WKU men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury has once again had a busy spring, but he took some time Tuesday on the first day of summer to update the local media on the state of the program.
The Hilltoppers will have double-digit newcomers next season, bringing together a diverse, talented group.
As Stansbury has said many times, the key heading into his second season is bringing all of those pieces together and starting to build continuity in the program.
“I think that’s the challenge,” Stansbury said. “The first the thing to do it well is that you have to have good people. If you have good people, that process is a lot easier – and we have good people. Then you have to get people to not play roles but to accept roles, and everybody is different. The key to good teams is not one through five (starting lineup). Everybody wants to be a starter.
“But the key to successful teams is the six, seven, eight and nine guys off the bench and how they accept those roles.”
The new Hilltoppers include five freshmen – Mitchell Robinson, Josh Anderson, Taveion Hollingsworth, Jake Ohmer and Marek Nelson – as well as transfers Lamonte Bearden, Moustapha Diagne, Jordan Brangers and Jared Savage.
WKU also landed some key experience with the additions of two graduate transfers: Virginia guard Darius Thompson and Kansas forward Dwight Coleby.
If there’s one upside to a clean slate, Stansbury said it’s that the younger newcomers “don’t know what a bad habit is in practice” and can be molded to elevate their games.
However, the veteran coach said his ultimate goal is to get some rhythm in the program’s recruiting cycles and transition of leadership.
“You’ve got to have some seniors and then some freshmen and sophomores so when those guys leave, you have guys ready to lead,” he said. “That’s what good programs do. You can’t be reloading every year and teaching a whole new bunch. You’ve got to let your program teach them.”
One place the Hilltoppers will build that chemistry is with a seven-day foreign tour trip to Costa Rica in August.
WKU gets 10 extra practices ahead of that trip and will play three games against international competition overseas.
“Naturally, they’re not quite the same as they are in October,” Stansbury said of those summer practices. “There’s not going to be quite the knockdown, drag-out – but we’ll practice. The valuable part of these trips is when you start playing in November, you don’t have to start making your adjustments then. You have that opportunity to play in summertime, and when you go into October, you already have some adjustments in your mind.
“You find some things you think they can do that they can’t do or some things they can do you didn’t know they could. And for this group, it’s really important because of the newness of this team.”
But perhaps Stansbury’s biggest message Tuesday was a challenge to Hilltopper Nation to pack E.A. Diddle Arena next season with an exciting group of players preparing to hit the court.
He’s made his mission clear: To have the first home game of the 2017-18 season be a sellout. Stansbury said that’s an attainable goal and he’ll have to be convinced otherwise.
“Here’s what I want fans to do,” he said. “I said in my first press conference a year and a few months ago that there was going to come a time real soon when there aren’t any tickets for sale. Why can’t that time be this year? Why can’t we sell this thing out? … What keeps us from selling every ticket out there? That’s the challenge I’m going to put back on the fans. We’re going to put a team out there that’s competitive. Let’s make this arena one of the most difficult places to play again like it was in the 70s and 80s.”
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WKU Athletic Communications/Media Relations