Hilltopper basketball has annual media day

Matthew Stewart

The season is getting closer and closer for the WKU men’s basketball team and first-year Head Coach Rick Stansbury as the Hilltoppers held their annual basketball media day in Diddle Arena on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

Stansbury has brought a wealth of experience to the team with three graduate transfer guards in Junior Lomomba, Que Johnson and Pancake Thomas.

The three fifth-year seniors have helped with communication on the court and helping the younger guys adjust to being college basketball players.

Junior forward Justin Johnson has noticed the immediate impact they will have on the team.

“Those three guys have played at a high level,” Justin Johnson said. “Having those guys and the leadership that they bring and us [himself and senior forward Ben Lawson] coming back … and those three guys know what it takes to win. We are gonna compete with those guys every day and as we continue to grow.”

The returning players recognize the importance of communication on the court. The team is still building that aspect in practice and is ready to see it carry over on the court.

“It’s all about communication, we are all very high IQ players and I think just getting on the same page is still one of our issues,” Lawson said. “The leadership has to come into play. We need to make it a key in practice so that when we have game slippage it won’t be as problematic as it is right now.”

“Communication plays a role in that, seeing guys make that extra pass,” Justin Johnson said. “You can see it every day, the ball movement is getting better every day.”

Stansbury has been preparing his team with tough practices that will prepare them for game time situations.

“I have always believed that practice has got to be harder than the games,” Stansbury said. “The games has got to be easy compared to practice. I feel very comfortable that these guys are giving me everything that they got.”

Lomomba, a small forward from Providence out of the Big East Conference, is transitioning to the point guard position for the Toppers this season.

“He is a great young man,” Stansbury said. “He is about the team, he’s about winning. He is willing to do whatever I ask him to do. You can imagine being a three player [small forward] your whole life. Basically as a three player you take care of yourself. Now, all of a sudden, you are out there having to guard the most difficult position to guard and that’s the point guard.”

Lomomba has had a little help making the move by having Thomas and Que Johnson, veteran players, to pass the ball to and make plays.

“They make my job a lot easier; both of these guys can score the ball with the best of them so it helps me transition a little better,” Lomomba said. “I don’t have to do as much. These guys help me on the court; they communicate.”

Lawson has had a career on the Hill mostly highlighted by being a prolific shot blocker and rim protector for the Tops. It looks like this season might be a little different for the 7-foot Englishman.

“I always saw my role in previous years as a defensive stopper and kind of just provide on the offensive end if it’s setting a good screen or trying to go for the offensive rebounds as much as possible,” Lawson said. “Coach has really made an emphasis that there is three primary ways of scoring; we are gonna pass it into the post and drive it to the paint and we’re gonna shoot threes and then everything is gonna flow from there.

“You really start to see great ball movement,” Lawson continued. “We are starting to look like the Spurs out there.”

Lawson was the leading scorer in the team’s scrimmage this past Saturday and the team is noticing the improvements that he has made and the hard work he has put in to better his game.

“His confidence is up; he is dunking everything around the basket and that’s what we need from Ben,” Justin Johnson said. “Finishing everything and being a rim protector, he’s doing his job. He has gained some strength over the summer. He has worked really hard and as you can tell he has improvement in his game. I think his improvement has shown tremendously.”

Lawson is excited for this year’s offense and how it will help him expand his game to help the team.

“The kind of players that have come in this year are tremendous shooters and that’s just gonna open the floor up incredibly for any post presence,” Lawson said. “Now we are adding pick and rolls and movement to it which is gonna be so useful to me exploiting my quickness and agility rather than my strength back to the basket. I’m still gonna have that post presence and we are starting to develop some plays where I get my jump shots so I’m really excited for this.”

Stansbury is excited to have Lawson as a part of his first Topper team.

“He [Lawson] is a guy that needs something good to happen for him,” Stansbury said. “I see a lot more good in him than bad. How many 7-footers can run, catch the basketball? He’s got great hands. I think he feels like we believe in him and we do. There is no question that he will be a factor on this team.”

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 270-745-6281 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.