Trailblazers senior Cameron Gooden, in a WAC game last year, and Utah Tech open the season at Nevada, St. George, Utah, Nov. 3, 2022 | Photo by E. George Goold, St. George News
ST. GEORGE— The NCAA basketball season is days away and the Utah Tech Trailblazers hope to forge a new path in the Western Athletic Conference.
Utah Tech tips off in the season’s first game Monday, Nov. 7. According to a press release, the contest marks the first-ever meeting between the Trailblazers and the Wolf Pack on the hardwood.
Coaches and media representatives in the WAC voted Utah Tech to finish 12th (out of 13 teams) in the conference in preseason polls released Oct. 17.
Grand Canyon topped both polls while defending WAC champion New Mexico State was picked to finish in second place.
Stephen F. Austin (third), Abilene Christian (fourth) and California Baptist (fifth) rounded out the top-five poll predictions.
Grand Canyon junior guard Jovan Blacksher Jr. was selected the WAC’s preseason Player of the Year.
Utah Tech head coach Jon Judkins became the all-time winningest head coach in Utah collegiate basketball history last December, notching career victory No. 583 in a home win last Dec. 15.
Judkins also reached his second career milestone one game later when he won his 300th game as Utah Tech head coach in the Blazers’ 78-69 victory at North Dakota. His overall record is currently 306-164 in 17 years at Utah Tech, including a 286-152 mark in the program’s NCAA era.
Also in coaching news, Judkins agreed to a five-year contract extension in September that will keep the longtime Trailblazer mentor on the Burns Arena sidelines through the 2026-27 season.
Eight of Utah Tech’s first nine games are on the road this year. The Trailblazers’ first home contest is against Cal-State Northridge on Saturday, Nov. 12.
Two highlights in Utah Tech’s preconference schedule include games at Pac-12 powers Washington (Nov. 14) and Arizona (Nov. 17).
Utah Tech returns four starters and eight letter winners from last year’s squad that posted a 13-18 overall record (6-12 WAC) in the program’s second NCAA Division I season. The 13 wins last season were five more than the program’s win total from its DI debut season in 2020-21.
Senior point guard Cameron Gooden heads the group of 17 returning roster players. Gooden is the team’s top returning scorer (11.5 ppg) and assists leader (3.6 apg) since a year ago.
Senior forward Dancell Leter is Utah Tech’s top returning rebounder and second-leading scorer. Junior forward Frank Staine is back for his fourth season and fellow junior Isaiah Pope also returns.
The Blazers return forwards Jacob Nicolds, Trevon Allfrey and Trey Edmonds along with sophomore guard Noa Gonsalves and freshman Isaac Finlinson from Dixie High School.
Utah Tech welcomes seven newcomers this year, highlighted by Idaho transfer sophomore Tanner Christensen.
Sharp-shooting sophomore guard Hagen Wright from Payson, Utah transfers to Utah Tech after his freshman season at Snow College. Sophomore Caleb Stearman will join the Blazers after playing last year at Benedictine University (Arizona).
And finally, five freshmen will Friday for playing time: Asjon Anderson, Stone Hutchings, Kade Madsen, Trevon Snoddy and forward Chol Deng from Sydney, Australia.
Utah Tech enters Monday’s debut at Nevada having won three of its last four season openers and is 8-8 all-time in season-opening games during the program’s NCAA era.
The Wolf Pack went 13-18 last season, which included a 6-12 mark in the Mountain West Conference and a quarterfinal appearance in the MWC tournament.
Tip-off is slated for 7 pm (PT) at Lawlor Events Center in Reno. Stream the game at The Fan Sports Network.
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