Dixie State University basketball has won five of the last six Pacific West Conference championships, a feet accomplished by no other team in Division II basketball.
Through it all, two players always seemed to be right in the middle of the action. Those two players being DeQuan Thompson and Zach Robbins.
Robbins and Thompson rank No. 1 and No. 2 respectfully on DSU’s all-time scoring list. Robbins is also the all-time leader in field goals, free throws made, rebounds, blocked shots, games started and minutes played.
Thompson’s illustrious career landed him second all-time in not only scoring, but also in field goals made, three-pointers made, free throws made, and minutes played. Thompson also donned the Red Storm jersey in a total of 112 games, the most in school history.
It’s safe to say that those two were a big part of the teams’ success over the last couple of seasons, leaving some big shoes to fill as they both graduated from DSU last spring. Their departure leaves a hole that would put most basketball teams in a tough position, but DSU seems to be reloading rather than rebuilding.
Filling that void and successfully reloading is something head coach Jon Judkins said is not going to be easy.
“It’s going to have to be a team effort,” Judkins said. “No one guy can try and do too much. We have to do it collectively, and we can work together and have just as much success.”
Also leaving DSU is assistant coach Ryan Sanchez. Sanchez will be replaced by Kevin Williamson, who previously held the same position at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
Looking to step up for the Storm are guards Mason Sawyer, Robbie Nielson and Trevor Hill. In the front court, Mark Ogden Jr. will man the paint accompanied by Josh Fuller and Zac Hunter.
Sawyer, a senior from West Jordan, who will be the team’s leading returning scorer, acknowledges the challenges the team faces without its stars, but believes it won’t be a problem for the Storm.
“We might not have the all-stars we had last year,” Sawyer said. “But we have more depth than we’ve had in the past, and I think we’ll be better from top-to-bottom. I expect to win the PacWest, be undefeated at home, and get out of the first round of the NCAA tourney.”
Nielson will return to the Storm as its most accurate 3-point threat after shooting 46.2 percent from distance last season. Nielson, a senior from Gresham, Oregon, also led the team in steals in the 2014-15 season.
Rounding out the backcourt will be sophomore Trevor Hill, who made an immediate impact for the Storm last season. As a true freshman from Sandy, Hill stuffed the stat-sheet as the Storms’ sixth-man.
Mark Ogden Jr., a 6 foot 8 senior from Spring Valley, California, will return as the biggest inside presence for DSU. Ogden started every game last season and averaged 11 points and seven rebounds per contest. He is not looking to fill the shoes of Robbins, but to leave his own “Mark” instead.
“It’s time for us to do our thing,” Ogden said. “We just need to take it game by game and do what we know we’re capable of.”
Although the starting lineups have not been officially set, it seems that those four will lock up their spots based on last year’s performance. Coach Judkins said there are a lot of new guys who have an opportunity to see the floor as well.
“We have a lot of new faces this year,” Judkins said. “Most of the guys are coming back from their missions, some are totally new. I don’t know who it will be yet, but some of these guys are going to have to step up.”
The team will have another month of routine workouts and open gym before it can start its full practices on Oct. 15 in preparation of yet another PacWest title defense.
The regular season tips off at home against Concorida University on Nov. 13.