Weber State basketball: 'Kitty' Corps helps 'Cats reach NCAAs
San Diego • Weber State's first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2007 is more than a reward for its seniors, exposure for the program and a chance to shock the basketball world. It's a glimpse into the Wildcats' future, which couldn't be much brighter.
Although Weber will start seniors Davion Berry, Kyle Tresnak and Jordan Richardson in Friday's tournament opener against Arizona, coach Randy Rahe's rotation also includes four youngsters who form his next foundation.
Even if No. 16 seed Weber State loses to top-seeded Arizona and the Big Sky Conference champions are 20-point underdogs the NCAA experience for Joel Bolomboy, Richaud Gittens, Kyndahl Hill and Jeremy Senglin will be invaluable in the months and years ahead.
"The reins will be handed over to those guys, as our leaders," Rahe said. "It will be up to them to teach the players coming up behind them the culture of our program what we're all about at Weber State ...
"Having the experience of winning the Big Sky championship and playing in the NCAA tournament allows them to speak from experience. And now their words are going to be pretty powerful."
Bolomboy, Gittens, Hill and Senglin have already made a huge impact at Weber State.
Bolomboy, a sophomore forward, was the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. He averages 10.8 rebounds after grabbing at least 10 in 21 of 29 games.
Senglin, the Big Sky's Freshman of the Year, averages 11.3 points. He became the team's No. 3 scorer after being the first true freshman to start a season opener at Weber State since 1976.
Gittens and Hill come off the bench, but both are gifted athletes with star potential who have played in all 30 games. They average a combined 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds in only 21 minutes.
"They've all just gotten better and better," Rahe said. "Joel progressed a little faster because he was with us last year. But those freshmen, their comfort level has just kept growing and growing."
Their coach isn't surprised by this year's contribution from the 'Kitty' Corps.
"We knew they were good players," Rahe said. "That's why we recruited them. But even good players need confidence and that's what has happened. They are playing with more and more confidence."
While the progress of his young players is important for his program's future, Rahe also knows the trip to the tournament and getting a shot at Arizona is special for his seniors.
Along with Berry, Tresnak and Richardson, the group includes back-up forward Byron Fulton.
In 2012 and 2013, Weber State lost Big Sky tournament championship games and fell one step shy of the NCAAs. But last Saturday, the Wildcats overwhelmed North Dakota, 87-66.
"My seniors are special," Rahe said. "We might have played our best game of the year [against UND]. For them to be able to do that after coming up short a few teams was pretty special."
Season stats for non-seniors in Weber's regular rotation:
Player Year Games Minutes Points Rebounds Assists
Joel Bolomboy So. 29 29.8 8.6 10.8 0.6
Richaud Gittens Fr. 30 18.5 4.8 3.5 0.5
Kyndahl Hill Fr. 30 22.6 6.8 3.0 2.3
Jeremy Senglin Fr. 30 30.0 11.2 2.2 2.3
No. 16 Weber St. vs. No. 1 Arizona
P At San DiegoFriday, 12:10 p.m.
TV • TNT