Hidden talent gives extra boost

Danny Schoenbaechler

Western will be led by a trio of stars this season, but the real strength of this team may come from some hidden talent.

The Hilltoppers return their top three leading scorers from a year ago. Senior center Chris Marcus, senior forward David Boyden and sophomore guard Patrick Sparks are the notable names on a team who will garner an unprecedented amount of attention and hype.

The three combined for 37.9 points a game last season and were named to this year’s Sun Belt Preseason All-Conference teams.

Two Hilltoppers who haven’t been absorbing much attention this preseason are senior Mike Wells and junior Todor Pandov.

“Many (players) haven’t gotten the credit they deserve, because everyone has been so quick to get hung up on the Chris Marcus factor,” Coach Dennis Felton said.

Pandov and Wells are possibly the most versatile players on the team.

Wells, a 6-foot-3 guard, is a sharpshooter from long range. He averaged 8.9 points a game, including shooting 35 percent from 3-point range.

But what may be Wells’ most valuable feature for the Toppers is the tenacious defensive presence he brings to the floor.

Wells often marked the opposing team’s top perimeter player last season with success. He brings a combination of defense and deft shooting that is rare.

Marcus is known as one of the top defenders in the country, because of his shot-blocking ability. Wells brings a different type of defense. He tries to lock people down and prevent them from taking any shots.

Pandov, though, is versatile in a more traditional sense. He is a 6-foot-9 forward that can play down on the block, and can knock down a shot from the perimeter.

Pandov hit 32 percent from behind the arc last season. He finished sixth on the team in scoring with 8.8 a game.

Despite having Marcus, Boyden and Sparks, no Hilltopper averaged over 16 points a game last year.

“One of the reasons why we were good is because we spread it around so much and do play as a team,” Felton said.

Felton is quick to point out that the caliber of his players – all, not just three – is the reason for Western’s success during his tenure.

“We’ve been successful because we have terrific talent,” Felton said.

Western has the ability to keep the starters rested.

“We are a deep team,” Boyden said. “We can bring people off the bench without losing anything.”

Wells started two games last year and Pandov started 18, but each could crack the starting lineup more this year.

Both players are in their fourth year on the Hill.

Wells redshirted during his initial year, and Pandov sat out what would have been his sophomore season.

Now, with the Big Three back and a solid supporting cast in place, the Toppers have high expectations for this season. They have star power. But their success may come from the secret weapons.