Basketball notebook: Harper looks at next season

Lucas Aulbach

With the 2012-13 season in the books, coach Ray Harper had a chance Monday to look at WKU’s future heading into next season.

WKU graduates two seniors — guards Jamal Crook and Marcus Vasquez — from this season and sophomore forward Stephon Drane will tansfer, but the Toppers will bring back much of the roster that propelled them into the NCAA Tournament this year.

Additionally, WKU will bring in two transfers in December in guards Trency Jackson and Chris Harrison-Docks. The Toppers will also return freshman forward Eddie Alcantara, who missed much of the season with an injury, and sophomore forward Nigel Snipes, who missed the entire season due to an ACL tear in the offseason.

Harper said at this point, Snipes is ahead of schedule in his recovery.

“He’s ahead of schedule now,” Harper said. “He’s doing some shooting and doing some running and I expect him back when we start in the summer.”

WKU is also in the midst of recruiting for next season. The Toppers had three open scholarships for next season — Harrison-Docks and Jackson filled two.

Harper said he hopes to recruit some help in the post.

“The bottom line is we don’t have a lot of scholarships to work with — We’ve got to be smart,” he said. “Obviously we feel like we need some size. I feel good about our backcourt where we are. We’ve got a couple guys sitting out that I think are gonna make a huge impact.”

Harper looking forward to playing old rivals in C-USA

WKU’s move from the Sun Belt Conference to Conference USA has caused a facelift to the future of Topper athletics.

Harper said while there’s almost no chance of WKU playing Middle Tennessee State next season, he’s excited to play some of the Toppers’ more traditional rivals when the school changes conferences in 2014.

“It’s going to be a great basketball conference and you’re still going to have that renewed rivalry with Middle Tennessee,” Harper said. “I think it’s going to be good. Our focus has got to be finish this last season of the Sun Belt strong.”

WKU has one more season in the Sun Belt before making the move.

Harper said he will miss some of the competition he’s seen in the Sun Belt.

“It’s been a great run, the Sun Belt’s been a terrific conference,” he said. “It’s kind of bittersweet to be leaving.”

Coaching staff expecting new faces

The Topper roster isn’t the only area of the WKU basketball program experincing turnover this offseason — the coaching staff is dealing with key departures as well.

Assistant coach Phil Cunningham left in March to accept a job as head coach at Troy and director of basketball operations Jake Morton resigned earlier in April.

No one has been hired yet to fill their positions. Harper said he plans to take his time in order to make the right hire.

“I don’t get in a hurry about hiring positions,” he said. “I think it’s smart if you’ll just sit back and get input. We’ve got some guys here right in this office that do a terrific job that are extremely loyal and are extremely good that I’d probably look to hire within but we haven’t made that decision at this time.”

Harper said he expects to fill Cunningham’s assistant coaching position within the next 10 days.

2013-14 schedule almost finished

WKU will know which opponents to prepre for next season sometime soon.

Harper said the Toppers have to find two more opponents to play next season but the 2013-14 schedule is almost complete.

WKU’s home slate next season will include nonconference games against defending nation champion Louisville and Mississippi and will be WKU’s last in the Sun Belt.