West Liberty Men’s Basketball ranked #14 in the NABC coaches poll

During the offseason, the West Liberty University (WLU) men’s basketball team has enjoyed their Elite Eight NCAA Division II Tournament appearance during the shortened 2020-21 season, and certainly are looking forward to building upon that success for the upcoming 2021-22 season. The new season is just weeks away. Last year’s tournament run was the deepest postseason appearance the West Liberty has earned since the 2015-16 season, in which they were defeated by a single point in the Final Four by Lincoln Memorial University. After the preseason coaches poll was announced, the Hilltopper family was notified that their team had earned a top 15 ranking spot, sitting at 14th overall in the country for Division II. During last year’s season, the Hilltoppers were at their strongest when the trio of Dalton Bolon, Patrick Robinson, and Will Yoakum were on the floor together, but will now have a much different look moving forward. With the transfer of Dalton Bolon to a Division I program, College of Charleston, the Hilltoppers will now be primarily led by the duo of Robinson and Yoakum.

Robinson and Yoakum will certainly have no issue bringing the veteran leadership for this Hilltoppers team, as the duo have already experienced tremendous amounts of success throughout the entirety of their careers. For Yoakum, even though he suffered an unfortunate setback due to injury last year, he has multiple accolades to his name, including a MEC Freshman of the Year award and back-to-back First Team All-MEC awards. For Robinson, he also has earned back-to-back First Team All-MEC awards, including a 20.4 point per game and 54% shooting percentage on the floor stat line.

The Hilltoppers also have several newcomers to dawn the black and gold this season, and certainly ones in which look to make significant impacts to the team this season. First, transfers Viktor Kovacevic, Christian Montague, and Garrett Denbow look to provide major aid to the team. Kovacevic, a 6’8 transfer from Quincy (Ill.), averaged 15.3 points per game all while hauling in 5.7 rebounds per game last year. Montague, a transfer from Walsh, was a two time All-GMAC guard during his time with the Cavaliers, and led his team in assists in back-to-back seasons. Finally, Debow, a transfer from MEC rival Charleston, sat out last season due to injury, but shot 44% behind the arc as a true freshman.

The black and gold will also see support from familiar faces such as junior guard Malik Mckinney, who hit the game winning shot to eliminate Glenville State College in the MEC tournament last year, sophomore guard Bryce Butler, sophomore forward Elijah Watson, senior forward Marlon Moore Jr., sophomore guard Ben Sarson, and sophomore guard Zach Rasile. West Liberty has the depth to bring home another MEC Championship, but they also bring in a plethora of freshmen. These freshmen include: forward Aiden Satterfield, guard Austin Webb, guard Luke Powell, and guard Dante Spadafora.

The Hilltoppers are led by veteran Head Coach Ben Howlett, who, through his first four years, has earned a 99-18 record and four straight MEC championships. He’s also earned four straight NCAA Tournament berths, including a Sweet-16 and Elite-8 tournament run. This year, Howlett and the Hilltoppers look to earn yet another NCAA Tournament berth, with an ample amount of talent to do so.

West Liberty opens their season on November 12 against Winston-Salem State University in the Atlantic Region Crossover, and East Stroudsburg University the day after. Mountain East Conference play begins early for the Hilltoppers, as they battle Alderson Broaddus University November 20. Overall, the West Liberty schedule features twenty-eight matchups, including twenty-two matchups in conference play.

For more information on the upcoming men’s basketball team, visit HilltopperSports.com.