Northwest College sophomore Blake Hinze is 20, two seasons removed from his All-State career at Cody High School.
The odd thing is that Hinze is almost like a senior again, the veteran, because the Trappers are two years and out.
Almost exactly a year ago Hinze was tormenting himself with a should-I or shouldn’t-I question.
He almost chose to redshirt, but at the last minute committed to play. So he sped through stages from potential redshirt to bench player to starter last season.
“It is a huge change,” Hinze said as he looked ahead to the start of the 2017-18 season this week as a team leader.
The Trappers play three games in three days, Thursday-Saturday on the road, first against Laramie Community College in Cheyenne and then against Snow College and Impact Academy as part of the Western Community College Classic in Rock Springs.
This is a very new Northwest team with few familiar faces back from last year’s 18-13 squad.
The 6-foot-1 Hinze is a more muscular 183 pounds now after an off-season of weight lifting and coming off a year when he averaged 8.9 points per game in about 20 minutes of playing time.
“I got much stronger,” Hinze said.
Also back is 6-9 forward Luc Lombardy from Villeurbane, France and guard Tanner Coleman from Deaver.
Chandler Ramos from Worland and Jordan Banks from Big Piney were in-state players who redshirted last season.
There are several Wyoming players on the roster, but there are also a handful from overseas besides Lombardy. That includes players from Holland and Poland, as well as another from France.
Coach Brian Erickson said his new assistant coach Hamidou Conde has the recruiting touch.
“He is a great recruiter,” Erickson said. “He has contacts and networks with a lot of people.”
One foreigner is Axel Okongo, a 7-footer of many talents who is from Saacy-sur-Mame, France.
Erickson said in some ways Okongo reminds him of Chris Boucher, who three years ago was the national junior college player of the year for the Trappers, starred at Oregon and is now property of the NBA champion Golden State Warriors.
“He is still raw,” Erickson said of Okongo, “but he can run the floor.”
There are 10 players in the mix to start right now, Erickson said, but the primary team trait in common is inexperience.
“I feel like this team is talented enough to be really, really good as we get into February and March,” Erickson said. “This year we’ve got some talented depth.”
Ramos, a 6-foot guard, worked hard during his redshirt season and ingests a regular diet of chocolate-flavored protein shakes included with his eats.
“I’m still a twig,” he said of weighing 160.
Gaining power is one challenge, but it was harder to sit a year on the bench.
“I learned a lot from the players last year, but it’s hard watching because you want to be out there,” Ramos said.
Lombardy said being a second-year player is helpful.
“It’s the unknown (the first year),” Lombardy said. “Now you know about everything.”
Such as discovering winter in Wyoming is snowier and colder than back home in France.
“I bought a new jacket,” Lombardy said.