Brandon Ewing and Brad Jones are back for one more year together in the Wyoming backcourt.
But the team may be a lot less of a two-man show than it has been in past seasons.
"I think that those two guys are obviously proven in the league, but I think it's also been proven over time that one or two players playing well on a given night isn't going to be able to reach our goals," said the Pokes' new head coach Heath Schroyer. "It's a team effort….The system that we're installing is one that utilizes people's strengths and tries to negate their weaknesses."
That doesn't bother either of the team's slashing guards, who combined for 38 points per game last year—the most by any backcourt in the Mountain West Conference.
"I don't care if I score 20 points or two points," Ewing said, "I just want to win the championship this year."
Schroyer, 35, came to Wyoming from Fresno State, where he had been an associate head coach under Steve Cleveland for two seasons. His system, he said, will be dramatically different from the one the Cowboys may have grown accustomed to under former head coach Steve McClain.
"We've changed everything," he said. "We've changed how we go to school. We've changed our expectations on the practice floor. We've changed our locker room. We've changed how we're going to play. Everything from top to bottom, I think, we've changed, and I couldn't be happier with how receptive these guys have been."
Foremost among those changes was a shift in the style of basketball Wyoming's high-energy backcourt is used to playing.
Jones said Schroyer's system has made him "more patient on the offensive end.
"(I'm) playing with my mind instead of my athleticism."
That goes for Ewing, too, who led the conference in scoring last season with 19.9 points per game.
"I never was a selfish leader," he said. "Everybody says I was kind of the star of the team, but I never looked at it that way. He's (Schroyer) just teaching me how to be a complete player, not just scoring points or getting steals, but also getting assists and rebounds to help the team out."
Schroyer met with Jones and Ewing immediately after taking the head coaching job at Wyoming to let them know about the changes his system would involve.
"I got them to understand a little bit about me, about my expectations and got to know them a little bit," Schroyer said. "After that first meeting with both of those guys, the one thing I called (assistant coach) Fred (Langley) and told him, I said, ‘These two guys want to win.'"
It's their last chance to win, too. Jones enters the '07-'08 season as a senior and will play out his last year of eligibility.
"This is the last time that Wyoming fans are going to see us play together unless we're on the same NBA team or something like that," Ewing said. "But it's the last time they're going to see us in a Wyoming uniform together, so it's going to be kind of sad to see him go.
"I told everybody else, I'm going to have a big gift for him on senior night because it's my last time playing a home game with him. I'm going to miss him a lot, so we're going to make this year fun."
Fun and, if Schroyer has his way, highlighted by a conference championship.
"I'm not a guy that's going to sit here (and say), ‘We're going to try to do this three years from now,'" he said. "I think that's doing the guys in that locker room a disservice.
"Our expectation level is to do things on a daily basis to prepare ourselves to play in the postseason and to play for a championship. I've told that to our team."
That expectation level dictated that all players on the Pokes' roster stay in Laramie and work out during the summer, and so far, it seems to have paid dividends.
"I gained about 12 (to) 15 pounds this offseason," Ewing said. "Everybody on the team actually put on about 10 pounds. That was pretty good. We worked on our speed. Our strength coach and Coach Heath Schroyer did a good job of getting us ready."
"We hit the weight room really hard this summer, trying to gain weight and get stronger," Jones added. "I think I gained about 10-12 pounds this summer."
The added weight should make the two more physical on the court, but it has been their leadership in accepting the changes that has impressed Schroyer the most.
"I think that it says a lot for those two guys when a new coach comes in with a brand new philosophy, when they've had individual success doing it different way, to completely buy into what we're doing," he said. "I think the one thing that people need to understand about those two guys is they want to win.
"They're competitive, and they've had individual accolades, and they both said this to me, ‘but Coach we'd trade it all if we could just win.' That's really refreshing, and as a new coach, especially coming in right now, that is a huge advantage for me personally to have those guys buy in the way they have."
The Cowboys kick off their season Nov. 3 against Regis University in an exhibition game in Laramie.
Ewing, Jones Buy into New System
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