Weber State coach Randy Rahe wanted to change things up. It was the start of the 2018-19 season for his men’s basketball team, and with the athletic personnel he had, he thought it might be a good idea to call less set plays and try a more up-tempo style.
The change wasn’t terrible, but it also wasn’t great. Over the course of the season, the coach, heading into this 14th season with the Wildcats, realized he didn’t feel comfortable playing that way.
“It wasn’t quite me,” Rahe said.
Now that experiment is over, and Rahe is going back to what he knows for the 2019-2020 season, which opens Friday against the No. 17 Utah State Aggies that just won their season opener. The Wildcats were picked to finish second in the Big Sky Conference by media and third by the coaches.
The team is returning eight players from last year’s team, which finished 18-15 overall and 11-9 in the Big Sky. Weber State had a stretch in which it won eight of 10 games, but finished the season losing five of seven.
The Wildcats will succeed if: Defense and rebounding become a team strength. Rahe said those two factors have been keys to Weber State’s success over the years. “I’ve got a team that I think has the potential to a very good defensive team and rebounding team,” he said.
The Wildcats won’t succeed if: The team takes too long to adjust to the new offensive system. Rahe went from a faster style to a more methodical one this year, which will take some getting used to. He anticipates a dearth of scoring in the early part of the season.
Bottom line: The Wildcats will have some growing pains during parts of the season, but they’ll be in the mix for the top three spots in the Big Sky due to veteran leadership and a seasoned coach. How high they finish, though, will be up to them and how fast they gel.
Senior guard Jerrick Harding is back for the Wildcats. He led the team in scoring (21.6 points per game) and steals (1.7 per game). He earned first-team All-Big Sky honors in each of the last two seasons, and was named the conference’s Preseason MVP.
Seniors Cody John and Brenden Morris, as well as junior Michal Kozak, are the other main upperclassman returners for the Wildcats.
“I like our team,” Rahe said. “We’ve got quite a few kids back that played for us last year, so we’ve got some pretty good experience.”
Rahe also brought in guard Khameron Davis, a transfer from Pittsburgh. The team originally thought he would have to sit out this season, but it was granted a waiver from the NCAA, making him eligible to play.
“He’s a really long, athletic kid. Tough kid,” Rahe said of Davis. “He’s a good player that can come in and help us.”
Weber State beat Western Colorado 94-56 Saturday in its only exhibition game. As part of their non-conference schedule, the Wildcats will play Utah State, Utah Valley, Utah and Brigham Young universities — all on the road.
Rahe said this is probably one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in his 14 years of coaching at Weber State.
“It’s going to make our team better,” Rahe said. “We’re going to play against [good] competition probably every night. Hopefully it’s going to prepare us really well for our conference when we get to that point.”
Rahe wants his teams to focus on the day-to-day journey of a season and doesn’t like to discuss the ultimate goals of of winning the Big Sky championship and aiming for the NCAA Tournament.
“We talk about getting better every day and trying to win our next game, and then take it day by day,” Rahe said. “And if you’ll do that and just work on getting better every day, winning your next game, before you know it you’ll be in the position you want to be in at the end of the season.”
WEBER STATE’S 2019-20 SCHEDULE
All times Mountain
Friday — at Utah State, 7 p.m.
Nov. 14 — San Diego, 7 p.m.
Nov. 19 — West Coast Baptist, 7 p.m.
Nov. 25 — Wright State, Gulf Coast Classic, 3 p.m.
Nov. 26 — Murray State or La Salle, Gulf Coast Classic, TBD
Nov. 27 — TBD, Gulf Coast Classic, TBD
Dec. 4 — at Utah Valley, 7 p.m.
Dec. 7 — Westcliff University, 2 p.m.
Dec. 14 — Utah, Beehive Classic, 1 p.m.
Dec. 17 — Bethesda, 7:30 p.m.
Dec. 21 — at BYU, 7 p.m.
Dec. 28 — Eastern Washington, 2 p.m.
Dec. 30 — Idaho, 7 p.m.
Jan. 4 — at Northern Arizona, 4 p.m.
Jan. 9 — Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.
Jan. 11 — at Sacramento State, 8 p.m.
Jan. 16 — at Idaho State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 20 — at Portland State, 8 p.m.
Jan. 23 — Montana State, 7 p.m.
Jan. 25 — Montana, 7 p.m.
Jan. 30 — at Southern Utah, 7 p.m.
Feb. 1 — at Northern Colorado, 7 p.m.
Feb. 6 — Sacramento State, 7 p.m.
Feb. 8 — Northern Arizona, 7 p.m.
Feb. 13 — at Montana, 7 p.m.
Feb. 15 — at Montana State, 6 p.m.
Feb. 22 — Southern Utah, 7 p.m.
Feb. 29 — Portland State, 7 p.m.
March 2 — Idaho State, 7 p.m.
March 5 — at Idaho, 7:30 p.m.
March 7 — at Eastern Washington, 3 p.m.