BOWLING GREEN, Ky. — The offseason can be chaotic, but WKU Hilltopper Basketball
head coach Rick Stansbury knows most of his time going forward will be on the court
with his team.
That’s just fine by him.
“This time of year, starting now, I like because I know where I’m at every day,”
Stansbury said. “That’s the easiest part of coaching. I like being with our team. I
like every day being able to go out and compete, especially when you like the young
men you have on your team.”
The 2018-19 Hilltoppers are slated to officially begin practice Sunday, exactly one
month before they open the season in exhibition play against Campbellsville on Oct.
WKU is coming off a 27-11 campaign in 2017-18, its most wins in 10 seasons and the
most in the state of Kentucky last year, while advancing to the semifinals of the
NIT for the first time since 1954.
But Stansbury said that success doesn’t change anything about the way his team
prepares for the games to come.
“My goals are the same every year,” he said. “My first year, we were just trying to
put a team together. But our goal was to practice and prepare to compete for a
championship. … We’re not going to prepare any different with this team than any
other team. We’re going to compete in practice and compete for championships. Let’s
take care of business every day and every game.”
The Hilltoppers return some pieces from last year – like guards Taveion
Hollingsworth, Josh Anderson and Jake Ohmer, and forwards Marek Nelson and Moustapha
Diagne – and have also added impact transfers such as Jared Savage (Austin Peay),
Desean Murray (Auburn) and Matt Horton (Shelton State Community College).
WKU also features a top-25 recruiting class made up of center Charles Bassey,
forward Tolu Smith and guards Dalano Banton and Jeremiah Gambrell.
Senior guard Lamonte Bearden will be academically ineligible for the first semester,
but Stansbury said he’s confident in the abilities of Anderson, Banton and
Hollingsworth to run the point as needed.
WKU graduated three standout seniors a year ago in Justin Johnson, Dwight Coleby and
Darius Thompson, but Stansbury sees leadership potential in his current group.
Hollingsworth, who was the first freshman team captain in program history last year,
will fill some of that void, while Stansbury also noted Savage and Murray as
“Some guys lead differently,” Stansbury said. “Some guys lead by example and don’t
say a word. Some guys don’t lead by example but want to talk. If you get those guys
that can talk and lead and are your hardest workers, then you have something. And I
think we have that.”
After WKU opens against Campbellsville, the Hilltoppers play a second exhibition
against Kentucky Wesleyan on Nov. 3.
The regular season begins Nov. 6 at Washington, then the team returns to Diddle
Arena to face UT Martin on Nov. 10. That begins a quality home slate that includes
games against Saint Mary’s, Wisconsin and the best Conference USA has to offer.
“I’m excited about Diddle Arena,” Stansbury said. “We’ve got (four) weeks left and
very few tickets out there left. … That’s a good thing. People believe in the team
and see some potential of what this team can be. There’s a lot of exciting things
“We need everybody in here every night, making sure that the first game of the year,
that first exhibition, that there’s not a ticket out there for sale and there’s
people out there knocking on the door trying to get in. That’s what this team