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Utah Valley State Profile

October 30, 2003 Columns No Comments



Welcome to the Club

by Brian Hassler

If building a team and schedule from scratch wasn’t hard enough for UVSC men’s basketball coach before the beginning of the 2002-03 season, it hasn’t been any easier since Hunsaker has had to repeat that task again in preparation for the 2003-04 season.

Granted, Hunsaker had the reassurance that his team already had guaranteed games due to its membership in the Scenic Western Athletic Conference, but the 2003-04 season brings with it the challenge of being a first year Division I team without a conference and with only three returning starters.

Since leaving the University of Utah to be UVSC’s first Division I coach, Hunsaker has led UVSC to a 26-7 record, including a 12-0 mark at home, but being a non-counter in an RPI driven college basketball world has made scheduling and recruiting a challenge for the second year coach.

“It was a real challenge to find the games, to get the schedule completed,” Hunsaker said. “Secondly was putting a team together. We hoped to be competitive. As we made the transition from a junior college we had some of our players that thought they were way better than a junior college level and didn’t want to be on the ground floor of a four-year program.”

“And then we had, frankly, the rest of the team not being Division I caliber players. They weren’t good enough to be, if you’re going to step up and play in D-I, there’s a big difference in junior college and Division I.”

But unlike Hunsaker’s first year at the helm, the coming season will showcase the play of returning starters Jon Bell, Pierre Thomas, and Ronnie Price. Bell’s play at center improved throughout his first season at UVSC and was nearly enough to push UVSC into the NJCAA tournament. Price and Thomas will give UVSC a solid one-two scoring punch, and should provide the leadership needed with the eight new members of UVSC’s first Division I squad.

Despite being RPI-less, Hunsaker was still able to schedule games against Kennesaw State, Boise State, Cleveland State, and Brigham Young University. While most of the focus is on UVSC’s game against BYU, a game that could be the beginning of a beautiful rivalry, a November 21 game against Kennesaw State will feature a similar challenge.

Kennesaw State is lead by a familiar face, former BYU coach Tony Ingle, and lost to a Middle Tennessee State team that came within a game of the 2003 NCAA tournament.

“Kennesaw State will probably be the most talented non-Division I school we play all year,” Hunsaker said. “He’s (Ingle) got a potential top 25-team, Tony Ingle’s done a terrific job of assembling wonderful personnel and they’re well coached. That’s going to be a great challenge for us, as we embark in our first step as a four-year school in four-year competition. They were one of the top two or three teams in an extremely talented Division II conference in Georgia.”

So here we are.

Once again Hunsaker will bring a team to the court that is low on experience, once again Hunsaker had to create a full schedule under poor circumstances, and once again all eyes will be on Hunsaker’s squad as it takes its first steps into Division I play.

Even more eyes could follow that step if the proposed television deal for the November 29 BYU/UVSC game goes through, but either way the excitement is there.

“We’re all excited, everyone has a great anticipation for the upcoming year, and again, playing as a Division I institution, four-year basketball,” Hunsaker said. “There’s so much newness about everything for everyone. I know there’s that feeling, and again anticipation amongst the team and coaches, and hopefully our student body has enthusiasm to the transition.”

     

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