Jeff Linder’s New Look Cowboys: Youth and Talent Aplenty
The first year head coach has found a perfect mix of veterans and newcomers to boast a 4-1 record to start the year.
The first hear head coach has the Cowboys rolling, while playing with energy and excitement.
The Wyoming Cowboys are rolling, and first year head coach Jeff Linder is doing so with a tremendous mixture of veterans and what looks like the most productive freshmen class in the Mountain West.
For the first time since Jan. 2018 a Cowboy is the MW Player of the Week @KennyFoster22 😤
— Wyoming Cowboy Basketball (@wyo_mbb) December 7, 2020
Things have turned around in Laramie, and I’m certain if the restrictions against attendance in the Arena-Auditorium wasn’t stopping folks, the dome of doom would be jumping.
There is plenty to be excited about with this Cowboys team and a 4-1 record with an average margin of victory of 18.0 ppg is just the start. As mentioned before, coach Linder’s first victory on the ground in Laramie was retaining some key players from last years roster. Done in an effort to limit roster turnover and keep some talented underclassmen with proven production in the conference in the program.
Being able to bring back those players who showed talent and skill last year, but were either asked to do too much when it came to roles on the court or play too much because of a shallow bench at most times, was big. Given those players could never showcase their potential effectively with overflowing plates during last season’s 9-24 campaign. The return of several talented players and a chance at a fresh start under a new coach was highly anticipated.
Guys like Kwame Marble II, Kenny Foster and both Hunters (Maldonado and Thompson respectively) were key contributors on last season’s team and all opted to return to Wyoming and help begin a new Cowboy era.
Hunter Maldonado doesn’t have the ball in his hands as much as last season, but is just as important as ever scoring (12.6 PPG), rebounding (6.6 RPG) and dishing out assists (6.4 APG) as a true stat sheet stuffer. Which with the exception of scoring, are significant increases in each category from last season.
Kwame Marble II has seen his playing time decrease this season, but is almost as productive this season in less time on the court. The sophomore guard is averaging 6.3 PPG in just 8.3 MPG this season compared to 8.2 PPG in 19.5 MPG during his freshman campaign. While sharpshooting big man, Hunter Thompson has retained his starting role but has picked up where left off last season, as a spot up shooter beyond the arc and used seldom on the glass. Which isn’t as much of a necessary on his part anymore with the addition of several frontcourt options by the coaching staff to fill that void.
Offensive rebound ✔️ @JeremiahOden
— Wyoming Cowboy Basketball (@wyo_mbb) December 6, 2020
Returning sophomore Kenny Foster has been a hot handed sniper from beyond the arc after missing the Cowboys first game opening night against Mississippi Valley State. Foster’s 18.3 PPG and 69.3 3FG% earned him Mountain West player of the Week honors last week, the first time a Cowboy was given the award since 2018.
Coach Linder was also able to bring over two players who were committed to him at his last job. Xavier Dussell and Marcus Williams followed their head coach from Northern Colorado to Wyoming and I bet he is extremely happy they did.
Both guards along with fellow freshman Jeremiah Oden have played big roles through the Cowboys first five games, with Williams and Oden cracking the starting lineup since game one. Williams has been a particularly pleasant addition to the starting lineup, as the 6-2 guard is averaging 19.6 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.6 RPG and 2.0 SPG in 32.4 MPG and is coming off of a 30 points performance against Denver on Wednesday night.
— Wyoming Cowboy Basketball (@wyo_mbb) December 10, 2020
This squad is exciting to watch, high flying, can shoot and most importantly, they are winning. Coach Linder was an under the radar home run hire for anyone who keeps tabs on the Mountain West or college hoops in the Rocky Mountains and westward. So it’s no surprise that he has been able to come in, implement his system and turn things around for Wyoming hopefuls. But, it is very impressive he has been able to make it happen so quickly.
So even as we approach the end of 2020, the season is still young, but it appears the Cowboys have a solid foundation to build as represented through their first five games.
Stay tuned Cowboys fans, and if anyone hasn’t seen this Wyoming team play, their next game is this Saturday December 12th on the road against Utah Valley. Tune in on the WAC digital network here.