LARAMIE — The Jeff Linder era of Cowboy basketball officially opened on Thursday morning with the Pokes’ first official practice. The morning practice inside the Arena-Auditorium marked 41 days until the start of the season.
“We have the base of what we want to do in place from our summer workouts,” Linder said. “We have to work on getting up and down the floor and work on our discipline. Our guys really understand the standard that we have set.”
The University of Wyoming returns three starters from last season’s squad, as Hunter Maldonado started all 33 games. Hunter Thompson started 23 games with Kwane Marble II starting 11 games. Kenny Foster started six games for the Pokes. The Cowboys return nearly 50 percent of its scoring from last year from the four returners. That group collected 111 3-pointers on the season.
Wyoming welcomes eight newcomers to the 2019-20 roster, as the signing class was the top-ranked class in the Mountain West and ranked No. 53 in the nation according to Rivals.com. That group featured four three-star recruits and a trio of junior college student athletes.
Linder’s teams have consistently been one the best teams in the nation in defending the 3-point line. Last season, Linder mentored a team that ranked fourth in the nation in 3-point field goal percentage defense at 28%. In two of the last three seasons his teams led the nation in the amount of 3-point field goals attempted by an opponent at 23% (2019-20) and 24% (2017-18), according to KenPom.com.
“Defense and defending the three-point line is something we drill at practice and it is something we have to work on every day,” Linder said. “It is not just on the court, it is watching film to gain an understanding as well. We will keep developing the habits that have made us successful over the years.”
On the flip side, his team also ranked sixth in the nation in 3-pointers per game at 10.2 last season. Linder also preaches taking care of the basketball, as his squad ranked seventh in the nation in turnovers at 10.2 per game.
“It is a matter of teaching and understanding what a good and bad shot is,” Linder said. “You really have to define roles and myself and this coaching staff is not afraid to tell kids what a great shot, a good shot and a bad shot are.”
Last week, the Mountain West announced an 18-game conference schedule that will open on Dec. 29. Nonconference contests along with ticket information will be released in the coming weeks.