The Western Athletic Conference prepares for the 2022-2023 college basketball season this fall with the addition of two programs. One of those programs, the UT Arlington Mavericks, is a familiar face for New Mexico State and Seattle fans. Those two programs are the only two remaining members from the 2012-2013 season, the Mavericks’ lone season in the WAC while transitioning from the Southland to the Sunbelt a decade ago.
UT Arlington is led by head coach Greg Young, who had previously been on staff as the associate head coach and assistant before that for well over a decade. He was on longtime head coach Scott Cross’ staff before being fired along with the entire staff in March 2018. It wasn’t a pleasant time and Young very nearly didn’t return to UT Arlington. But, at the behest of then-Texas Tech head coach Chris Beard and others, Young returned. New Mavericks’ head coach Chris Ogden added Young to his staff as Associate Head Coach.
Three seasons later, Ogden left to join Chris Beard at his alma mater, Texas. This left Greg Young with an opportunity, the opportunity to land his first ever head coaching gig at the Division I level. Now, in his second season at the helm in Arlington, Young looks at his program’s new home as a clean slate and a place to build a new foundation, brick by brick.
The last time around, UT Arlington made a run all the way to the WAC tournament championship game. The Mavericks lost to New Mexico State, a giant in the WAC who will be looking to make the exact same run in its last season in the conference. Now, the Mavericks may not be seen as a favorite to challenge the Aggies or any other squad for a top-5 conference finish. But, through a mixture of three decades in the industry, proven roster building and a defensive focus, Young hopes to create a legacy in the WAC. Year one is the foundation to that legacy.
Greg Young, 2nd Season
11-18 (7-10, 9th in the Sun Belt)
Lost 67-64 to Louisiana in the Sun Belt Conference Tournament
David Azore – Playing Professionally in Iceland
Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu – Transfer (Memphis)
Grayson Carter – Transfer (Texas Southern)
Nicolas Elame – Transfer (Longwood)
Patrick Mwamba – Transfer (Oral Roberts)
Dario Domingos 6-8, So. F Juco Transfer (New Mexico JC)
Marion Humphrey 6-3, R-Jr. G Juco Transfer (Salt Lake CC)
Aaron Cash 6-6, R-Sr. G Transfer (Texas A&M)
Taj Anderson 6-4, Jr. G Juco Transfer (Indian Hills)
Kyron Gibson 6-1, Jr. G Juco Transfer (Lee College)
Pedro Castro 6-6, Gr. G
Shemar Wilson 6-9, So. F
The UT Arlington Mavericks return to the WAC during its resurgence. Even with the departure of perennial powerhouse New Mexico State and competitive newcomer Sam Houston, currently in their sophomore season in the conference. Greg Young’s program enters the conference looking to make an impact like everyone else.
This Mavericks program has undergone almost a complete roster overhaul entering their new conference. A whopping 10 new players will down the royal blue and orange along with four returners from last season’s squad that went 11-18 (7-10, 9th in the Sun Belt). Gone is leading scorer and First Team All-Sun Belt selection David Azore (19.8 points, 4.5 rebounds & 1.8 assists in 21-22). Azore pted for a professional career in Europe. Also departed are the other four starters, Patrick Mwamba, Kaodirichi Akobundu-Ehiogu, Grayson Carter and Javon Levi.
Of those players who return from last season, graduate student Pedro Castro and sophomore big man Shemar Wilson will be counted on as familiar faces with proven experience. Wilson played a big role off the bench last season as a freshman, averaging 5.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in just 13.5 minutes. Castro appeared poised for a big year as the team’s second leading scorer. However, a back injury ended his season after just nine games.
In a recent interview with WAC Hoops Digest’s Kyle McDonald, Greg Young had this to say about his 6th year super senior.
“He’s healthy. It was a nasty fall. He had surgery 24 hours after the injury. He has had a good second part of the summer and a good fall. Right now, he is 100% healthy and practicing everyday, has had no issues with the injury. We are excited about that.”
Newcomers to the program include a very good mix of incoming freshman and transfers, mainly from the junior college level. Young, being a former junior college coach himself, has put a lot of faith and responsibility in those incoming transfers for the upcoming season. Part of what Greg Young believes made UT Arlington successful in the past, is utilizing not only incoming freshman or high major transfers but also JUCO guys.
The NJCAA Division I men’s basketball championship in Hutchinson, KS this past spring was more of a recruiting trip for the Mavericks staff than anything else. Three of his five JUCO recruits were participating in the tournament.
6-4 combo guard Taj Anderson played for one of the best junior college programs in the country at Indian Hills. Anderson led his team in scoring last season (13.0 points) and all the way to the national tournament, only to lose in the second round to eventual champions Northwest Florida St. and now New Mexico State head coach Greg Heiar, 65-64.
Anderson is joined by fellow junior guard Kyron Gibson who led Lee College in scoring (17.0 points) and to the National Tournament as an impact member of the backcourt this season. Also in the running for starting minutes is a former D-I starter at San Diego, Marion Humphrey. Who after spending two seasons in sunny California, transferred to regional power Salt Lake Community College. There he helped lead the Bruins to a nNo. 1 ranking and a run to the national championship game. Humphrey adds to Young’s defensive focus this season, averaging over a steal per game in each of his previous two stops. He’s also, as his head coach describes him, “an elite athlete, fast, physical, can guard you and can finish.”
“My Kind of Guy”
Last of the junior college players looking to make an impact is 6-8, 260-pound forward Dario Domingos. The sophomore, who is originally from Luanda, Angola, arrives in Arlington by way of New Mexico Junior College. Domingos is looking to be the Mavericks imposing force down low. With over a dozen D-I offers, Greg Young got just what he was looking for to round out his recruiting class.
“My kind of guy, somebody that we could throw the ball to in the post.,” Young said. “That’s who he was and that’s what he was great at. Those four junior college players were a huge part of our class, they’re part of what we try to do some of things we did here in the past.”
New Conference, Again
So, returning to the programs third different conference since arriving in Arlington over a decade ago. The Mavericks will strive for success and stability under Greg Young as members of the WAC. The program experienced that under Young’s mentor Scott Cross and using those blue prints with what is almost a clean slate in his second year in charge is a great place to begin.
Still, with boxes checked and a roster more in line with the programs future plans, everything is “still to be determined”. This is understandable with such an unproven group of players at the Division I level. But, it’s a start and one the coaching staff and fans in Arlington should be excited for this season. And if everything comes together as Young plans, opposing teams shouldn’t take the Mavericks lightly this season.
The Mavericks officially released their complete schedule in the middle of September. Greg Young did an excellent job of putting together a non-conference slate that will truly challenge this group of newcomers before a challenging WAC schedule beginning late December. Of the 11 surefire opponents scheduled, three are non-Division I opponents. But ambitiously, UT Arlington will face eight squads who finished last season ranked inside KenPom’s top-160.
Away games at Oklahoma State in Stillwater and in Baton Rouge against LSU are to be expected in mid-major basketball. But the Mavericks will host the Nevada Wolf Pack and the continually competitive North Texas Mean Green inside the College Park Center to bolster their fanbase.
Before conference play begins UT Arlington will make a trip west and play at San Francisco and California. Both quality road games before opening their WAC account at Tarleton after the Holiday break. With the strength of this non-conferences schedule this squad will be battle tested to say the least.
— UTA Men’s Basketball (@UTAMavsMBB) September 16, 2022
Gulf Coast Showcase
UT Arlington will also participate in the Gulf Coast Showcase, a multi-team event held in Estero, FL. Located just between Fort Meyers and Naples, the tournament will feature eight teams from across the country and guarantee each participant three games during Thanksgiving week. The Mavericks are slated to take on Drexel of the Colonial Athletic Association in their first ever meeting on Monday, November 21. If UT Arlington can push past the Dragons, it will head to the semifinals against the winner of Florida Gulf Coast and Northern Kentucky.
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Join us in Southwest Florida Thanksgiving week for the Gulf Coast Showcase!
— UTA Men’s Basketball (@UTAMavsMBB) August 4, 2022
Larry Muniz covers college basketball as a writer for Mountain West Wire and WAC Hoops Digest. Also as a co-host of the college basketball podcast “Hoops Talk W/Jay & Larry”. He is also a USWBA Member.