Leatherneck basketball is back


File Photo

Kobe Webster prepares to shoot the ball at a home game in Western Hall.

Brendan Reidy , Courier Staff

MACOMB, Ill. — The Western Illinois men’s basketball team opened up the season on Monday night against Knox College for their first of two exhibition games. The Leathernecks won 99-36 but remain at 0-0 on the season.

Everyone has been waiting for the season to open up because of all the talent they have returning for this year. All eyes were on the returning starters: Kobe Webster, CJ Duff, Jerimeiah Usiosefe, Isaac Johnson and Brandon Gilbeck. With high expectations this year, the Leathernecks were ready to showcase their skills for the first time.

The Leathernecks got off to a scorching start, as Webster drilled a three-point field goal in the first possession. The Purple and Gold showed flashes of dominance all throughout the first. They got almost everyone involved in scoring as they went on a 14-2 run to end the half. Western Illinois went into the break leading Knox College by a score of 60-15. However, the second half was showcased by defense. The Leathernecks did not allow Knox College to score until there were 14 minutes left in the game. Despite the Purple and Gold not scoring as much in the second half, they still walked away with a dominating win. The Leathernecks shot 67 percent from the field, and 50 percent from three-point land.

The Leathernecks showcased their high-octane offense for the upcoming season. They had four players score in double figures. Webster had 22-point, going six for six from behind the arc. The very explosive freshman, Zion Young, dropped 17 in his Leatherneck debut. James Claar and Johnson each scored 11 points. These four displayed their scoring prowess, but I was impressed with almost everyone on the team. Brandon Gilbeck, the returning Summit League Defensive Player of the Year, did not log many minutes, but was a force to be reckoned with when he was out on the hardwood.

Ben Pyle is another name that stood out. He was a highly touted recruit from Kansas, and played the most out of any Leatherneck logging 26 minutes. His court vision and passing is very advanced for a freshman in The Summit League. There will be many new key cogs in the Leatherneck rotation for the upcoming season. Wright will have a lot to experiment with this season, and will finally have that deep bench that he has always dreamt of. From the number one option on the team, to the last, this team will be very well rounded and fun to watch. The Leathernecks next game will be this Thursday against Iowa Wesleyan University at 7:30 p.m. inside of Western Hall.