Utah Valley Wolverines – 2020-21 Season Preview and Breakdown

Utah Valley small forward Trey Woodbury
Trey Woodbury is expected to have a bigger impact for Utah Valley as he is the lone returner for Mark Madsen. Courtesy Wade Event Photography.

The 2019-20 season should be considered one of the craziest in program history for Utah Valley. It was a season where the Wolverines had some impressive road wins (Grand Canyon, North Dakota State, UAB) and where they also finished the season with nine eligible players. This goes without mentioning that the season was cut short because of Covid-19. With last season now in the rear-view mirror, Mark Madsen and Co. are ready for year two. Here is everything you need to know about the 2020-21 Utah Valley Wolverines. 

Check out what Mark Madsen has to say about his team in the podcast episode below:

Key departures:

T.J. Washington, Brandon Averette, Emmanuel Olojapoke, Isaiah White, Jamison Overton (opting out of 2020-21 season)  

At one point or another last season, these five all started for the Wolverines.  Utah Valley lost its two top scorers in Isaiah White (14.5ppg) and Brandon Averette (12.8ppg) to other programs.  Emmanuel Olojakpoke, who set the single season block record with 81 rejections, graduated along with guard T.J. Washington (12.2ppg).  Jamison Overton will sit out the 2020-21 season but plans on returning for the 2021-22 season. Losing five starters is never easy, and at first glance the cupboard looks a little dry.

Key returners:

Trey Woodbury, Fardaws “Daws” Aimaq, Colby Leifson

Leifson joined Utah Valley last December, so he is considered a key returner. Although Leifson and Fardaws Aimaq were forced to sit out last season due to NCAA transfer rules, it is expected that these two will come in and have immediate impacts. Leifson is a knockdown shooter, and Fardaws has potential to be special. The lone returning starter is Trey Woodbury. Mark Madsen will give him a larger opportunity to contribute this season. With his high basketball IQ and ability to shoot, Woodbury will be a big part of the success Utah Valley will have this season. 

Key newcomers:

Evan Cole, Jordan Brinson, Blaze Nield, Asa McCord, Tim Fuller, Le’Tre Darthard, Jaden McClannahan

When Kyle McDonald and I chatted with Utah Valley head coach Mark Madsen earlier this year, he was extremely excited about this group of newcomers. Evan Cole, a graduate transfer from Georgia Tech, headlines the group. Cole is a forward who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability and can effectively crash the glass. Jordan Brinson is a transfer from UAB and was a 3* point guard recruit out of high school.  Blaze Nield (BYU) and Tim Fuller (Weber State) both join the Wolverines from in state programs. Asa McCord, Le’Tre Darthard, and Jaden McClannahan arrive from the junior college ranks where these three were all-region selections. This is a very good core and all of them will have an opportunity to make an immediate impact. 

Head Coach

Mark Madsen – 2nd season

Projected starting lineup:

PG – Jordan Brinson, Sophomore, 6’3, 175 pounds

SG – Colby Leifson, Sophomore, 6’4, 190

G/F – Trey Woodbury, Junior, 6’4, 200 pounds

F – Evan Cole, Grad, 6’10, 230 pounds

C – Fardaws Aimaq, RS Junior, 6’11, 245 pounds

This is a lineup that features quickness, shooters, and size in the middle. And Mark Madsen won’t have it any other way. These five will run a fairly balanced attack on offense and can switch defensive schemes quickly. Blaze Nield, Asa McCord, Tim Fuller, Le’Tre Darthard, and Jaden McClanahan will come off the bench and give opposing second units a headache. 

Projected finish in WAC standings:

Third

I feel justified picking this new core to finish high in the WAC standings. There is a lot of uncertainty in the WAC right now. Grand Canyon has a new coach. Seattle lost its best player in Terrell Brown. California Baptist lost the reigning WAC Player of the Year Milan Acquaah and a lot more. If Madsen can get this group to buy in, Utah Valley will enjoy a successful campaign in 2020-21 and could surprise a lot of folks.  

What to expect:

As I hinted at above, this team will play with great tempo. When Utah Valley got out in transition last season, it led to a lot of easy opportunities. In addition, Mark Madsen is more than happy to let his players shoot from beyond the arc. 37.4 percent of all attempted field goals last season were 3-pointers. With the new guys that have been brought in, it suggests this won’t change. The attack on offense will be well balanced, as anyone can be the go-to guy on any given night.

Defensively, the Wolverines will feature both man to man and a zone. The defensive schemes largely depend on the various lineups that Mark Madsen can put on the floor. With a full season and a fresh recruiting class under his belt, Madsen and the Wolverines are ready to take a jump this upcoming season.

What do you think WAC Hoops fans? Let us know how you’re feeling about the upcoming season. You can tweet at myself (@T_Creer54) or WAC Hoops Digest (@WAChoopsdigest). You can also leave a comment down below. Oh, and for what its worth, I can confirm from multiple sources that Jaden McClanahan is the best dancer on the team.

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