College hoops preview: UVU looking forward to WAC
Dick Hunsaker's baby has grown up.
Starting his 12th season as Utah Valley's head coach, the Wolverines enter the 2013-14 season as a member of the remodeled Western Athletic Conference.
Other WAC schools include New Mexico State, Idaho, Cal-Bakersfield, Chicago State, Grand Canyon, Missouri-Kansas City, Texas-Pan American and Seattle.
It might not be the Big East, but the conference gives Utah Valley a stable home and the realistic goal of postseason play for its players.
"It's an exciting time on our campus," Hunsaker said. "The WAC brings interest and credibility. We've been waiting for a conference with an with automatic bid" to the NCAA Tournament.
Last season, Utah Valley went 14-18 overall and 3-5 in the Great West Conference.
Four seniors return, including Ben Aird. A 6-foot-9 center from Bountiful, he averaged a team-high 15.1 points and nine rebounds as a junior.
On the perimeter, Hunsaker can count on his son, Colton. The point guard from Woods Cross High School averaged 12.3 points and 3.1 assists last year.
"We have a lot of experience," Dick Hunsaker said. "But our success, frankly, depends on how we play collectively, not on individual play."
Hunsaker is confident that will happen.
"I have a good group that has displayed some true unselfishness," he said. "They have shown a desire to merge together and become a unit. For any coach, that's exciting."
Utah Valley's ambitious non-conference schedule includes games against Oklahoma State, Oregon, Utah State and Weber State. Oklahoma State is ranked eighth in the Associated Press' preseason poll. Oregon is 19th.
"We've always played a couple of games a year like that," Hunsaker said. "But I don't think we've ever played teams that are so highly touted."
Hunsaker looks forward to the challenge of another season, however.
"We've had a lot of fun in this business," he said, "but coaching at Utah Valley is the best experience I've had. To build a program from scratch to have so many great wins and coach so many great players I'm looking forward to the next 12 years."
Utah Valley schedule
Friday IUPUI, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 11 North Carolina A&T, 7:05 p.m.
Nov. 12 at Oklahoma State, 6 p.m.
Nov. 19 at Oregon, 7 p.m.
Nov. 23 at Pepperdine, 6 p.m.
Nov. 20 at Tennessee Tech, 6 p.m.
Dec. 2 at South Dakota, 6 p.m.
Dec. 7 St. Katherine, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 11 Weber Sate, 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 14 at Utah State, 7 p.m.
Dec. 23 North Dakota State 7:05 p.m.
Dec. 28 Tennessee Tech, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 4 at Cal-Bakersfield, 8 p.m.
Jan. 11 Grand Canyon, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 16 at Idaho, 8 p.m.
Jan. 19 at Seattle, 2 p.m.
Jan. 23 Missouri-Kansas City, 7:05
Jan. 25 Chicago State, 7:05 p.m.
Jan. 30 at Texas-Pan American, 6 p.m.
Feb. 1 at New Mexico State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6 at Grand Canyon, 7 p.m.
Feb. 13 Seattle, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 15 Idaho, 7:05 p.m.
Feb. 20 at Chicago State, 6:05 p.m.
Feb. 22 at Missouri-Kansas City, 6:05 p.m.
Feb. 27 New Mexico State, 7:05 p.m.
March 1 Texas-Pan American, 7:05 p.m.
March 8 Cal-Bakersfield, 7:05 p.m.
March 13-15 at WAC tournament, TBA