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Change is Happening, Will Success Follow?

Boise State basketball will face adversity this season with the loss of key players. But can Leon Rice and his fellow coaches find a way to be successful again?

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- Boise State vs UNLV Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-2020 Boise State Broncos Men’s Basketball Team was the epitome of inconsistency, but at the end of the day they got the job done and had a solid season.

On November, 20th they grabbed a very strong victory against the BYU Cougars. They outlasted them in 45 minutes, posting a final of 72-68. Derrick Alston Jr. had a game-high for them with 26 points and 11 rebounds. To put it into perspective, BYU beat Gonzaga who ended in the top-five in the AP poll. But on the other hand, the Broncos had some weak losses. In conference play, they fell to Air Force 78-85. When the regular season concluded, the Air Force Falcons ended 9th in the conference.

But ultimately, Boise State had a strong season. They finished tied for 5th in the Mountain West while obtaining 20 wins. For head coach, Leon Rice’s 10th season, they met and even surpassed expectations. Rice, has been prosperous during his tenure with the program. He has lead the Broncos to five NCAA Tournament berths and has grabbed 20 or more wins in eight out of his ten seasons with them.

What’s going to happen in his eleventh season?

First of all, their leading scorer Derrick Alston Jr. is testing the NBA waters but still holds onto his NCAA eligibility. The process for his decision is going to be prolonged, with the NBA draft now happening in October. Regardless, the junior was an animal for the team last season. It would be huge if he returned to make one more splash before heading to the NBA. His stat line, concluded with 17.3 points a game, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. So, this decision for Alston will be pending for a while but is going to be important.

Unfortunately, Boise State will lose their second-leading scorer in, Justinian Jessup. He flew under the radar, in the conference. It was his third season averaging double-digits, and during this past season as a senior, he averaged 16 points. Jessup was a sharpshooter, who shot 39.5% from behind the arc. You also didn’t want to foul this kid, as he was near automatic from the charity strike, going 95.9% from the line.

In addition, to losing their second-leading scorer, their third-leading scorer, RJ Williams, also graduated. Williams was a straight-up beast. He never backed down to his opponents. He would grab an offensive board, put his head down, go back up, and repeat until he would get the bucket. It makes sense why he averaged 8.9 rebounds and 12.2 points a game. He’s a player that’s going to be missed for the team. RJ brought an extra body to help protect the paint and it felt like he was the team’s glue.

Adding on to the losses of Jessup and Williams, the Broncos are also going to miss the guard play of the former senior, Alex Hobbs. The 6’4 guard out of Texas, played 26 minutes a game last season, averaging 8.3 points 2.2 assists. It’s not a crushing blow for them, but it hurts more than people think.

So, with three poignant players obviously departing, and possibly Alston, the star leaving heading to the NBA, who’s there to construct a strong season for them?

NCAA Basketball: Mountain West Conference Tournament- Boise State vs UNLV Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

If you’re a fan of Mountain West basketball, get familiar with the forward, Abu Kigab. He simply broke out last season. As a sophomore, he averaged 2.6 points on 15 minutes of floor time. Then, this past season as a junior, Kigab averaged 11.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and shot 32.8% from beyond the arc. While averaging 25.8 minutes per game. Bronco fans, this is your man for the upcoming season. Sports fans, what’s going to be his stat line this season? Is it going to help or hurt him that the leaders from last season are gone?

Other than the rising star, Kigab, it’s going to have to be an abundant team effort to claw and grab victories. Players such as RayJ Daniels, Max Rice, Chase Berry, and Riley Abercrombie are going to substantially need to up their role to help the program be successful next season. None of these guys averaged more than 5 points per game, but with more time on the court, their roles could increase drastically.

However, the Broncos will have a couple of transfers who will get to play this upcoming season. First, Emmanuel Akot, the 24th player nationally in the class of 2019, according to 247 sports, will be suiting up. He started his collegiate career at Arizona where he was there for one season. While there, he averaged 10.4 minutes per game during Pac-12 play, on shooting 52.2% from the field. In addition to Akot, another former Arizona player, Devonaire Doutrieve will at some point see the court the Boise State. He is “Enrolled at Boise State for Spring 2020 semester...will be eligible to compete at the conclusion of the Fall 2020 semester, after completing a full year of academic residency.” It’s still not certain when he comes back, but it should be sooner rather than later. Doutrieve was also a highly touted player coming out of high school. He was ranked 72nd in his class according to 247 and the 13th best shooting guard in the nation. While at Arizona, Devonaire showed flashes of serious potential. He hit a game-winner against Oregon State and shot 45% from beyond the arc. Both of these former Wildcats are vital to the success of the program next season.

Now onto the newcomers. Boise State has three incoming freshmen in the class of 2020. First, Burke Smith the three-star 6’11 center coming out of Virginia. He picked the Broncos over Elon, Delaware, and others. He’s a big body, to say the least, and will protect the paint, well. Also, he isn’t merely an interior type of scorer, he can also shoot threes at a high rate. Burke’s going to need to be significant to the team’s success next season. In addition, Leon Rice added two unranked players. One a 6’8 SF, and the other a 6’1 SG. Kasean Pryor, the SF, is a physical player. He likes to get on the floor, and hustle. He’s going to have a minor role this season but would expect it to amplify increase over the years. Now, the guard, Jace Whiting. This kid is a super crafty player. He figures out a way to drive to the hoop, through adversity and toughness. On defense, he can play full-court and is a pest to his opponents. Whiting gets his hands dirty, and scraps away.

That sums it up for the names and faces that Boise State is going to need to rely on for next season.

It’s going to be an unknowing season for the program, but if they can figure out how to gel together they could surprise people for sure.