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.

Seniors
Bryant Rucker, Marcus Byrd, and Nate Engesser – DenverPioneers.com

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.

6 thoughts on “Basketball Dinner Celebrates the Past and Eyes the Future”

  1. There is a very positive vibe around the team. The key indicator is that players are staying and are excited about the new direction. They have a good core of players who have a year of development under their belts. This is going to be a very interesting year. By the way, they still have a lot of work to do with their scheduling for next season. RPI is a critical factor determining teams willingness to play DU in the Mile High city so Billups non-conference schedule may not be as exciting as we can expect to see in future seasons.

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    1. To play devil’s advocate, the fact that players want to stay is not always a positive for the future of hoops success. I’d imagine the class of 2016 kids were recruited with the “Princeton style” in mind. It’s quite likely these kids were not offered scholarships by other DU quality academic institutions. So why not stay. Other kids who left Scott’s program ended up at some pretty inferior schools or junior colleges.

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  2. Building an attractive non-conference schedule is always going to be an issue here in Denver. In our region, CU has avoided us for the most part, That might change under Billups, but CU coach Tad Boyle has said he doesn’t like playing “friends.” CSU and Wyoming have been better about scheduling DU, but playing those teams in Denver is more of a home game CSU and Wyoming if the game is played during DU’s winter break, when most non-cons are scheduled. Other good nambe brand opponents have balked at playing DU in Denver, even when offered healthy guarantees, due to altitude, distance and the former Princeton system, which was hard on opponent preparations. Under Billups, the Princeton will no longer be an issue, but DU is still probably going need to play 2 or 3 away games against good non cone opponents for each home game they might get,

    I would like to see DU try to bring in at least peer privates or bottom half teams in power conferences if they can’t bring in name brand basketball powers or strong regional opponents. I’d rather see DU playing peer privates Drake, DePaul, American, Pepperdine and Rice then hosting Utah Valley or Eastern Washington….

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