Idaho has a tough challenge in the WAC | NevadaAppeal.com

Idaho has a tough challenge in the WAC

Editor’s Note: This is the fifth in a series of articles previewing Western Athletic Conference men’s basketball teams. Today, the Appeal takes a look at the University of Idaho.

BY DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

The move from the Big West to the Western Athletic Conference has been a rough one for Idaho’s men’s basketball program.

The Vandals have lost 52 games in the past two seasons, and with only four players returning, the prospects for a better showing aren’t great. Of the Vandals’ 27 losses, nine were by nine points or less and seven of those losses came in WAC play.

“We didn’t have the size last year, so we added some more beef and more length on the front line,” said second-year coach George Pfeifer. “We need to keep getting better players to get things turned around.”

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The two big guys Idaho added are 6-8 245-pound Luis Augusto from Western Oklahoma and 6-8 250-pound Phillip Thomas, who averaged 16.4 points and 7.8 rebounds for San Leandro High last year.

Augusto was ranked the 48th best JC player by Hoopmasters.com, while Thomas, an all-league selection, was recruited by Saint Mary’s, Long Beach State, Santa Clara, Montana State and Princeton.

The four returnees are 6-7 senior forward Clyde Johnson (4.8), 6-7 senior forward Michael Crowell (3.9), 6-10 center Darin Nagle (9.3 pts., 5.6 rebounds) and 6-4 guard Trevor Morris (6.5).

Nagle was prone to foul problems, and was disqualified in six of the 22 contest he played. He is a good shot blocker, as evidenced by his six rejections against WAC post-season champion New Mexico State.

Two big men who were sidelined with injuries last season return. They are Mike Kale (6-8, 240), who averaged 6.0 points and 4.6 rebounds in the 2005-06 season. Sebastien Taulbee, a 6-10 255-pound center, who was hurt in the second game of the season last year, is coming off a medical redshirt year.

While Pfeifer’s team did get outrebounded by eight a game, he has some issues in the backcourt. Gone is Keoni Watson, who led the team in scoring at 18.1 per game. Also gone is A.J. Avworo, who averaged 3.6 a game.

Pfeifer brought in several guards this season, and his recruiting class was ranked second in the WAC by HoopScoop.

Brandon Brown (6-1, 205) averaged 18.4 a game last year at West Hills (Calif.) Community College, and originally committed to attend Utah State. Jordan Brooks (6-3, 195) won JC championships with Midland and Arkansas Fort-Smith the past two years, and averaged 12 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in last year’s national junior college tournament. Mike Hall (6-0, 205) hit 48 percent of his 3-point attempts in his first years of collegiate basketball. Also in the mix are Terrence Simmons (6-3, 170), who transferred from Connors State College where he averaged 11.9 a game, and 5-9 freshman point guard Barrett Brown, who averaged 8.8 points and 3.3 assists a game at Mountain Pointe.

“We’re excited to have Barrett in our program,” Pfeifer said. “He plays hard, has tremendous upside and is a person of high character.

“We’re going to have to score a lot by committee (with Keoni).”

•Contac DarrellMoody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1281

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281