2022-23 was a pretty special season for the Utah Valley men’s basketball team.
28 wins. A program record. WAC Defensive Player of the Year. WAC Newcomer of the Year. Four players that are now at Power 5 programs. Head coach getting big money to take over a Power 5 program. NIT Final Four.
Shall I go on?
The Wolverines had wins at BYU and at Oregon. There was the epic overtime thrilling loss at Wake Forest. And then there were the blowout wins at New Mexico and Colorado in the first two rounds of the NIT. Add in a nationally televised game in the NIT quarterfinals.
This was all on top of a WAC regular season title, the second in three years under Mark Madsen.
Yes, there was the disappointing way the WAC Tourney run finished. We won’t discuss that in too much detail. But, giving up a 23-point lead with 18 minutes left…and to a rival nonetheless…is a tough pill to swallow.
Unfortunately, all five starters have departed. Trey Woodbury is at Ole Miss waiting to see if he can get a waiver approved. Le’Tre Darthard is at Oklahoma. Justin Harmon is at Illinois. Aziz Bandaogo left for Cincinnati. And Tim Fuller is living the family life after his wife gave birth to their first child this Summer. Along with that, Mark Madsen took the head coaching job at Cal immediately after the NIT run finished in Las Vegas.
It is the world of college basketball. Success breeds change. And in Orem, there is a lot of change…at least roster-wise.
Athletic Director Jared Sumsion made the right call in handing the keys to the head coaching vacancy to Associate Head Coach Todd Phillips. The former Salt Lake Community College head coach who led the Bruins to a national title has been in Orem for the past four years. Phillips knows how to win, recruit, and win ball games. Plus, he understands the landscape of the WAC, the state of Utah, and the culture at Utah Valley.
With that being said, there are a ton of new faces that will don the green and white in 2023-24.
- Drake Allen – 6’4, Junior, transfer from Southern Utah
- Should be the starting point guard in November. Started all 37 games for Todd Simon and the T-Birds in 2022-23
- K’Mani Doughty – 6’5, Junior, transfer from New Orleans
- Another big, long, athletic guard. It is something Utah Valley has had the past four seasons. Averaged 6.9 points and 2.8 rebounds for the Privateers
- Tanner Toolson – 6’5, Sophomore, transfer from BYU
- The Toolson pipeline is alive and well in Orem. The younger brother of former UVU guard Connor has a little more size and a big chip on his shoulder according to Todd Phillips
- Simon Akena – 6’6, Junior, JUCO transfer
- Another big, long guard that can finish at the rim or knock down a shot from the perimeter. The Stockholm, Sweden native averaged 15.9 points and 4.7 rebounds for McCook Community College
- Osiris Grady – 6’8, Freshman, Wasatch Academy
- The four-star recruit chose Utah Valley over West Virginia, Texas Tech and Southern Miss among others. Grady is the No. 32 power forward in the Class of 2023 according to ESP
- Caleb Stone-Carrawell – 6’7, Redshirt Senior, Transfer from Austin Peay
- The son of a former Duke All-American averaged 10 points per game and 2.6 rebounds over the past two seasons for the Governors.
- Trevin Dorius – 7’2, Graduate, Transfer from Utah State
- Todd Phillips needed size after the departure of Aziz Bandaogo. It came by way of Utah native Trevin Dorius. The Utah State transfer gives the Wolverines a big body in the paint who has surprising athleticism.
- Nate Tshimanga – 6-10, Junior, Transfer from Troy
- At 6-10, 250 pounds, Nate Tshimanga is someone Todd Phillips is extremely high on. A big body that can play multiple positions and according to Phillips will most likely be a starter in November.
There you have it. The newcomers for the Utah Valley Wolverines. A lot of new pieces that have to gel in order for the Wolverines to keep the momentum from 2022-23.
- Jaden McClanahan – 5’10, Senior
- Ethan Potter – 6’8, Sophomore
- Trevan Leonhardt – 6’4, Redshirt Freshman
- Cache Fields – 6’6, Senior
The former Utah Mr. Basketball, Ethan Potter, may be the most important of those returners. Potter got extended minutes in Utah Valley’s NIT run and showed the ability to knock down shots from the perimeter as well as play with his back to the basket. According to Phillips, Potter has been one of the leaders throughout the Summer and will see his role increase in a big way.
Per Todd Phillips on a recent Straight Outta WAC podcast episode, the Wolverines will host Weber State, and travel up I-15 to take on Utah. Utah Valley will also travel to Corvallis to take on Oregon State as well as head north to take on Boise State.
Also on the schedule are games at Sam Houston and Charlotte. Plus a home game against Liberty. The Sam Houston and Liberty games are part of the WAC/Conference USA Alliance.
Utah Valley opens up WAC play by hosting Seattle U before a trip a few days later to St. George to take on rival Utah Tech.
Can Utah Valley replicate its 28-win championship season? It is possible. Anything is possible in sports. But, with a grip of new faces, the monster that is GCU, and the challenge of having fewer non-Division I games, 28 wins will be challenging.
There is a lot of experience on the 2023-24 version of the Utah Valley Wolverines. There is a head coach who knows how to win ball games.
A trip to Italy that provides some extra practices as well as some early games and an opportunity to bond as a team helps, as well.
The WAC is a monster. Todd Phillips knows that. With the length, athleticism and additional size the Wolverines added in the offseason, Utah Valley is going to be in the mix to defend its title once again.