Wicks says UWGB Men’s Basketball ‘right on target’ in transfer portal

Wicks says UWGB Men’s Basketball ‘right on target’ in transfer portal

(WFRV) – The NCAA basketball transfer portal is set to close on May 1 and with just two weeks away from the date, Local 5 Sports caught up with Green Bay Men’s Basketball head coach Sundance Wicks to talk about the state of the program during this crucial window.

Shortly after the Phoenix lost to UW-Milwaukee in the Horizon League Tournament quarterfinal, Green Bay started to see players hit the popular portal. Elijah Jones, Clarence Cummings III, Rich Byhre, Ryan Wade, and Jacob Antshak all put their names out there to look for another opportunity along with Noah Reynolds.

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Reynolds was the spark plug the program needed to complete the 9th greatest single-season turnaround in DI basketball history. He led the team in scoring and was awarded the Horizon League’s Newcomer of the Year.

“Noah was our last commit [last year]. We had already had everybody committed and Noah came in last and said, ‘We’re going to make this work'”, Wicks expressed. “There’s a lot of love for people who just believe. I think that’s what our locker room still holds onto with the guys that are there, like, they still believe at a high level. It started with all those guys. It’s not going to end with Noah, it’s only going to continue to believe and double down on that belief. What Noah gave us was that alpha spirit, alpha competitiveness, and we’re always thankful. Just like all the guys that gave to us this year because they did a remarkable job helping us get back to where we needed to get to.”

After the 15-win turnaround in the program under Wicks, UW-Green Bay announced a contract extension for the leader of the Phoenix that will run through the 2028-29 basketball season.

“Everybody wants to go, right? We talk about telling the story about who actually wants to stay. I think people chase a lot of different things and that’s fine. For me? You don’t mess with happy and I learned that from Kevin Borseth. You don’t mess with happy. We’re really happy right now. Our family’s really happy”, Wicks said at the Phoenix-Packers Steak Fry.

“What he’s done this year getting this community to believe again in Phoenix basketball, obviously the players and the other assistant coaches, was really impactful. So really important for us to get that done and send a message that this program isn’t going anywhere”, Green Bay Athletic Director Josh Moon said.

The Phoenix will maintain a strong core of players that played an integral part in Wicks’ successful first season that was awarded by being named the Horizon League Coach of the Year. David Douglas Jr., Foster Wonders, Preston Ruedinger, Marcus Hall, Mac Wrecke, and Amari Jedkins all plan to return with the Phoenix next season.

“We have seven people that are coming back on our roster that are confirmed that are from the bread basket of where we’re recruiting. Five Wisconsin guys, one from the UP, and one right down there on the border of Illinois. That’s a requisite for success as far as I know when we got the job. It was about finding those kids that live here, work here, stay here, play here. To me? That’s happiness”, Wicks explained.

With scholarships still available and roster spots to fill, Wicks said the program is sitting in a good spot with two weeks remaining of the transfer portal still opened.

“In a night anything can change. You could get calls from recruits. You could get calls from commits. From a week from now, we’re going to be living in a different place than we’re living in today. So, I think we’re right on target with where we’re at. We’re fishing in different ponds, so to speak, than where we were a year ago because that’s what a little bit of success does. A little bit of belief and a rally from the community – Green Bay basketball is in a different place now than it was a year ago and that’s a good thing”, Wicks said.

Heading into next season, the Phoenix will welcome in Arrowhead High School senior Bennett Basich. Basich appeared in the WIAA State Basketball Tournament two years in a row and scored over 1,500 points throughout his high school career (averaging 15.2 per contest).

On Wednesday evening, former University of Northern Iowa forward Cole Henry announced on X that he will be joining Green Bay for the 2024-25 season. In 32 games, Henry averaged 3 points per contest last year at UNI. The 6’9″ size of Henry will be crucial for the Phoenix after losing big-man Rich Byhre to St. Thomas.

Local 5 Sports’ Kyle Malzhan was told that the DIII Player of the Year and Kimberly grad, Logan Pearson, is nearing a decision on his commitment after entering the transfer portal. He averaged 23.1 points per game last season ranked 5th nationally at UW-Platteville and had four 30+ point performances. The three-point shooting has been a key to Pearson’s game as he shot 41.3%. Green Bay is on Pearson’s final list of teams that he’s deciding on.

While the transfer portal nears the final two weeks, Wicks believes that the core group at Green Bay has an advantage.

“What I told our guys today, ‘What’s the difference between our guys that are here right now in the gym and everybody else in the portal?’. The difference is – they’re in the gym. In the portal, everybody’s tap dancing out there putting their river dance on and tap dancing in the portal. They’re loving it, having a great time out there but, you know what they’re not doing? Their [explicative]’s aint in the gym working. If they’re not in the gym working – our guys can get an advantage.”

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As the Green Bay Men’s coaching staff works towards retooling its roster, last month basketball fans had a chance to see the Horizon League on a national stage. The Oakland Golden Grizzlies became America’s underdog team in this year’s NCAA Tournament after upsetting Kentucky in the first round. For the conference to get seen at such a large scale, Wicks said he gets goosebumps just talking about it.

“When you love what you do, there’s no price tag on this profession. It’s just you love what you do, you wake up every single day and get after it knowing that you’re going to fail a lot more times than you succeed in this, but then you’re going to have those magical seasons and magical runs. What was so cool was seeing guys like [Jack] Gohlke, [Greg] Kampe, [Trey] Townsend, and seeing those guys kind of get put on that pedal stool a little bit and then being advocates for everybody”, Wicks said. “They stayed up enjoying it and being in that moment. Isn’t that why we do this? To be in those moments. You win a championship, and the confetti pops. You don’t want to sleep because you’re just in that moment. Those things are so rare. We should celebrate those singles and Oakland? That was a home run. That was a grand slam. We should celebrate those more on a massive scale. Our program? One of the guiding principles is to celebrate those singles. So any base hit we get, that’s a good hit. We’re going to celebrate that one for a little bit because it’s important to practice that gratitude and having that joy.”

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