WKU hoops set for Hilltopper Hysteria

WKU’s annual tipoff event for both its men’s and women’s basketball teams, Hilltopper Hysteria, will take place Friday evening at Diddle Arena.

Hysteria, which is designed to excite fans for the upcoming Hilltopper and Lady Topper basketball seasons, will begin at 7 p.m. with introductions of the women’s program and a scrimmage.

Introductions of the men’s program are slated for 7:30 p.m. After the Hilltoppers are introduced, both teams are then scheduled to participate in the annual Shooting Stars Challenge. The Hilltoppers will scrimmage afterward.

Hilltopper Hysteria will provide the first look at the WKU men’s team since its trip to Costa Rica in August. It’ll also be the unveiling of Rick Stansbury’s second team as head coach of the Hilltoppers.

Following last year’s edition of Hysteria, WKU posted a season record of 15-17.

But Friday will give fans an almost entirely new look as debut eight newcomers — a group of young players that garnered national recruiting attention — will be introduced to the crowd at Diddle for the first time in the red and white.

The WKU recruiting class was ranked in ESPN’s top 10 before the loss of five-star center Mitchell Robinson.

Stansbury’s 2017 class includes four freshmen: guards Josh Anderson, Taveion Hollingsworth and Jake Ohmer and forward Marek Nelson. It also consists of four transfers: graduate transfer guard Darius Thompson, graduate transfer forward Dwight Coleby, redshirt junior guard Lamonte Bearden and redshirt sophomore forward Moustapha Diagne.

This year will be the final Hilltopper Hysteria for senior forward Justin Johnson, the only returning starter for WKU. Johnson has eclipsed 1,000 points, totaling 1,120 in his career at WKU. He is 302 rebounds away from eclipsing the 1,000 rebound mark as well. Johnson recorded exactly 302 rebounds last year, a career-high. He led all of Conference USA in rebounds and double-doubles a season ago and has played in 30-plus games in all three seasons at WKU.

The event will also serve as a warmup for a lot of early home games in Diddle Arena this year. The Hilltoppers will play their first five games at home, including exhibitions, and will play 18 home games in total this season, meaning they’ll spend over half of their regular season at home. Last season, WKU posted an 11-3 record at home.

WKU’s first exhibition after Hysteria will be on Nov. 1 against Campbellsville in Diddle Arena.

Similar to the men’s squad, the WKU women’s team also features a majority of newcomers. Head coach Michelle Clark-Heard’s sixth Hysteria will introduce eight new Lady Toppers, which includes five freshmen, a sophomore and two transfers.

WKU’s freshmen class consists of Elizabeth Anderson, Raneem Elgedawy, Sherry Porter, Terri Smith and Nichel Tampa. Rounding out the newcomers for Clark-Heard’s 2017-18 club is sophomore Arame Niang and juniors Alexis Brewer and JaNoah Daniels.

“The adjustment has been great. We have a lot of new faces and a lot of new things to teach,” Clark-Heard said on Tuesday. “We’re really proud of Ivy [Brown] and Tashia [Brown] for stepping up and trying to put our players in the best position so they can understand and know what’s going to happen in the next month or so.”

A pair of returning All-C-USA selections, Ivy and Tashia Brown enter their senior seasons as the two primary leaders of WKU’s team.

Ivy Brown, who was named First Team All-C-USA after averaging 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game during her junior season, was named the Co-Most Valuable Player at the team’s postseason banquet.

Named Second Team All-C-USA after scoring 13.4 points per game — including being named to the C-USA All-Tournament Team after averaging 13.4 points over three games — Tashia Brown said that she expects a lot of the newcomers.

“Each one of our freshmen has their own capabilities,” Brown said. “They’re very talented and very quick. Sherry [Porter] has done a great job. Sidnee [Bopp] had a good finish last year, and it has carried over into this year.”

WKU finished 27-7 overall and 16-2 in C-USA play a season ago, sweeping both the regular-season and conference tournament championship in the process. The Lady Toppers also reached the NCAA Tournament for the third time under Clark-Heard.

WKU will be away from Diddle Arena more than it’s there this season.

The Lady Toppers open their season at home Nov. 2 against Union University (Tenn.), but won’t play again in Bowling Green until Nov. 14 in a marquee matchup versus national powerhouse Notre Dame. Following that contest, WKU doesn’t play another home game until Nov. 30.

With just 13 home games in 2017-18, WKU will play 17 of its games on the road. Last season, the Lady Toppers posted a 9-3 record away from Diddle Arena while winning 14 games – with just one loss – in Bowling Green.

Reporter Jeremy Chisenhall can be reached at 859-760-0198 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @JSChisenhall.

Reporter Tyler Mansfield can be reached at 270-935-0007 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @_TylerMansfield.