Men’s basketball heads into preseason with championship trophy in mind

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Dixie State University’s men’s basketball team has one thing in mind going into its last regular season in the PacWest — the championship trophy.

The Trailblazers haven’t won the PacWest since the 2014-15 season, when the team shared the title with Azusa Pacific University. DSU currently holds six of the eight championship titles since 2009. DSU went 15-5 in conference play last year and 18-9 overall. 

Head coach Jon Judkins said the plan for his last year in the PacWest is simple, “win it.”

“Our first year in the PacWest, our slogan was ‘in it to win it,’” Judkins said. “With it being our last year, that’s something we want to incorporate. We want to get back to the top before we head out.”

Seniors fill six of the key positions on the team for 2017-18, and they are seeking a championship-worthy season to wrap up their PacWest play.

“We have a lot of experience back [this year],” said guard Brandon Simister, a senior biology major from St. George. “I feel like the team is going to be really prepared for the different kind of teams in the conference.”

Judkins said the team is deep in guard positions, and he sees this as an advantage. He also said new assistant coach Jeremiah Barnes is bringing a new, fun energy to the team that has been helping the Trailblazers step up.

“[Coach Barnes] makes practice fun, which makes the kids work hard without realizing it,” Judkins said. “He pushes our guys to make them better.”

Forward Zac Hunter, a senior finance major from American Fork, said this year players are expected to take more responsibility in games because of their seniority.

“We have a lot of good guys coming off the bench this year,” Hunter said. “They keep the flow going really well and help the team not lose momentum. [The team and I] don’t want any regrets this year.”

The Trailblazers start PacWest play on Dec. 2, and the team’s next preseason game is against Eastern New Mexico University on Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. in California.