month that all of them plan on returning next season.
Who’s coming in?
After UW failed to sign any players during the early signing period, Linder and his staff have worked to add a bunch of new pieces during the spring signing period. The fruits of that labor have produced seven signees so far.
Junior college sharpshooter Drake Jeffries, a 6-foot-5 wing who shot nearly 45 percent from 3-point range this season for Indian Hills Community College, and junior college big Eoin Nelson were the first commits to sign their National Letters of Intent on Wednesday. With Hendricks and Banks out of eligibility, Jeffries, who will be playing for his third school in three years next season, could push for a starting spot immediately.
Junior college forward Drew LaMont has also signed after committing to the Cowboys last week. The 6-9 Nelson played one season at Otero Junior College in Colorado after competing for the Irish U20 national team while LaMont, who started his career at American University, averaged 12.8 points and 4.1 rebounds for Indian River State (Florida) College this season. He also shot the 3 at a 40.8-percent clip.
Arizona shooting guard Xavier Dusell, UW's first verbal pledge in the 2020 class, has also signed after originally being recruited by Linder to Northern Colorado. Texas combo guard Marcus Williams, who has also signed after playing his high school ball at Dickinson in the Houston area, is another former UNC signee who’s following Linder to UW. The 6-2, 180-pounder is ranked a three-star recruit by Rivals.
UW's lone signature from an uncommitted prospect entering April 15 came from Overland (Colorado) High big Graham Ike, who's rated a three-star prospect by Rivals. The 6-9, 245-pound center, who also got looks from Air Force, Washington State and Saint Louis among others, averaged 12 points and 8.5 rebounds during his senior season before a torn ACL cut it short.
The most recent addition to the class is Sunrise Christian Academy (Kansas) three-star forward Jeremiah Oden, who signed with the Cowboys on Saturday. The 6-8, 190-pounder, the fifth three-star prospect in UW's 2020 class, also had offers from UTEP and New Mexico among others.
With Maldonado, Thompson, Mueller, Marble, Foster, Dusell, Jeffries, Williams, LaMont, Nelson, Ike and Oden knowingly in the plans for next season, UW has one scholarship left.
Who else could be added?
Given Linder’s philosophical belief in the 3-pointer and UW’s lack of proven long-range shooters (the Cowboys finished with the third-lowest 3-point field-goal percentage in the Mountain West this past season), it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Cowboys go after another shooter if Linder decides to further add to the 2020 recruiting class at some point.
Anthony D’Avanzo, a graduate transfer forward, was reportedly among the uncommitted prospects that UW was targeting. But the 6-8 D’Avanzo, who averaged 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 39.9 percent from 3-point range for Lewis University this past season, recently signed with Southern Illinois.
UW offered Oden's teammate, Sunrise Christian (Kansas) three-star forward Mykell Robinson, who cut his list of schools to UW, Minnesota and North Texas before committing to the Mean Green. UW was also in the mix for Power Five transfer Zion Griffin before the former Iowa State wing committed to Illinois-Chicago.
College basketball teams aren’t required to carry 13 scholarship players on their roster during a season. They just can’t exceed that number.
But UW has already assured itself of being at or near full capacity next season.
Follow UW athletics beat writer Davis Potter on Twitter at @DavisEPotter.
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