Fans get first look at Stansbury’s Tops at Hysteria

Junior guard Justin Johnson (23) waves to the crowd during Hilltopper Hysteria on Friday, Oct. 14 at Diddle Arena. Jeff Brown/HERALD

Matthew Stewart

Friday night WKU fans got their first look at Head Coach Rick Stansbury’s Hilltopper basketball team at Hilltopper Hysteria.

Last season for the Toppers ended on a bit of a sour note with a loss to Old Dominion University in the Conference USA tournament.

Since that time there has been a lot of change taking place in the program, and with change comes increased fan curiosity.

Hilltopper Hysteria gave the Hilltopper fans a chance to see the potential that the 2016-17 WKU basketball team has with 10 eligible players that are new to the team.

The new point guard for the Toppers, redshirt senior Junior Lomomba, ran the offense in front of a sizeable crowd in Diddle Area for the first time. The Providence transfer seemed to be comfortable while running the new offense.

“Junior is gonna be a serviceable point guard,” Stansbury said. “There is a lot of things about him that I like. You know he is a tough kid. He is gonna be a big physical guard.”

Pancake Thomas, a redshirt senior from Hartford, showed the Topper faithful that he could score in a variety of ways with his jump shot and the ability to get to the rim.

“I like Pancake,” Stansbury said. “Pancake can score multiple ways. I think I’ve got several guys that can score multiple ways and that’s good.”

The versatile guard already has high expectations for this WKU team based on the talent he has seen.

“If we work really hard and get the chemistry down we should be able to make the NCAA tournament with the experience and the new guys; we have a lot of talent,” Thomas said.

Both Stansbury and his players spoke of the importance of offensive freedom for the coming season.

“I’m gonna give them a lot of freedom offensively,” Stansbury said. “You give guys freedom they are gonna make basketball plays.”

“I love it,” senior forward Ben Lawson said about the offensive freedom. “I’m excited to see how they get to play and that gives us big guys in the post a little more room to breathe.”

Lawson caught the eye of Stansbury on Friday night as the 7-footer was able to showcase his presence in the paint as he used his shot-blocking ability along with his skill in finishing around the basket to make plays.

“I’m pleased with the progress Ben’s made,” Stansbury said. “You know he has become a factor around that rim. He is gonna have freedom to pop some and make a shot. We are gonna put him in space where he can use his athleticism and quickness. He can move well; he can catch. He has got a lot of confidence. He feels good about who he is.”

The senior big man is excited about the team chemistry that he already sees on and off the court.

“Everyone is just one big unit, and there hasn’t been any issues up to now, and that’s a great feeling going into the season,” Lawson said.

Lawson also has a specific goal in mind for his final season on the Hill and understands that there will be a little more pressure on him being a veteran.

“In terms of blocking I wanna see myself at the top of the WKU list,” Lawson said. “So I need like three [blocks] a game to catch Jeremy [Evans] that would be a pretty cool achievement for me. I think there is a lot more responsibility on me and I think I’m taking it in my stride.”

The Toppers will be back on the court Saturday as they are holding an open scrimmage during Homecoming festivities. The event is scheduled to start at 3:30 p.m. in Diddle Arena.

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