Kansas State transfer Kaozi Ezeagu is a big physical big man that will provide some rim protection for Sam Houston in 2022-23. Courtesy Kansas State Athletics.

Key Newcomer, Returner Need to Protect the Paint for the Bearkats

There was one glaring issue for the Sam Houston Bearkats men’s basketball team in 2021-22. That issue was that they had no true rim protector and were always very undersized in their first season in the WAC. Sure, the Bearkats had a 7-2 center in Kuba Karwowski. But, the physicality and consistency just weren’t there in terms of rim protection in 2021-22.

We know how deep the Bearkats are at the guard position. With Jaden Ray, Javion May, Donte Powers, and transfer Qua Grant, there are plenty of ball handlers. Sam Houston also brought in other transfer guards in Ronald Mitchell Jr., Lamar Wilkerson, and Jacoby Bishop. Add in talented freshman guard Anthony Wrzeszcz and you can see the depth at the guard line.

So, let’s focus on perhaps two out of the box players for the sake of this write-up.

Key Newcomer

Kaosi Ezeagu – 6-10, Junior, Transfer from Kansas State

At 6-10 and 255 pounds, Ezeagu could be that rim protector for Sam Houston. It’s all about the work and buying into what Jason Hooten and his staff are selling. As a junior at Kansas State, Ezeagu played in 25 games and started 12 of those contests. Due to COVID, Ezeagu missed a pair of games against Texas and at West Virginia.

Tristan Ikpe will be the veteran leader for Sam Houston in 2022-23. Courtesy Western Athletic Conference.

The numbers at Kansas State don’t jump off the page. 4.2 points per game and 2.7 rebounds while shooting almost 69 percent from the floor. In two seasons in Manhattan, Ezeagu had 21 blocks in 14.4 minutes of floor time.

But, as we have seen, sometimes new scenery can make all the difference. Just look at Fardaws Aimaq and Asbjørn Midtgaard in recent years. With the strength, size, athleticism and physicality Ezeagu possesses, there is an opportunity for something special in 2022-23.

Key Returner

Tristan Ikpe 6-6, Senior, Forward, Deer Park, Texas

This is a no-brainer. Ikpe has been at Sam Houston for two seasons now and is the veteran leader of the Bearkats. During his time at Sam Houston, Ikpe has started in all but one game for Jason Hooten. And he’s been consistent for the Bearkats.

Ikpe’s scoring and rebound averages were down just a bit from the 2020-21 season. But that is to be expected when you have a scorer like Savion Flagg on the floor next to you. Ikpe averaged 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the floor. Ikpe also dished out 67 assists which was third on the team behind Jaden Ray and Savion Flagg.

The senior forward who transferred to Sam Houston prior to the 2020-21 season is simply consistent and reliable. Ikpe’s best game came on Feb. 24 at rival Stephen F. Austin where he was 7-10 from the field and had a season-high 15 points in the 69-67 loss. Ikpe can play multiple positions on the floor. And will be the vocal leader for the Bearkats in 2022-23.

About the author

Kyle McDonald

Love everything about WAC Hoops so decided I wanted to write more about it and cover this amazing conference that just keeps getting better. Follow us on Twitter @wachoopsdigest for information, game analysis and much more.

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