Every year, relatively unknown players step up and become well-known names while producing on the court. Then they leave and the cycle continues as new players step up to fill roles on the team. Taking a look at the Mountain West men’s basketball teams, here are five players poised to step into bigger roles and make an impact next season.
1.) Greg Milton (Wyoming):
The rising junior Milton is going to see a lot more of the hardwood this upcoming season. At the end of last season, he averaged 3.8 points and 1.7 rebounds on an average of 14.6 minutes per game. Now, under the new Head Coach Jeff Linder, things will change, so Milton is going to need to adjust. Wyoming is losing the newly graduated, Jake Hendricks. The 6’5 senior averaged just under 11 points per game. In addition, the Cowboys are losing the play of A.J. Banks, who was also a guard. Banks wasn’t as impactful, but his departure will force someone to step up. So, Milton, the 6’3 185-pound player, should be ready to take on a bigger role. He’s shown spurts of serious potential but hasn’t gotten the chance to demonstrate it consistently. This year he should be given the opportunity to present himself on a regular basis.
2.) Trey Pulliam (San Diego State):
There is going to be a substantial amount of change on the Aztec’s roster next season. They will be losing the All-American play of Malachi Flynn who is headed to the NBA. Also, KJ Feagin graduated this past year, and he was a huge key to their success. This is going to leave spots open for others to produce on the court. I’d expect the rising senior Trey Pulliam to have a much-heightened role. He posted 3.9 points per game and shot the three-ball at a 33% rate last season. He has had experience in tight and high-pressure situations, so this should carry over well for his final run with the program. Pulliam should be ready for his number to be called during his senior campaign. Brian Ducher and company are going to need him.
Great teams have great benches. Trey Pulliam has five assists off the bench tonight. pic.twitter.com/2fRS6pcJJV— Jon Schaeffer (@jonschaeffer) January 5, 2020
3.) Sean Bairstow (Utah State):
Unfortunately, there will be no more cold-blooded daggers delivered by Sam Merril. No one can completely fill the void of Merril graduating, but rising sophomore Sean Bairstow could definitely stop the bleeding. Last season he averaged 2.8 points in just under 12 minutes per game. He’s a player who showed a lot of grit and determination as just a freshman. With the Merrill’s departure, Bairstow should be able to prove his ability on a much more regular basis. The 6’8 Aussie guard from Queensland has a high basketball IQ and knows how to free himself off of the ball. On defense, he can read the passing lanes and gets his hands dirty quite often. Utah State needs some new contributors this season, and Sean should be one of them.
4.) John Tonje (Colorado State):
Quick, lengthy, and athletic are three adjectives that describe Tonje. As a freshman last season, he averaged just over 3.5 points per game in roughly 8 minutes. The Rams are a program that likes to push the pace, and they showcased that speed with Kris Martin and Hyron Edwards. However, both Martin and Edwards have graduated, and the need for someone to replace them is urgent. Tonje, the 6’5 guard, can certainly bring the speed and is an exceptional passer. He’s still going to need court time to gel with his teammates because of his limited minutes last season. It’s going to take some time, but once he gets some reps on the hardwood, it should be intriguing to see what he can do.
5.) RayJ Dennis (Boise State):
Dennis has a ton of upside to his game, and he’s going to be able to showcase it this upcoming season. As a freshman, RayJ averaged 4.1 points and 1.8 assists, in 17.4 minutes per game. Bronco fans are elated as Alston is coming back for his senior year. He’s a stud. However, Justinian Jessup graduated. He averaged well into double-digits, and his departure is going to leave a spot for someone to step up. The program should look to RayJ Dennis. He’s going to continue to bring energy, success, and potential to the team. Dennis won’t stop until he is satisfied with what has been achieved. It’s going to be fascinating to see this kid run the show for years to come if Leon Rice can use his upside in a productive way.