The Southern Utah men’s basketball team has been pretty good recently.
Three straight 20-win seasons. A Big Sky regular season championship. One of the best offensive teams in the country over the past four years. In its first WAC Tournament, had two epic comeback wins over a pair of in-state rivals.
Along with that, one of the top teams in winning percentage in the West over the past three seasons.
Yep, Todd Simon and his staff took Southern Utah to places it had not known since 2001.
In 2022-23, the Thunderbirds had five players in the 1,000-point club. Tevian Jones signed a deal to play in the NBA Summer League with the New Orleans Pelicans. Harrison Butler signed a pro contract. Maizen Fausett will have an opportunity to play overseas. And so it goes.
With success comes more opportunity. Todd Simon got the call to head closer to home when he accepted the head coaching job at Bowling Green. Big man Jason Spurgin followed. And starting point guard Drake Allen transferred closer to home, joining rival Utah Valley.
So, new opportunity, indeed. Athletic director Doug Knuth went out and snagged Western Illinois head coach Rob Jeter as the new leader in Cedar City.
Jeter took Western Illinois from a 5-win team to back-to-back 16-win seasons. There have been stops at UNLV, Marquette, and Wisconsin-Milwaukee along the way.
The big question will be: can Jeter continue the success had by the SUU men’s basketball program over the past four seasons?
Despite having to rebuild the roster, and playing in a challenging league, Jeter knows how to build relationships and win at difficult locations. Just see his resume at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Western Illinois.
Let’s take a look at the Southern Utah men’s basketball team.
- Prophet Johnson – 6’3, Sophomore, JUCO Transfer
- Chazz Hutchison – 6’9, Senior, Transfer from UC Irvine
- Donovhan Cain – 6’4, Freshman
- Jamari Sibley – 6’8, Junior, Transfer from UTEP
- Tainui Taiaroa – 6’6, Freshman
- Harrison Reede – 6’2, Freshman
- Dominique Ford – 6’4, Senior, Transfer from Idaho
- Nestor Dyachok – 6’9, Sophomore, JUCO Transfer
- Jamir Simpson – 6’6, Redshirt Junior, Division II Transfer
- Hayden Ledbetter – 5’11, Sophomore, JUCO Transfer
- Robert Jeter IV – 6’0, Junior, Transfer from Western Illinois
- Duncan Reid – 6’4, Freshman
- Brock Felder – 6’8, Freshman
- Parsa Fallah – 6’9, Redshirt Sophomore
- Zion Young – 6’3, Redshirt Senior
- Braden Housley – 6’4, Sophomore
All reports out of Cedar City suggest that Parsa Fallah is having a big Summer. Playing behind Jason Spurgin, Fallah saw the floor periodically during the 2022-23 season. With a big body, ability to play with his back to the basket, and some surprising athleticism, Fallah will play a big role for Rob Jeter and the Thunderbirds in 2022-23.
In his first appearance on the Straight Outta WAC podcast, Rob Jeter dropped some scheduling news.Along with non-conference games that Rob Jeter mentions above, Southern Utah will also host Middle Tennessee and play at Louisiana Tech as part of the WAC/Conference USA Alliance.
It is good to see the T-Birds get in-state non-conference games. However, going to the Huntsman Center and the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum presents a pair of big challenges for Southern Utah.
The T-Birds open up WAC play on Nov. 29 in Cedar City by hosting California Baptist. On Dec. 2, the T-Birds head to the Pacific Northwest to take on Seattle U.
T-Bird fans should be excited about the style of play. Rob Jeter said he wants to play fast, shoot the 3-pointer, and get up and down the floor. Considering the T-Birds don’t have a player over 6’9, that makes sense. Use the quickness, athleticism, and ability to attack to your advantage.
Will the T-Birds have another 20-win season? That remains to be seen. It is a matter of how quickly adjustments can be made, how quickly the chemistry is developed, and taking advantage of a difficult place to play in the America First Events Center.
There are big shoes to fill. Nobody can argue with that notion. However, Rob Jeter has had success at other small schools with limited resources. Can that success continue at Southern Utah?
Only time will tell.