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MWC Hoops Preview: Wyoming

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Cowboys Have Some Experience

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a series of articles previewing UNM men’s basketball MWC opponents for this season. Coming Wednesday: Nevada Wolfpack. To view all previews, CLICK HERE

The return of coach Larry Shyatt to Laramie, Wyo., was a successful one a season ago.


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Just don’t expect a repeat performance.

As least that’s what Shyatt, in his second year back with the program (he also coached the Cowboys in the 1997-98 season), would like for you to believe.

Wyoming Cowboys at a glance
Head coach: Larry Shyatt (40-21 in two seasons at Wyoming, 110-105 overall)
2011-12 record: 21-12, 6-8 MWC (0-2 vs. UNM)
Returning starters: F Leonard Washington, G Luke Martinez
Key players lost: PG JayDee Luster, F Adam Waddell, G Francisco Cruz
Key newcomers: G Josh Adams, G Nathan Sobey
This season vs. UNM: Jan. 30 at Laramie, Wyo., March 2 in Albuquerque
Of note: Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt was an assistant coach for UNM from 1982-1988. He’s in his second stint as Wyoming’s head coach (1997-98 and he returned last year). He speaks extremely highly of the job UNM coach Steve Alford has done in his time running the Lobos program, saying “I coached there six years. That’s not an easy task.”

“Now we have seven newcomers that have never played college ball and it will be interesting to see their development because I’m not a man of great patience,” Shyatt said.

It’s true the Cowboys lost plenty of experience from last year’s squad, including senior starters Francisco Cruz, Adam Waddell and JayDee Luster who combined for 98 starts a season ago. But the Cowboys also return a trio of talented players – forwards Leonard Washington and Larry Nance Jr. and guard Francisco Martinez – who also played big parts for last season’s 21-win team that advanced to the second round of the College Basketball Invitational postseason tournament.

Washington, the 25-year-old forward who played his first two collegiate seasons for the University of Southern California before transferring, has dipped in and out of trouble academically and with the law since he left high school in Louisiana, but his promise on the court has never been in question.

The 6-7, 230-pounder averaged 12.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and more than one block a game in 2011-12, all team highs. Shyatt and Washington both seem confident his senior season will be all about basketball.

He could be helped out greatly by the continued development of 6-8 sophomore Larry Nance Jr., the son of the former NBA All-Star of the same name. Shyatt says the younger Nance is “still a product of the future,” but also ready to help win games now.

“He’s probably one of the more versatile players who can play the three, the four and the five,” Shyatt said. “Yes he’s improving on offense, but he really needs to focus more on defense because he’s still giving away 15 to 20 pounds against some of the better players in our league.”

And its there on defense where these Cowboys still hang their hat after their 56.2 points allowed per game last season led the Mountain West and ranked No. 6 in the nation. To approach a repeat performance on defense with what Shyatt swears is lesser talent than most teams in the league, Wyoming will employ a “tag team mentality” on defense.

“I don’t think we can man up on an individual talent basis with many and most of the teams in this league individually,” Shyatt said. “It’s going to have to be collective responsibility.”

— This article appeared on page D3 of the Albuquerque Journal