Basketball Dinner Celebrates the Past and Eyes the Future

Photo: Freshman  Joe Rosga (center) receives the Floyd M. Theard Jr. Memorial Award with Assistant Coach Dan Ficke and Dan Van Ackerson, Senior Associate Athletic Director.

The Senior Recognition Dinner for the University of Denver basketball team was held Tuesday night. With the voice of the Pioneers, Raj Sharan as master of ceremonies, the evening featured brief speeches by AD Peg-Bradley Doppes and new head Coach Rodney Billups.

The night centered around graduating seniors Bryant Rucker, Nate Engesser, and Marcus Byrd. The trio began their careers with a 22-win season and an NIT bid and finished their final season with a young squad who over-achieved and finished the season 16-15 nearly making the Summit League playoff finals. All three players are class guys and good students who contributed greatly to the DU basketball program during their years at DU.

Bryant Rucker, Marcus Byrd, and Nate Engesser –

Three other awards were given out during the evening. Jake Pemberton, a rapidly improving sophomore guard, received the defensive player of the year. Marcus Byrd, an accomplished 5th year senior, received the Vince Boryla Award for extraordinary effort. Super freshman Joe Rosga won the late Floyd M. Theard Memorial Award –  for the player who best displays the qualities of leadership, scholarship and sportsmanship. Billups was co-recipient of that same award his senior year.

Players are enthusiastic about the new staff and are already going through rigorous workouts. The early emphasis has been on conditioning and fundamentals. In addition, there has been a big focus on strength with players working closely with coach Matt Shaw, sports performance head coach.

There is still no word on the final incoming player who will fill the single remaining scholarship opening. Several potential recruits have visited DU but there is no firm decision yet. They could be either incoming freshmen or upper-class transfers. According to team sources, the team is looking for the best available athlete, regardless of position. However, in the future, expect Denver to have players in the fold earlier as they continue to identify and build relationships with recruiting targets earlier in the process.

LetsGoDU sends out our best wishes to Bryant Rucker, Nate Engesser, and Marcus Byrd of their future endeavors.