What are students saying about WKU basketball’s upcoming season?

WKU+head+coach+Rick+Stansbury+yelling+at+his+team+while+playing+in+the+NIT+basketball+tournament+on+March+25%2C+2021.

WKU Athletics

WKU head coach Rick Stansbury yelling at his team while playing in the NIT basketball tournament on March 25, 2021.

Rob Holmes IV, Sports reporter

WKU’s men’s basketball team will look a lot different this year.

Notable players that won’t be returning this season include second-round NBA draft pick Charles Bassey and fan-favorite Taveion Hollingsworth. Bassey will be sorely missed, as it will be hard to replace the 17 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks he averaged per game last year. Hollingsworth’s departure will also be felt as WKU loses a player that contributed 14 points, three rebounds, and two assists per game across the 2020-21 campaign.

Despite this, WKU head coach Rick Stansbury has his next batch of stars lined up for November. Sophomore Dayvion McKnight showed flashes of talent last season, a glimpse of the kind of star McKnight could one day become for the Hilltoppers. He led the team in assists last season and is expected to have the keys to the starting point guard position, so don’t be surprised if he takes a big leap during his sophomore campaign.

Freshman Zion Harmon, a highly-touted and hyped addition to Stansbury’s 2021-22 roster, should play a huge role in the offense right out of the gate. Harmon is undersized, but he makes up for this with elite point guard skills and cat-like quickness. He’s been a star since middle school, so the college lights shouldn’t be too bright for him.

WKU students are optimistic for the upcoming season and are excited to see how far this team could go. Students on campus were asked about their expectations for this year’s roster, and responses were favorable.

Gabby Stone, a psychology major from St. Louis, is hoping for a strong start in non-conference play and is excited to see new faces take to the hardwood.

 “I’m hoping we have a strong come-out against Ole Miss,” Stone said. “I’m looking forward to seeing Zion Harmon, because he’s a newcomer and he’s ranked so it’ll be fun to watch.” 

Kailey Binkley, an advertising major from Nashville, thinks this year’s roster can eclipse last year’s record.

 “I expect our record to be better than it was in 2020, 21-8,” Binkley said. “We’re going 25-5 because we’re going off this season. Go Tops.”

Cade Holcomb, a political science major from Gallatin, Tennessee, believes the Hilltoppers will win a Conference-USA championship if Stansbury draws out the expected production from the newcomers.

 “I know we lost Charles Bassey,” Holcomb said, “but we have a couple of newcomers and I think we’re definitely going to win the conference this year with a very high winning rate.”

Luke Meredith, an accounting major from Brownsville, is similarly optimistic. Meredith will miss cheering for Hollingsworth but hopes that Harmon can make an immediate impact. 

“Well, I have high hopes for the team,” Meredith said. “The loss of Taveion Hollingsworth is big and we’re definitely going to miss him, but hopefully the new kids coming in like Zion Harmon can pick up some of the weight that we lost.”

Thomas Hogan, an interdisciplinary studies major from St. Simons Island, Georgia, has full confidence the Hilltoppers will win a second consecutive regular-season C-USA title with help from transfers like Jaylen Butz, Keith Williams and Jairus Haimilton.

“I mean, they won the conference last year, so why not win another year?” Hogan said. “They’ve got a bunch of transfers coming in and I think it should be a pretty strong season for them.”

Optimism is running high among the student body for the coming season. This year’s team will surely feel different without some key familiar faces, but many WKU fans feel this is a well-constructed team from top to bottom and Stansbury and his squad can make some noise around the conference.

Sports reporter Rob Holmes IV can be reached at [email protected]