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A Reflection and Projection of Boise State Men’s Basketball

Curses broken and ceilings shattered...what now?

NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament - First Round - Portland Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

More than a week has gone by since the Broncos suffered an anticlimactic loss to the Memphis Tigers in the First Round of the NCAA Tournament.

Players were on spring break this past week, giving a certain trio time to contemplate their futures in Boise.

Emmanuel Akot, Marcus Shaver Jr., and Mladen Armus.

Abu Kigab left everything on the court, and then some. He established a legacy and has placed himself on the Mount Rushmore of Boise State basketball.

All the narratives that were raved about in February and March were a nice change for a fanbase that has dreaded springtime in the hoops world. However, this chapter has come to a close and we must look ahead at a program-defining offseason.

ROSTER

When four of five starters can potentially leave a team in one summer, attempting to stamp a label is damn-near impossible. That is a scenario that Leon Rice may have to deal with in the coming weeks. Abu Kigab has used up every year of eligibility and will go off into the sunset impacting this program in a way that few others have. Marcus Shaver Jr. looks most likely to return to the Broncos considering his family’s movement to Boise and how injuries derailed postseason play for the guard. Mladen Armus is a tough case to predict as he has found a home at Boise State. He has carved out a position in the paint, acting as an enforcer against the conference’s most challenging big men. The biggest uncertainty is the future of Emmanuel Akot. The former Arizona Wildcat has the size and ball-handling skills to test professional waters and see how the market views him before making a final decision. All three players have one year of eligibility remaining and the momentum that they could transfer to the Broncos in-waiting will prove massive if they elect to return.

On the other side, the youth collected in recent years may have to be thrust into the spotlight if things don’t pan out smoothly this offseason. Sadraque Nganga, the four-star commit, could be forced to play vital minutes early on. A pair of guards in Kobe Young and RJ Keene are names to watch in the backcourt going forward. We do know that both Lukas Milner and Naje Smith will be returning for another year with the Broncos. The transfer portal will loom large as we have already seen countless players make the decision to leave before the NCAA Championship game. It is inevitable that a player or two may want a change of scenery and that the Broncos will be subject to this. Conversely, Leon Rice has taken advantage of the transfer system over recent years and brought in players that helped the team come together. We must remember that the four players who might leave this year all came via transfer. Shaver came from the University of Portland in the WCC. Armus traveled westward from East Tennessee State. Akot left the University of Arizona and Kigab arrived after spending two years at Oregon. The portal is a gift and a curse, but Rice has played his hand well so far.

Here is the full roster from this season:

- Those marked with a “?” have not announced their future plans.

- An “*” indicates that they will be leaving the program.

Forward - #24 Abu Kigab * (5th Year Senior)

Forward/Center - #33 Mladen Armus ? (Redshirt Senior)

Guard – #14 Emmanuel Akot ? (Redshirt Senior)

Guard - #10 Marcus Shaver Jr. ? (Redshirt Senior)

Center - #25 Lukas Milner (Senior)

Forward - #23 Naje Smith (Senior)

Guard - #12 Max Rice (Redshirt Junior)

Guard - #22 Sam Winter (Sophomore)

Guard - #13 Pavle Kuzmanovic (Sophomore)

Forward - #4 Burke Smith (Sophomore)

Guard - #1 Kasean Pryor (Sophomore)

Guard - #5 RJ Keene (Freshman)

Guard - #3 Kobe Young (Freshman)

Forward - #2 Tyson Degenhart (Freshman)

Incoming Players

Forward - Sadraque Nganga (6’9”, 205 Pounds)

Hometown: Chandler, Arizona

Guard - Jace Whiting (6’1”)

Hometown: Burley, Idaho

Coaching

It is imperative that Jeremiah Dickey, Boise State’s director of athletics, is able to maintain this staff. With such a successful season on their resumes, Leon Rice, Tim Duryea, and Mike Burns all have the pedigree and experience that programs look for when wanting to reset the foundation. You look at the coaching carousel and see the likes of Todd Golden being hired away from San Francisco to Florida and Dennis Gates traveling from Cleveland State to Missouri. It is widely expected that St. Peter’s head coach Shaheen Holloway will fill the head coaching position at Seton Hall, a consistent player in the Big East. Stability has been the hallmark of the Boise State program, and sticking with Rice for over a decade has paid dividends for the Broncos. The fundraising via the Lyle Smith Foundation and the Bronco Athletic Association looks to help elevate the basketball program’s funding that has ranked near the bottom of the Mountain West as of 2019-2020. With the recruiting momentum swinging in the right direction, the stepping stone for this program is visible.

You still have to put one foot in front of the other.

Fan Support

A historic season should produce historic attendance.

At least...in theory.

Bronco fans show up for football. This is a football town first and nothing will change that. However, the sour taste that Boise State fans had to endure in March over the years was washed away with the sweetness of a regular season title and conference tournament title. Yes, the elusive win in the NCAA Tournament remains, but not all good things come at once. The attendance for games was much better in February with high-profile conference opponents coming to town. It didn’t hurt that concessions came back and the student section was less restricted. The first few sideline rows are reserved for those who donated to the creation of what was then called “The Pavilion” (Now ExtraMile Arena). But, those who originally contributed have moved on and those tickets go unused. The court-storming fiasco when Boise State clinched the regular season championship against Nevada was a blackeye, no doubt. Leon Rice and company have delivered the goods, and the fans should reciprocate that with increased support.

Get to the Point

Boise State faces uncertainty in the near future despite an incredible season. Roster turnover will happen and give us a clearer picture in what expectations should be set for next season. Excitement for men’s basketball is back in the City of Trees, but will it continue? Only time will tell...