In our Trippin' series, we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales.
Few saw it coming in Larry Shyatt's first season returning to Wyoming, but the Cowboys -- who hadn't enjoyed much success of late -- won 21 games and earned a postseason berth in the CBI.
But this season will admittedly be a rebuilding year of sorts -- as Shyatt lost three starters and his leading scorer and most talented player, Leonard Washington, remains suspended for the team's recent trip north of the border.
"My biggest fan would pick us near the bottom of the league this year," Shyatt said. "We understand that with the pieces we have, we can be competitive near the top of the league next year. But this season we need to survive this period of inexperience."
What Shyatt learned: "I think we learned more about each other. Seven of our 12 guys are newcomers and I think it was important for them to be around one another as much as anything else and play with each other."
Who stood out: "One of our biggest surprises was a freshman from Wyoming, Jason McManamen. He's a multi-positional player and we really didn't expect much from him. He's played extremely well so far and has been a huge surprise. Luke Martinez was our leading scorer last season, but he got hurt in our final game against Washington State and had to have a pin inserted into his thumb and wrist. He was in a cast for a while, but he shot the ball extremely well on the trip."
What is the biggest concern: "We lost six seniors. Not only are we an inexperienced team, but we're inexperienced everywhere -- frontcourt, backcourt and even on the bench. It'll be a tough year to be inexperienced since the Mountain West could have five Top 25 teams."
- Shyatt said his team will play a the first-ever exhibition game on an Indian reservation on Oct. 31 against Division II Fort Lewis. Luke Martinez has some native American bloodlines. The game is slated to be played in Ethete, Wyoming, at Wyoming Indian High School on the Wind River Reservation.
- Washington did not play, but did make the trip and helped on the bench, keeping statistics. Shyatt is optimistic he'll be reinstated soon. "He's had eight great weeks," Shyatt said. "I'm hopeful in the near future we'll have a positive development."
- Shyatt said that the state of Wyoming may be the only one in the country that doesn't have an AAU program. "When I say we've got to look under rocks to find players in the state, we literally mean that. They are tough to find around here."
- Shyatt sat on the bench and observed each game while allowing each of his assistants -- Scott Duncan, Allen Edwards and his son, Jeremy Shyatt -- to coach a game. "In my 33 years as an assistant, no one ever let me coach a game. It's an invaluable experience. Everyone can coach in practice, but it's different in a game -- and it also allowed me to see things from a different perspective."
- The Cowboys have won 74 percent of their home games, according to Shyatt. "We're 7,300 feet above see level. It's never going to be an easy place to play. Tark (Jerry Tarkanian) never won here."