Amidst a frustrating season, extended minutes for young players provide hope for the future of Cowboy Basketball

CHEYENNE, Wyo (Wyoming News Now) – It’s been a tough time for the Pokes this season. They have struggled with a variety of injuries throughout the year and their star Graham Ike has yet to see the floor.

However, coach Jeff Linder said in his press Monday that Ike still made an impression on the sidelines. He has used his previous experience to help some of the younger players with their games.

“[Ike] knows he can help these guys because he sees things they might not see. He was in situations they weren’t. So in a lot of ways he’s like an assistant coach on the bench now. He’s done a really good job when it comes down to it – sometimes when guys get hurt the guys just go back and fall by the wayside – but he’s done a really good job of staying committed and continuing to give energy in different ways provided,” Linder said.

Ike is far from the only cowboy to have been bitten by injury fever. Elite players Hunter Maldonado, Hunter Thompson, Kenny Foster, Brendan Wenzel and Max Agbonkpolo have all missed more than five games this year through injury — some significantly more.

This has caused minute delays for some of the younger players on the team. Most notably, sophomore Noah Reynolds has become a star for the pokes; He is Wyoming’s leading scorer this season with 15.6 points per game. More recently, freshmen Caden Powell and Nate Barnhart have also been seen running longer on the floor.

Those underclassmen who get so much playing time certainly have their pros and cons; Defense is often one of the toughest adjustments at the collegiate level, and the Cowboys have seen a significant decline on that side of the ball. They are currently ranked 310th nationwide for effective field goal defense percentage and 278th for defensive efficiency.

While this season has been a struggle, Linder said the experience these young players are gaining is exciting for the future. That excitement is compounded when you consider that the Pokes are likely to return the majority of their Impact players next year.

“The minutes that [the young players are] hopefully that will allow them to get better defensively and hopefully in the long run. Maybe it’ll be this season, but as we move forward in these minutes, the only thing they’re going to do is help these guys,” Linder said.

It may be too late for a turnaround this season, but there’s still a lot to look forward to for the program.

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