March 26, 2023

Basketball starts play in Taylorsville


The Utah State Eastern men’s basketball team

had a lot of ups and downs last season, finishing

fourth in the Scenic West Athletic Conference.

Bill Evans, in his second year as head coach, will

attempt to improve on his solid 14-9 season with

a promising new team deep in exciting recruits.

Last year ended with a loss to the Southern

Idaho Golden Eagles in the conference tournament

semifinals. The Eagles have one returning starter,

two returning sophomores, and one returning

redshirt sophomore. Other than that, USUE has

an entirely new team with 15 freshmen. It will be

intriguing to see how the team chemistry develops

throughout the season.

The biggest questions?

The biggest question is…how will they compete

in the brutal SWAC conference that appears to be

tougher this year than last? The three powerhouses

Salt Lake Community, Snow, and CSI [spell these

out on first reference] have dominated the conference,

winning nine of the previous ten SWAC

championships. This year, SLCC is the top-ranked

junior college team in the nation and CSI is ranked

15th. Snow College makes a regular appearance in

the national rankings. USUE, with its young roster,

will have to gel.

The Roster

Three players are from foreign countries, while

the others come from different states. Mabeny

Naam is 6-foot-11, but he’s the only player taller

than 6-foot-7. The team’s average height is about

[We should be able to get this exact, not about]

6-foot-3. CSI’s average player is 6-foot-5, which may

not be a problem depending on how the coaching

staff runs the offensive system.

Expect USUE to play some small ball at times

with an emphasis on outside shooting. The Eagle

lineup consists of many solid shooters, playmaking

guards, and some physical bigs to man the middle.

The Eagles will often have a size disadvantage, but

can negate it with accurate shooting and defense.

Key players include:

Kevin Bethel: A sophomore guard from Los

Angeles. He started five games for the Eagles last

season, shooting 42 percent from the field and

averaging three assists per game. This season, his

playmaking skills will be a tremendous asset to

the Eagles.

Peyton Falslev: A sophomore guard from Sky

View High School in Smithield, Utah, Falslev was

one of the team’s deadliest shooters last season, hitting

40 percent of his 3-pointers to average seven

points per game. Falslev started last season on fire

but faded. This season, he’ll likely shoot plenty

from beyond the arc.

Mabeny Naam: A South Sudanese 6-foot-11

freshmam. Naam spent a year at Athlete Institute

in Toronto, Canada, before coming to Price. Naam

will have to contribute on both offense and defense.

Kurt Wegscheider: A sophomore transfer from

the Division I University of New Mexico, where he

averaged 2.5 points per game, shooting 48 percent

from the field. Anytime a team can sign a D1 athlete,

it is a significant win.

Gbenga Olubi: A 6-6 freshman from Los

Angeles. Olubi averaged 15.2 points per game at

College Prep Academy Online and led the West

Coast Elite to third place in the Under Armour Association.

More key players to watch out: Freshman

Jael Vaughn, red-shirt sophomore Dillion

Sorenson, freshman Jahein Spencer, and freshman

Malek Malual.

The bottom line is that USUE has struggled in

the past to get past the SWAC conference’s elite

teams. Coach Evans’ prior years as a DI head coach

[where?] have paid off for the Eagles recruiting

and this may be their breakout year.

USUE is expected to finish in third or fourth

place, but they could be the dark horse to win if

all the elements fall into place.

The regular season begins on the Salt Lake Community

College in Taylorsville on Nov. 5, where

the Eagles play a jump start game at 3 p.m. and

on Nov. 6, they play Northeastern Junior College.

Their first home game is Nov. 9, against SLCC.

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