Athletics & Recreation

Men’s basketball: WAC is a welcome challenge

The bad news for head coach Joe Scott is that the Pioneers will have to make up for the graduation of Brian Stafford, who started all 124 games during his career (a school record) before finishing fourth on the program’s all-time scoring list.

The good news? DU returns three starters and should be an immediate force in the WAC.

Guards Brett Olson and Royce O’Neale hope to make the sort of second-year jump put together last year by junior Chris Udofia.

Udofia shared the team lead in scoring and emerged as a premier defender, recording 72 blocked shots while earning the Sun Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year award.

Early indications are that senior Chase Hallam will return to form after missing the SBC Tournament last year due to a back injury that initially stirred fears about surgery. Hallam avoided surgery and should resume his role as the Pioneers’ jack-of-all-trades.

Replacing Stafford’s keen shooting eye from three-point range is a concern, but Scott expresses hope that one of the three incoming freshmen guards—Nate Engesser, Jalen Love or Bryant Rucker—might ultimately fill that role.

“With Royce we basically return four starters, which is great for any team,” says Scott, whose club went 22–9 last year. “We’re trying to find out who the number five, six and seven guys will be. I think we’ll be versatile enough that we’ll have options. We’ll be able to go bigger, and we could go smaller. I like that we’ll have different ways to go to fill those roles.”

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