With head coaches settling in their second and third years at the helm, both the women’s and men’s basketball programs are heading in the right direction.
Women’s head coach Kristen Holt and men’s head coach Tim Miles lead improving Rams squads, which are both off to strong starts thus far this season.
The women’s team (4-2) grabbed its first host tournament championship since 2004 with a win over Delaware at Moby Arena to take the Coors Rocky Mountain Invitational.
The men (4-2) defeated San Francisco at Moby Arena in thrilling fashion Sunday, going to double overtime.
Both teams have rising stars.
For the women, it’s sophomore Kim Mestdagh.
Averaging 20.4 points per game, the Belgium native was named the Mountain West Conference Player of the Week earlier this season.
Mestdagh scored a career-high 25 points in just 26 minutes against Delaware. Possessing a deadly shot, she connected on seven three-pointers in the game.
“This year I have a lot more confidence in my shot,” Mestdagh said.
On the men’s side, true freshman point guard Dorian Green is making some heads turn.
Green is averaging 14.7 points and four assists per game while running the offense. He also played all 50 minutes in the double overtime win over San Francisco.
“I think Dorian Green looks like a player,” Miles said.
Finding enough players to fill a rotation has been a problem for each basketball program. Whether it has been injuries, transfers or suspensions, both the men’s and women’s teams have had trouble keeping a consistent rotation.
That looks to change this season.
Holt returns six players: juniors Bonnie Barbee and Zoi Simmons and sophomores, Mestdagh, Meghan Heimstra, Natalie van den Adel and Chatilla van Grinsven. Each will contribute in some way, Holt said.
Picked in the pre-season to finish eighth in the MWC, the Rams are still on the bottom looking up, but in her first season as head coach, Holt directed the Rams to a six-game improvement in 2008-09.
San Diego State, the co-MWC regular season champion and one of four teams in the MWC to advance to the postseason, was tabbed as the preseason favorite, followed by TCU and Utah. New Mexico, Wyoming, BYU and UNLV round out the teams ahead of CSU. The Rams were picked ahead of Air Force.
Now in his third season as head coach, Miles finally has a true idea of what type of team he has and, to put it more simply, a full roster.
“I think we finally have an idea of who we are,” Miles said. “Last year there was so much transition; our roster was so fluid that it was difficult to know what you were going to get night in and night out. I believe we now know who we are this year, and I’m excited about that.”
Joining Green to lead the Rams are juniors, Andy Ogide, Andre McFarland and Adam Nigon.
McFarland and Nigon offer experience and outside shooting, while Ogide, second on the team in scoring at 13.7 per game, is the Rams’ best inside presence and the player most pivotal to the Rams’ success.
“Andy Ogide has a chance to be a first-team all-league player in the Mountain West,” Miles said. “If he shows the consistency and the tenacity, he could be very good for us.”
The men were also picked to finish eighth in the conference, just ahead of in-state rival Air Force.
BYU, San Diego State and UNLV were the pre-season picks for the top-three in the MWC.
The Rams will face tough competition in the MWC, as six of the team’s eight conference opponents played in the postseason last year.
Miles wants to raise the bar higher for his Rams.
“I thought we showed a little progress last year,” Miles said. “We won four league games and essentially gave away three others.”
“It’s frustrating, but I think sometimes you have to go through those difficult moments in order to move forward. I would expect another jump forward this year. Ultimately, our goal is to raise the bar.”
Sports writer Stephen Meyers can be reached at email@example.com.