Men’s basketball looks to recreate last year’s success

Brendan Reidy , Courier Staff

 

The temperature is starting to get a little brisk and the leaves are starting to fall. That means basketball season is right around the corner. The Western Illinois men’s basketball team will look to build off of what they created last season.

The Leathernecks’ season came to a close a season ago when they lost in the second round of The Summit League Tournament to the eventual winners North Dakota State. However, the Purple and Gold were able to make history before being eliminated. They upset South Dakota State University in the first round and put down the perennial Summit League Champs. As an eight seed in the tournament, it was the first time in the league’s history that a No. 1 one seed had been upset by the No. 8 seed.

This year, the Leathernecks will look to take their success a step further and hopefully receive their first ever NCAA tournament bid. Exciting times are around the corner for Western Illinois Basketball. The team returns its two leading scorers and has a boat full of talent to build a winning culture in Macomb. The time for Western Illinois to take the next step is now. The Summit League looks completely different. SDSU should expect a big fall off after losing their two best players in Michael Daum and David Jenkins. The only threat to the Leathernecks’ success should be themselves. The past few seasons, Western has had plenty of talent, but has been unable to put it all together in conference play. This is the year that all changes.

It all starts at the point guard position with Kobe Webster. Webster is the leader of this team and their best player. He led the team in scoring a season ago, and many different college basketball players have him listed as the favorite to win Summit League Player of the Year. The game plan rides and dies with Webster, and when Webster is at his best, so is the whole Leatherneck team.

C.J. Duff is a senior shooting guard who has started in every game he has played in throughout his Leatherneck career. He is arguably the most fundamentally sound player on the roster, and he does all the little things well. He will get the starting nod early in the season and is looking to improve all facets of his game. He led the Leathernecks in three-point percentage last season, and is looking to cap off his career at Western Illinois with a bang.

Rounding out the core pieces for Western Illinois will be the two sophomore forwards Ben Pyle and Zion Young. Pyle, the former Mr. Basketball of Kansas, is going to look to slip into a bigger goal this upcoming season. The stretch four should be the starting power forward to start game one against Indiana. Pyle is very versatile which makes him extremely valuable to Wright’s rotation.

Young is also going to look to build off an impressive first season at Western Illinois. The former three-star recruit is the highest rated recruit on the current roster. Young is also the most athletic player on the team and can do a little bit of everything. This season, he will look to improve his defensive abilities and take over the starting small forward spot from transfer Isaac Johnson.

The men’s season tips off Nov. 5, against the University of Indiana Hoosiers. The Western Illinois’ home opener will be Nov. 9, against Stetson University.