By Cody Shook, Sports Editor
The West Liberty University men’s basketball team is just a few days away from starting their season, and this year’s team will be drastically different from previous years.
Howlett is the 16th head men’s basketball coach in West Liberty history and he will try to keep the success coming. In his playing days, he was a prolific guard on a team that had four consecutive 20-win seasons from 2005-09. In his senior season, he was the nation’s fourth-leading scorer, averaging 23 points per game.
Howlett has been an assistant for the past six seasons, where he became an incredible recruiter to help coach Crutchfield field one of the best programs in the country each year. Howlett also helped in game preparation and player development. As assistant coach, he was a part of six straight NCAA Division II Tournaments, five Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights, two Final Fours and the 2014 national championship game.
Graduate student guard, Dan Monteroso will be asked to lead this team to the conference tournament and beyond. Last season was Monteroso’s first season on the court for the Hilltoppers, as he was a transfer from Purdue University, where he played football. The 2016-17 season was sensational for Monteroso, as he earned 3rd-team All-American honors, 1st-team All-Atlantic Region and All-MEC. He played in 29 games with 28 starts and averaged 30.7 minutes per game and scored 527 points with 163 rebounds. His highest scoring game of the year came on Dec. 13, against Nova Southeastern, where he had a career-high 40 points and seven 3-point field goals.
Junior forward, James Griffin will also play a big role in this team’s success as him and Monteroso are the only returning starters from last year’s team. He started 21 games last season and averaged 16.3 minutes per game. He shot 47 percent from the field, 39 percent from the 3-point arc and 59 percent from the foul line. His best game came against Glenville on Jan. 8, where he scored a career high 24 points and had 10 rebounds. Griffin also made the MEC All-Academic Team.
The team will feature two transfer students in senior guard, Jordan Watson and junior guard, Nate Allen. They will be called upon early in the season to show what they can do for the Hilltoppers.
Losing three starters from last year’s team will hurt West Liberty, but in the eyes of the nation, the Hilltoppers will be top contenders in the Mountain East Conference and in the D-II world as they were ranked third in the MEC preseason poll, behind Fairmont State and Wheeling Jesuit. They were also ranked in the 18 spot in the Division-II preseason poll.
The Hilltoppers will start their season this Friday, against Cheyney University of Pennsylvania at 5:30 p.m. in the ASRC.
Be sure to grab this week’s Trumpet for a full game preview.
Photo credit: Hilltoppersports.com