Men’s basketball team becomes a national contender

Nov. 10, 2014

Brandon Applehans
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The 2014-15 season began on March 15, when the Mountain Lions walked off the court after losing to Metro State for the third time in three weeks, this time in the national tournament.

Now, the team can start to turn that disappointment into games, as the new season gets underway Nov. 14 against Arkansas – Fort Smith in Denver.

Head coach Jeff Culver is entering his third season at UCCS. From a 5-21 first season, he has turned the program into a team that was ranked 17th in a preseason national poll.

“We want a championship, we want to make it to Indiana and make it out of regionals,” said Culver. “We wanted to do the same thing in my first season here. I don’t think there was many people in the room believing that but now we have people believing in us and the faith is there.”

Juniors Derrick White and Alex Welsh were both named to the All-RMAC Preseason Team.

“We want to win the RMAC and host the tournament,” said White, who was also named RMAC Preseason Player of the Year and a Preseason All- American. “Last year we went to Metro and played down there where they had the home-court advantage. If we can get the home-court advantage that will be huge for us.”

“We were a good team last year,” said Welsh. “Going from good to great is a lot harder than going from bad to good. We’re just trying to control the small things that make us a great team.”

To the team, Midnight Madness on Oct. 14 marked the official start of the season, as practice hours are no longer as limited. “It’s nice to finally get out there with your teammates and start working with the things that will make the team succeed,” said White.

The team depth of UCCS will show again this year, according to Culver.

“We plan on redshirting four freshmen,” said Culver. “It’s tough for me to extend beyond our 10-man rotation but we might be challenged to do so. That will certainly be a strength for us again. I felt that it was a big strength for us last year and it showed late in the season.”

“I think we are real deep with Shane [Jensen] and Tommie [Anderson] coming off redshirts last year,” said Welsh. “I know the guys coming off the bench are always hungry and do what they can to help the team.”

While CSU-Pueblo is the traditional rival for UCCS, the budding rivalry with Metro State has taken center stage.

“Absolutely. They are definitely our rival,” said Welsh. “I know CSU-Pueblo is a longtime traditional rival but I think we are building this rivalry with Metro and we will all get real juiced to play them and they will to play us too.”

Culver stops short of the word rivalry.

“I personally hesitate calling it a rivalry unless we beat them,” he said. “I think we are a nuisance to them as of now.”

The first home games will be Nov. 21 and 22, when UCCS takes on Northern New Mexico and Colorado College at the Gallogly Events Center. Tip-off for both games is 7:30 p.m. Metro State will come to town on Dec. 12.