Invest now, benefit later: UTEP men’s basketball continues to strike gold

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Adrian Broaddus, Web Editor

As Miner fans have been preoccupied with the winless football team, basketball season is getting closer and closer.

For the athletic program, it’s a chance to wipe the slate clean from an abysmal new era of football. They get to debut a new style of energy, this time coming from a men’s basketball program that is hungry for renewed greatness.

First-year head coach Rodney Terry wanted a breath of fresh air from his time at Fresno State, but it’s been non-stop work for him and the coaching staff during this offseason.

UTEP men’s basketball will begin practice in the coming weeks, with their season officially starting on Nov. 6 against UT- Permian Basin at the Don Haskins Center.

But the team will get to showcase their skills in a preseason showcase on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in the Don Haskins Center. It will be a joined practice with the women’s basketball team, which will feature an open practice for both teams and an autograph session for all fans.

Scouting the Miners

UTEP only has three returners from their 2017-18 roster, which could ultimately be a good thing due to their newcomers. Their main returning starter will be senior forward Paul Thomas, as a junior Thomas averaged over eight points and five rebounds per game

This year, Thomas’ role will shift for the better. He will drop down to a true forward, sometimes as a hybrid wing, whereas he was asked to be the team’s true big man in many instances last season.

Their other two returning players will be sophomore guards Evan Gilyard and Kobe Magee. Gilyard had a breakthrough freshman season and earned the starting spot at the guard position by the end of the season. He set a program freshman record for his 84 percent free throw percentage. Magee, on the other hand, was a spark plug for last year’s team, often being called upon as a sixth man. He led C-USA in 3-point field goal percentage during league play, shooting 53.1 percent from beyond the arc.

Gilyard will be the frontrunner on the team for the point guard spot, while Magee will start the year as the Miners’ sharpshooter.

Then comes in Terry’s newcomers

Joining the team this season will be four newcomers that will have plenty of opportunities to showcase their skills, with about four other non-scholarship players that have a chance to show what they can do.

It starts with Jordan Lathon, a four-star prospect that had his scholarship revoked from Northwestern, who will help the Miners immensely on offense. He’s a 6-foot-4 guard that has four years of eligibility and will help the Miners spread the floor with his scoring efficiency.

Other freshman newcomers will include forwards Efe Odigie and Kaosi Ezeagu and guard Nigel Hawkins. Odigie will likely be the team’s starting big man down low, as Ezeagu, a 6-foot-10 lengthy beast comes off the bench for the team. Hawkins has been described by some of his teammates as the hardest working newcomer with lights out shooting.

If all goes according to plan the 2019-20 Miners will be sitting pretty. They will bring four Division I transfers onto the team, including sophomore guard Souley Boum (San Francisco), sophomore guard Anthony Tarke (NJIT), sophomore forward Tydus Verhoeven (Duquesne) and junior forward Bryson Williams (Fresno State). Freshman guard Deon Stroud is also a prop-40 player that will join the squad next year. 

Williams, one of Terry’s finest players at Fresno State, followed the coaching staff to UTEP and will be a vital addition to the team next year. All four of the transfers have to sit out an entire season due to NCAA transfer rules.

New recruits coming in

Terry and his staff made it one of their biggest goals to recruit Texas hoopers and bring them to El Paso. With his newcomers, it was evident that Terry was scoping the entire Lone Star State. Last week, Terry landed two big name recruits for the class of 2019.

UTEP earned two verbal commits from the likes of Houston guard Jesse Zarzuela and San Antonio shooting guard Brendan Wenzel. Zarzuela is a 6-foot-2 prospect that averaged 17.6 points per game with Spring Woods High School. Wenzel has a nice frame (6-foot-6) and is a sharpshooter. He chose to be a Miner over the likes of Northern Colorado, Texas State, New Mexico, Texas Tech and LA Tech.

This means that the future is looking bright for the young regime at UTEP.

The preseason showcase will tip off at 6 p.m. at the Haskins Center, with free admission.

Adrian Broaddus may be reached at [email protected]