LARAMIE -- The Wyoming Cowboys officially opened the season on Thursday with the team's first practice. The Pokes return nine players from last season’s team with that group being joined by six newcomers, as the team practiced in the Arena-Auditorium on Thursday.

Wyoming welcomes back 68 percent of their scoring from last season. The Pokes also welcome back 80 percent of rebounds from last season’s squad that went 14-11 overall.

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The Cowboys feature four returners that averaged over nine points per game. Hunter Maldonado leads the way averaging 12.5 points per game last season. Graham Ike added 11.2 points per game playing in 12 contests in the final stretch of the season. Xavier DuSell, who ranked sixth amongst freshmen in the nation with 57 three pointers added 9.7 points per game. Kenny Foster added 9.1 points per game but did miss time with an injury.

The Pokes also bring back Drake Jeffries, who ranked second on the team in three pointers with 52 on the season, as he added 7.4 points per game. Veteran Hunter Thompson added 7.0 points per game and added 3.8 rebounds, as he hit 39 threes. Jeremiah Oden had a strong first season and along with a great summer. He added 4.0 points per game in 23 contests with 11 starts. Eoin Nelson missed nearly all of conference play but added 3.1 points and 3.1 rebounds. John Grigsby appeared in three games off the bench for the Pokes.

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The group of returners for the Pokes is strong. Of the nine players, seven of those players started at least four games. That group of seven also played at least 14 minutes per game creating a veteran group in Linder’s second season.

The Pokes were the fifth youngest team in the nation in 2020-21. But with some serious talent, Wyoming led the conference in scoring and three pointers. The group of nine Cowboys retuning combined for 194 threes last season. That group also shot 36 percent from behind the arc.

Linder’s Take

“Because of our lack of bodies last season, we were not able to do a lot of things we normally do in a practice setting,” Linder said. “Over the practices we had in the fall and summer the reps we got five-on-five really made up for lost time last season. The growth we made in practice over the last few months will really pay off on the defensive end of the floor.”

A Returners Take

“I like having such a large group of guys back,” Maldonado said. “It really helps with the tempo of practice with guys not having to learn so much of the system. We are coming in knowing what to do and get our habits right with that making practice look like a real game.”

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