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Friday, October 17, 2003
Cowboys, Cowgirls open roundball practice


LARAMIE, Wyo. -- The Wyoming basketball teams open practice Saturday for the 2003-04 season.

The Cowgirls, under new coach Joe Legerski, will work out from 8-11 a.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys begin their sixth campaign under Steve McClain with a practice from noon to 2:30 p.m., also in the Double A.

From 11 a.m.-1 p.m., fans who have not yet purchased season tickets for men's basketball games are invited to participate in a Select-A-Seat promotion. Available seats will be marked with cards and balloons, and athletic ticket office personnel will be on hand to help.

At 100-52, McClain has compiled the most wins for a UW men's coach in his first five years. His winning percentage (.658) is second highest behind Willard Witte, who compiled a .724 mark from 1930-31 through 1938-39.

Last year, the Cowboys tied for third in the Mountain West Conference at 8-6, advanced to the second round of the National Invitation Tournament and wound up 21-11 overall.

Wyoming won its NIT opener over Eastern Washington before losing to North Carolina. It was the Cowboys' fourth postseason appearance in McClain's five years.

The loss of senior forward Marc Bailey in the ninth game of the season likely cost UW a return to the NCAA Tournament. Even though he missed 23 games, Bailey ranks 14th on the school scoring list with 1,356 points.

Also gone from last year's squad are Donta Richardson, Uche Nsonwu and Chris McMillian. Richardson and Nsonwu were both first-team All-MWC.

Nsonwu ranks seventh in career blocked shots with 87 and 10th in rebounding with 763. Richardson is ninth in 3-pointers with 102. McMillian is second on the UW assists chart with 434.

Three starters -- Jay Straight, Joe Ries and David Rottinghaus -- are among eight returning lettermen. Ten of the 14 squad members are juniors or seniors.

Straight, a junior point guard, averaged 10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. Rottinghaus (6.0 points, 2.6 rebounds) and Ries (7.0 points, 4.2 rebounds) are both senior forwards.

McClain said this year's squad may return to the up-tempo style that defined his first couple teams.

"I think every team in the country is excited about the first day you can get on the floor," he said. "But I've always said it doesn't do any good to be excited the first day if you can't be excited in March.

"That is the attitude I think our team has, is that we are preparing every day to earn a spot in postseason play again this year."

The Cowboys play their first exhibition Nov. 1 against EA Sports. The regular season opener is Nov. 22 at home against Southern Illinois.

"I'm looking forward to the start of practice to see both a number of new players in our program, as well as a good group of returning veterans," McClain said. "I'm anxious to see how they interact with one another and how they mold together into a team."

Legerski welcomes back two starters and seven letterwinners from a women's squad that finished 18-12 overall, 7-7 in the Mountain West Conference and earned a bid to the Women's National Invitation Tournament.

"I'm anxious to get started with practice and look forward to putting together this basketball program," he said. "The challenge for this team will be for the players to adjust to the level of competition in Division I college basketball."

The Cowgirls open with one of two exhibition games against Adams State on Nov. 6 at the Double A. The regular season opener is Nov. 22 at Denver.