The Western Washington University men’s basketball team located in Bellingham, WA has been selected as the preseason favorite to win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, with the Vikings topping the annual preseason coaches poll.
WWU received six of the 11 first-place votes and led all conference teams with 112 votes to edge second-place Seattle Pacific (107 votes, 5 first-place votes). Simon Fraser (91 votes), Alaska Anchorage (90 votes) and Montana State Billings (79 votes) rounded out the top five in the preseason poll.
The Vikings are coming off a 15-15 season in 2018-19, fighting through several key injuries to tie for sixth place in the GNAC standings. A tiebreaker left the Vikings out of the six-team GNAC Championships hosted in Bellingham, and eventually won by Seattle Pacific to claim the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA II Championships.
Western’s talent-laden roster features five returning players that made at least 15 starts last season, and three projected starters that redshirted a year ago. The Vikings 16-player roster includes 11 returning players and five newcomers, with three junior college transfers and two freshmen.
“I really like the makeup and the leadership that this team has shown so far as we have worked hard during the preseason to grow closer as a unit,” said WWU head coach Tony Dominguez, who enters his 8th season as head coach of the Vikings and 25th overall at Western. “We are going to play hard, commit to being a great defensive team, and focus on the things that we can control as a program. We have a difficult schedule to start the season, but we look forward to taking that challenge head on.”
Highlighting the list of returning players is senior forward Trevor Jasinsky, a unanimous First Team All-GNAC and All-West Region selection a year ago. During his junior season Jasinsky ranked 2nd in the GNAC averaging 19.1 points per game, 4th with 7.1 rebounds per game and was in the top 30 in the nation with a .887 free throw percentage (157-for-177). The 6-8 forward is also climbing the WWU and GNAC career charts, with 1,075 points and 143 3-pointers in 90 career games.
Additional returning player that recorded at least 15 starts last season are senior guard Leif Anderson (8.6 points, 2.4 assists/game), sophomore guard/forward Jalen Green (7.8 points, 4.4 rebounds/game), junior forward Luke Lovelady (10.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.1 blocks/game) and senior forward Cameron Retherford (8.4 points, 5.3 rebounds/game).
The Vikings will also be bolstered by a pair of returning seniors that utilized a redshirt season in 2018-19, with 7-foot center Logan Schilder (9th in WWU history with 98 blocked shots) and guard Siaan Rojas (9.0 points/game in 31 career games) back on the court for their final collegiate season.
“We have a nice mix of veteran players that have assumed leadership roles, with several younger players ready to take a step up as big-time contributors. We are excited about this team and the energy they are going to bring to the court this season,” added Dominguez.
WWU opens the 28-game regular-season schedule Nov. 8-9 hosting UC San Diego, Cal State Dominguez Hills and Simon Fraser in Bellingham for the GNAC/CCAA Challenge. More information on the Vikings and the 2019-20 season, including schedule, roster and links on how to follow the team can be viewed online at WWUVikings.com/MBB.
“The GNAC will once again be a battle, top to bottom, with lots of talented players throughout the league,” added Dominguez. “We designed our non-conference schedule to be a test to get us ready for the tough 20-game GNAC schedule.”