BY ALEXIS ARASMITH
After an uncertain off-season related to COVID-19 concerns, the Fort Hays State University men’s basketball team is back on the court preparing for the upcoming season.
According to head coach, Mark Johnson the players are excited for the opportunity to have a season this year.
“They are aware of how fragile it is and are working hard to get ready for their first game,” Johnson said. “The first week of practice brought much excitement to the group.”
There are high expectations from the returning players this season, but one of the returning players, junior point guard Nyjee Wright, is injured and will miss the first semester of games.
“That is a big loss and freshman point guards Quinten Rock and combo guard Caleb Hammeke will need to step in for him early in the season,” Johnson said.
Senior Jared Vitztum is another main component for the men’s team. Last season, Vitztum led the Tigers in scoring and rebounding and is averaging 14.6 points and 7.9 rebounds per game for his career.
“Jared Vitztum had a great year last year and we expect even bigger things this year,” Johnson said. “He is a great shooter from the four-position and is driving the ball better this year and continues to be a good rebounder. He will also have to be a leader for our team.”
For the 2020-2021 season, FHSU will see several new faces on the court. Johnson and his staff recruited five freshmen to join the Tigers – guards Rock, Hammeke, Elijah Nnanabu and Traejaon Davis and forward Haggan Hilgendorf. The Tigers will also be with the services of community college transfer guard, Jordan Pumphrey.
“Feel like it’s the best class we have had and a lot will be expected of them early,” Johnson said.
The Tigers went 14-14 a season ago, including a 9-4 mark inside Gross Memorial Coliseum.
FHSU opens its season at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19 inside GMC vs. Washburn.
The Tiger’s first game of last year’s season started as a win against Arkansas Tech, 88-78.
Fort Hays State is planning on playing 22 regular season games followed by the MIAA Championships in Kansas City from March 4 to March 7.