To all those who follow WAC Hoops Digest, my sincerest apologies. There hasn’t been a ton of content on the website over the past month. Simply put, I took a break for a bit, played with my 4-year old, got back into slow pitch softball, and celebrated my daughter becoming a teenager.
The crazy part is there has been a lot happening around the WAC during this time. Larry Muniz has been trying to keep up with all the transfer news with our transfer tracker. Occasionally when I see things on Twitter, I will retweet, quote tweet or simply like a tweet to help stay somewhat informed. There have been a lot of questions about transfers and so forth. I promise I will get to those in a podcast episode this week as there is SO much to talk about.
Add in that in about two and a half months, four new teams will join the WAC. It’s going to be a busy time. So, let’s get down to some newsworthy bullets.
UTRGV, Abilene Christian, Lamar Announce New Head Coaches
February 7, 2021, the UTRGV family along with the college basketball world was shocked to learn of the passing of head coach Lew Hill. And to be honest, when I was tagged in a tweet about it, I didn’t believe it at first. Just not the news you’re expecting one night after Hill coached the Vaqueros in a heart-breaking loss at Texas Southern. Associate head coach Jai Steadman led the Vaqueros through the rest of the 2020-21 season. UTRGV won just one game and lost its final six games.
On March 29, UTRGV found a replacement for Lew Hill. Former Austin Peay head coach Matt Figger will take over at UTRGV. Figger was 76-51 over all at Austin Peay and was 49-25 in Ohio Valley Conference play. The Governors were 14-13 overall in 2020-21 and 10-10 in OVC play. The biggest issue facing Figger is the departure of nearly the entire Vaquero roster including two-time WAC Defensive Player of the Year Javon Levi. But, Figger seems up to the challenge and knows the foundation has been laid by Lew Hill and his staff.
“I cannot express enough how excited my family and I are to become a part of the UTRGV family,” Figger said. “This program has already experienced an incredible leader in Lew Hill. Coach Hill’s vision has already laid a strong foundation. My job is to continue the work and do my due diligence to make this program successful and to take it to levels never before experienced. The work starts now!”
Less than a month after knocking off Texas in the NCAA Tournament, Abilene Christian head coach Joe Golding took the UTEP head coaching gig. And the Wildcats wasted no time in hiring associate head coach Brette Tanner. It really comes as no surprise that Tanner got the job. ACU players were actually very vocal about wanting Tanner to be the new head coach when Golding left. Tanner has been at ACU since 2013 and is really the catalyst of the pressure defense the Wildcats have used in changing the culture at ACU.
— Reggie Miller (@SniiperJones10) April 14, 2021
And to round things out, Lamar announced that Alvin Brooks will take over the head coaching duties. Brooks returns to Lamar after helping Houston reach the 2020-21 Final Four. Brooks is a former All-Southland Conference guard while playing at Lamar in the early 1980s and helped lead the Cardinals to two conference titles in 1982-83 and 1983-84.
“I am excited to be coming home to my alma mater, Lamar University!” said Brooks. “The Beaumont and Golden Triangle communities have always held a special place in my heart, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting. The timing could not have been better. Director of Athletics Marco is leading Lamar basketball into a new and exciting era. By joining the WAC, we have an opportunity to elevate our program to new levels.”
Brooks is a 2019 Lamar Hall of Fame inductee and will look to use his 37 years of coaching experience to make Lamar relevant again.
Some Transfer News
There is SO much going on in the transfer news in the WAC. So, for the sake of this article, I will try to simplify as much as possible. Check out the transfer tracker for more details. This past week, Seattle U guard Darrion Trammell made it known he is returning for the Redhawks. Trammell was the leading scorer in the WAC at 20.5 points per game. With Kyree Brown signing with Seattle, the Redhawks will feature four players from City College of San Francisco in Trammell, Brown, Nate Robinson and Emeka Udenyi. These four helped CCSF to a perfect 30-0 record in 2019-20.
CBU picked up a commit from Gonzaga transfer Pavel Zakharov. Sam Houston State is getting a 7-footer in Utah State transfer Kuba Karwowski to go along with Texas A&M transfer Savion Flagg. GCU is getting three Power 5 transfers in Taeshon Cherry, Aiden Igiehon, and Walter Ellis. New Mexico State is getting Washington State transfer Nate Pryor and Mario McKinney Jr. who played a season at Missouri before playing at a JUCO this past season.
Stephen F. Austin gets Sadaidriene Hall from East Tennessee State and JUCO transfer Jules Moor. Utah Valley got a commit from BYU transfer Connor Harding to add some shooting depth.
On the women’s side, the biggest news came on Saturday when All-WAC guard Amara Graham announced she will finish her career at GCU. Graham was UTRGV’s leading scorer and should make GCU the favorite to win the WAC in 2021-22.
There is so much more transfer news that we will break down in a podcast episode.
Read About the Bromance at Dixie State
If you haven’t had a chance yet, check out an interesting story at the Dixie Sun News. Dixie State players Frank Staine Jr. and Isaiah Pope are featured. It’s referred to as the Bromance. Both players live and work together along with taking the floor together for the Trailblazers.
According to the article, Pope says you will not see one of them without the other. And along with that, according to Staine, they have some sort of telepathic type of connection.
“For two weeks in a row after practice, we guessed what each other wanted to eat after practice; we said ‘one, two, three’ and said it at the same time,” Staine said.
Both Pope and Staine will be key pieces for Jon Judkins and the Trailblazers in their second season in the WAC.
Oscar Frayer Gets His One Shining Moment
It was with heavy hearts that WAC Hoops Digest reported on the passing of GCU forward Oscar Frayer on March 23. It was a devastating loss for the Frayer family. Frayer’s sister Andrea Moore was also a passenger in the vehicle who lost her life. And as a tribute to Frayer, CBS gave Oscar his One Shining Moment. The clip showed Frayer’s highlight-reel block against Iowa plus a little longer clip of Frayer. The world lost a great young man who was getting ready to graduate and who had a significant impact for all those around him both on and off the floor.
One Shining Moment, 2021 Edition pic.twitter.com/Ap6wVFFPQ1
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 6, 2021
“I think he did God’s work through his relationships with all of us,” GCU Interim Vice President of Athletics Jamie Boggs said. “The thing that I realized is that none of us collectively knew all about him and that was because he didn’t talk about all the things he did with all of us. He was humble. And so I will always remember Oscar as a humble servant of God.”