If Blake Hinze had decided to continue his education in Rock Springs instead of Powell, basketball history might have been different.
There is something about Rushmore Gym at Western Wyoming Community College that reminds the 6-foot guard of Sweitzer Gym, his old Cody home court and produces magic.
“I don’t know whether it is the lighting or what, but I always shoot well there,” Hinze said.
The Northwest College men’s basketball team opened its season with three games on the road last week, capturing two and losing another game close enough the team feels it should be 3-0 instead of 2-1.
Hinze, the 2016 Cody High School grad, had games of 22 points, 20 and 8. What the two high games had in common is that they were played as part of the Western Wyoming Community Classic in Rushmore Gym.
“He shot the lights out,” said Trapper coach Brian Erickson of Hinze’s hot showings.
Northwest topped Laramie County 78-75 in Cheyenne to open the 2017-18 season, fell 95-91 in overtime to Snow College, which has received votes for the national top 25, and overwhelmed Impact Academy 100-70, with a 55-32 second-half performance.
Hinze is one of only a few Trappers back who saw much action for last year’s 18-13 team and Erickson said he believes he has the right blend for success on the roster, though it may take time for the players to get used to one another.
“I think we have the right group of guys with not a ton of experience,” Erickson said. “We’re going to have some hurdles.”
Freshman Umar Jalloh of Harlem, N.Y., led scorers with 17 points. Freshman Lagaio Grantsaan, a 6-foot-7 forward from Holland, scored 14 and Jordan Banks, a red-shirt freshman from Big Piney, added 12.
The Snow game was a test. It was tied at 37 at the half and tied at 79 at the end of regulation.
Hinze’s 22 was high for Northwest, with Jalloh and Luc Lombardy, a returner from France, each scoring 13 points.
“It was a great game to be part of,” Erickson said. “We were down 15 at one point. We were up eight in the second half. We made too many mistakes (24 turnovers). They outplayed us at times.”
The third game was a Northwest romp, as 13 players were in the scoring column, led by Reme Torbert’s 21, Hinze’s 20, Grantsaan’s 17 and Calvin Fugget Jr.’s 10.
For playing real games for the first time, Hinze thought the Trappers meshed well.
“We had good chemistry,” he said. “They [new players] have pretty good basketball IQs. Obviously, you’re going to have some kinks. But we started clicking together as a team.”
Erickson said he is still learning about the players and they are still learning his system, but the Trappers have a lot of potential.
“I love what they did, but I want more,” Erickson said.