Editor’s note: This is one of 12 team capsules breaking down the men’s basketball teams in the Big Sky Conference. League play opens on Thursday, December 29. For the other available capsules, click here.
The conference’s reigning champion and preseason favorite to repeat finished a difficult non-conference schedule 5-6 with notable wins over Utah State, Utah Valley and UC Davis. Eleventh-year coach Randy Rahe, who signed a long contract extension during the offseason, challenged his squad with an early schedule. The slate included games against the best in Utah as well as games at Iona, Pepperdine and Stanford preparing the Wildcats for another run at the NCAA Tournament, which would be their fourth trip to the Big Dance and ninth postseason appearance under Rahe.
As expected, Weber is led by senior guard Jeremy Senglin, the Wildcats’ leading scorer in nine of 11 games, earning two Big Sky Conference Player of the Week awards in the process. Senglin, a first-team All-Big Selection last season, is in his first season without center Joel Bolomboy, who was selected by the Utah Jazz in the second round of the NBA Draft after setting the Big Sky’s all-time mark for rebounds in a career.
Weber begins its conference schedule with a road trip to Montana, which brings the Wildcats to Bozeman on Thursday and Missoula, for a New Year’s Eve showdown between the Big Sky’s most successful programs. Weber’s game at Montana serves as a rematch of last season’s tournament championship game.
Current record — 5-6
2015-2016 record: 15-3 in Big Sky play, 26-9 overall.
Big Sky Tournament finish: Weber outlasted North Dakota in the semis for a matchup with Montana in the championship. Behind Senglin’s outside shooting, Weber got out to a big lead and then staved off Montana to claim its conference record 10th Big Sky championship.
Head Coach: Randy Rahe is in his 11th season in Ogden after a successful career as an assistant to former Montana coach Stew Morrill at Colorado State and Utah State. Rahe, the Big Sky’s all-time wins leader, has won a school record 213 games and has coached 29 All-Big Sky players, including Bolomboy, Senglin, NBA All-Star Damian Lillard. Weber has won 10 or more conference games in nine of Rahe’s seasons on the bench.
Rahe on the Wildcats’ experienced roster: “It’s made the transition this summer, this fall going into our season a little easier. These guys already have the culture built into our DNA. It’s allowed us to move a little bit faster. We lost Joel and that’s a big hole but we have a lot of guys back with experience starting with Jeremy being a senior.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jeremy Senglin — A senior from Arlington, Texas, Senglin recently moved into fifth place on Weber’s all-time scoring list. Senglin is backing up his preseason All-Big Sky selection with a scoring average of 19 points per game on 46-percent shooting from the 3-point line. His 46 three pointers are second in the league. Senglin has been a first-team and honorable mention All-Big Sky pick and was the league’s freshman of the year.
Kyndahl Hill — One half of the league’s most imposing front-court, Hill is also the league’s sixth-leading rebounder at 7.3 per game. A year after the the 6-7, 215-pound forward was named the league’s top reserve, Hill is averaging 9.8 points in almost 29 minutes a night. He has two 12-rebound games this season.
Dusty Baker — Exactly what you would name a Western gunslinger. Baker is shooting 66 percent from behind the 3-point line on two-and-a-half attempts per game. Baker scored a career-high 20 points in a home win over Montana last season. He hit three of his four 3-point attempts that night. All of Baker’s 9.2 points per game are coming from the bench, providing the Wildcats depth.
Zach Braxton — A 6-foot-9, 250-pound sophomore who started all 34 games as a redshirt freshman has stayed into the starting lineup. Braxton is pulling down 6.4 rebounds in 22 minutes per night. Has had trouble with fouls with two ejections and 10 games of at least two fouls.
Joel Bolomboy — The most prodigious rebounder in the conference’s history, Bolomboy is now yo-yoing back and forth between the Utah Jazz and the team’s NBDL affiliate. Bolomboy finished his career at Weber State as the school’s all-time leader in blocks, rebounds and free throws attempted. His 1,312 rebounds are the most in Big Sky history.
Richaud Gittens — The 6-4 senior will miss the season with a foot injury. He played in six games and was scoring seven points per night off the bench. Gittens played in all 35 games last season and averaged 4.3 points.
Jerek Harding — A 6-2 guard from Kansas, Harding is averaging 11 minutes per night off the bench. In limited action the freshman is scoring 6.2 points per night and has been efficient inside the arc, hitting 13 of those 21 shots.
Dallas Jordan — A 6-10 freshman from Long Beach Poly, Jordan is also playing about 11 minutes per night. Jordan is averaging four points and two rebounds per game and is an efficient scorer, hitting 66 percent of his shots and 80 percent of his free throws.
Preseason polls finish: Weber State was picked by the media and the coaches to defend its 2015-16 Big Sky Championship.