WLU Mens Basketball Preview/Profile


WLU Media Relations

Dalton Bolon attempts to dunk against the opposing team.

West Liberty University Men’s Basketball Preview/Profile
The West Liberty University Men’s Basketball team will begin the season ranked fourth in the nation, per the annual preseason NCAA Division II rankings that were released last week. Individual honors were also given out to a couple of the Hilltoppers. Senior Dalton Bolton, and Junior Will Yoakum received the honor of NCAA Division II Preseason All Americans. The Trumpet spoke to Head Coach Ben Howlett and guard Will Yoakum following the announcement.
Howlett, who holds a 81-13 record entering his fourth season as the Hilltoppers head coach, was first asked about the ongoing implications his team has faced due to COVID-19, and some of the things the team’s staff is doing to ensure the team is living up to expectations. Howlett said, “The team has been dealing with COVID-19 since last March when our NCAA tournament was cancelled. We have been practicing since August with restrictions, such as wearing masks and taking daily temperature checks. I think our guys have done a great job in handling this virus, and have continued to work hard throughout the pandemic. We have not let the wearing of masks be an excuse for our team to not work hard.”
Howlett continued on, highlighting the team’s standouts while discussing which players have taken the biggest leap during the offseason. Per Howlett, “Our team has 3 seniors: returning conference player of the year Dalton Bolon, all conference point guard Luke Dyer, and returning big man Marlon Moore. We are also returning all conference guards Will Yoakum and Pat Robinson. I feel as though Byrce Butler and Owen Hazelbaker have taken the biggest jumps thus far. Both guys are entering their Sophomore campaigns, and seem to be more comfortable with our system.”
There is no doubt that the Hilltoppers want to begin their journey en route towards a tournament run, and Howlett had much to say about this. When asked about how much anticipation his team has for this upcoming season, along with what the atmosphere consists of during practices, Howlett said, “our guys want to play, but they also understand the importance of doing it safely. We are very eager to start playing, as our practices have been intense, and somewhat chippy at times. I love practicing with this group. They are extremely competitive, and want to win in every drill or competition. These guys make my job fun!”
6’4 Yoakum, a junior guard, is regarded as one of the primary leaders for the Hilltoppers. When asked about some of the things he is doing to ensure his team is living up to expectations, Yoakum said, “Personally, I have been staying ready for whatever the NCAA throws at us in regards to the upcoming season, and I know my teammates are ready as well. We all have put in maximum effort since we stepped on campus this year, with the hopes of having a season. Making sure the team is not taking days off in the gym is also a big one.”
Yoakum was also asked about how the team’s coaches pushed them during these times of adversity, as well as how his team responded. “Our coaches have been pushing us very hard, as to be expected. They know the talent we have, and it is their job to make sure we stay focused on getting better every day and staying in shape,” he said.
Finally, when asked about how much anticipation his team has for this upcoming season, and what the atmosphere is like during practices, Yoakum responded with, “Our team is very anxious to play against another opponent. We have been beating up on each other for months. Practice is intense and competitive, not just some days but everyday. Howlett is big on not wasting practice days, so everyday there are always competitions and running punishments for losers.”
The West Liberty Men’s basketball team have won ten conference titles in the last eleven years, and saw eleven straight NCAA tournament bids. With this success, there is no doubt that the Hilltoppers want to continue this trend for the upcoming season. With the coaching staff they have, along with the determination of the players, the Hilltoppers are positioned to not miss a beat.