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Panel of Pokes: Rookie Impact On Wyoming Hoops

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Panel of Pokes is back and technically this is our October edition even though it is being published in November.  Since we've been talking football so much lately I have to admit that Cowboy basketball has not been getting enough coverage on Cowboy Altitude.  The new look Pokes have an exhibition game this Saturday that you should certainly attend if you are in Laramie for the football game. 

Here was our topic this month:

Topic:  Which Wyoming rookie will have the biggest impact for the basketball team this year?

So this group includes all the members of the 2011 recruiting class that Larry Shyatt put together.  Even though Leonard Washington and Luke Martinez didn't play last year they were on the roster and exempt form this excercise.

Our group of panelists this month include:

Brad Reed - Wyonation

Ian McMackin - GoWyoGo

Matt Blaylock - Poke Pride

Skyler Corcoran - Cowboy Altitude

Matt Hargleroad - Cowboy Altitude

Skyler Corcoran

The University of Wyoming rookie that I feel will have the biggest impact on the men's basketball program will be Lekan Ajayi.  Ajayi is a player that coach Larry Shyatt recruited while at national powerhouse Florida.  Ajayi was also recruited heavily by traditional basketball powers Wake Forest and Seton Hall, in addition to SEC programs Auburn and Tennessee.

The main reason I feel that Ajayi will have a greater impact than any other newcomer, is due in large part to his position and size.  The current strength of the Wyoming basketball program resides with the guards.  Wyoming' standouts are F/G Afam Mujoeke and PG JayDee Luster.  That allows Ajayi to provide an immediate and significant presence for the Pokes at center.        

Ajayi possesses impressive size and skill, standing 6' 11" tall and weighing about 235 pounds.  The Lagos, Nigeria native was given an ESPN Scouts Grade of 89 out of 100, which is extremely impressive.  The one knock on Ajayi's game seems to be his offensive skill set.  It is said that the almost seven footer can defend, rebound, and block shots, but struggles a little with the ball in his hands.  Lucky for him, coach Shyatt, and the Wyoming faithful, Ajayi will have time to allow his offensive game to progress with the backcourt handling the scoring.  His contribution will come under the basket in the form of rebounding and blocking shots. 


Matt Hargleroad - Cowboy Altitude

My pick for biggest impact as a rookie has to go to G/F Larry Nance Jr.  At 6'7 210lbs he brings great versatility and athleticism to the court.  With the loss of Desmar Jackson and Amath M'Baye that leaves a void on the wing.  Luke Martinez and Francisco Cruz are three point specialists and don't have the size to really play small forward.  Wyoming has Afam Muojeke back but with this injury history it is hard to know what kind of production he will have this year.  Nance has the ball handling skills of a point guard since that was his initial position.  With his lengthy frame he can also use that to help with blocks and steals on the defensive end.  His senior year he averaged 3 blocks and 2.6 assists per game.     

It may take him some time to adjust to college game at first but he is a quick learner with a great drive.  He should be a bigger contributor later in the non conference schedule. 


Brad Reed - WyoNation

The rookie, to me, who will make the biggest impact is probably Lekan Ajayi the 6'10" forward from Nigeria. Great size down low to help compliment Adam Waddell and Leonard Washington. The Pokes are in a rebuilding phase under new coach Larry Shyatt, which means there's a lot of work to be done for the Pokes. There are a lot of true freshman on the team this year due to defections and graduations, but I don't think this team will finish last this year. Lekan was highly recruited by some much bigger schools, Seton Hall, Auburn and Wake Forest.. Larry Shyatt did some good work in recruiting this young guy to Laramie. The other Poke who might make some difference is Shakir Smith at the guard position, from Tucson. I don't know how much playing time he will see, but I bet he makes an impact when he does.

Ian from response:

While I see Leonard Washington as a monster in this league and a real impact player, staying with the newcomers on Larry Shyatt first class is a good area to concentrate.
My choice is going to be Junior point guard Derrious Gilmore. A couple of reasons I pick Gilmore, is first his experience coming from Juco and second Shyatt's staff recruiting him for a specific need and expects him to produce immediately in the program. He fills a big position need for Wyoming and has the right talent to be productive. When Cowboy fans first see Gilmore, they should see some real comparable ability of Gilmore versus previous great Poke guards of the past few decades. He's quick, athletic, good ball handling and passing skills, and has good range from deep. He also is a good lock down defender and can score off pentration and push the ball in transition. He should bring a complete point guard to Laramie with the Juco experience helping him get the jump on the other newcomers.


Matt Blaylock - PokePride


Looking ahead to the 2011 Cowboys basketball season we seem to have something we have not had in a long time, quality recruits. Head coach Larry Shyatt went out and recruited players that are athletic but most of all fit his system. Better yet Shyatt showed that he is at Wyoming to win and I am sure that is something the recruits saw.

With recruits like Larry Nance Jr., Riley Grabau and Lekan Ajayi The Pokes are getting set for a good run in the next few years but this leads to the question who will have the biggest impact as a freshman? You could make arguments for any of them but my preseason prediction of the best freshman on the Cowboys basketball team has to go to Lekan Ajayi.

Ajayi comes from a quality program in North Carolina and the best part is he gives Wyoming something inside they will desperately need, size. Ajayi comes to Wyoming standing 6’10" and tips the scales at 245 pounds. With that kind of size as a freshman he may be hard to push around.

Ajayi is very strong on the defensive side of the ball, he could be better on offense. He is really tough on the boards something the Cowboys need now. If Ajayi continues to add size and strength he will be a defensive stud. He may never be an offensive dream but if he can score 10 points a game and pull down 20 rebounds he will be more than sufficient for The Pokes.