UTEP Men’s Basketball 2023-24 Season Outlook
It's officially UTEP men's basketball gameday, as the Miners host McMurry for their first game of the season on Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Don Haskins Center.
Year three for head coach Joe Golding at the helm of the program will come with higher expectations than last year's team. Golding won 20 games in his first year at UTEP, followed by a 14-18 finish last season.
"Last year motivates me," said head coach Golding. "We were one game away from playing in the NCAA Tournament year one and had a setback last year. That's what motivates me. I was as frustrated as I've ever been coaching last year. I don't like to lose. I take the blame for everything that happened last year. I'm a sore loser and I hate to lose..."
MinerTalk is back for another season for UTEP men’s basketball, presented by the Oscar Arrieta Agency. We will have live tip-off parties, watch parties and postgame shows at The District West (3233 N. Mesa), next to the Haskins Center.
Let's talk some UTEP men's basketball!
Players lost from 2022-23:
- Shamar Givance (graduation)
- Carlos Lemus
- Mario McKinney Jr.
- Ze'Rik Onyema (Transferred to Texas)
- Jamari Sibley (Transferred to Southern Utah)
- Malik Zachery
Players returning from 2022-23:
- Otis Frazier (G/F, Jr.)
- Tae Hardy (G, Sr.)
- Calvin Solomon (F, Sr.)
- Kevin Kalu (F, Sr.)
- Jon Dos Anjos (F, Sr.)
- Derick Hamilton (F, So.)
- Antwonne Holmes (G, So.)
- Garrett Levesque (G, Jr.)
- Elijah Jones (F, R-Fr.)
- Corey Camper Jr. (G, Jr.)
- Zid Powell (G, Sr.)
- Sebastian Cole (G, Jr.)
- Baylor Hebb (G, Jr.)
- Trey Horton (G, Fr.)
- David Terrell Jr. (G, Fr.)
- Babacar Mbengue (F, Fr.)
Analysis: UTEP has more continuity going into this season, with three starters back in the fold (Solomon, Frazier & Hardy) and several guys returning with playing experience—Dos Anjos, Kalu and Hamilton.
Solomon and Hardy bring back the most production from last year. Hardy averaged nearly 13 points per game last season while shooting 43% from the floor and 32% from 3- 3-point range. If Hardy can improve his 3-point scoring, the Miners will be better than their 29% 3-point percentage as a team. Solomon will bring the defensive prowess that the team needs, as he averaged 6.0 rebounds, 0.4 blocks and 2.0 steals per game.
Otis Frazier III is the wild card of the returning bunch, who could end up making a nice jump this season. After riding the bench for two seasons at George Mason, Frazier emerged last year as a reliable 3-and-D option for the Miners and started 26 of his 29 games played. He averaged 7.5 points on 50% shooting from the field, with 4.1 rebounds per game.
Among the departures, the one that hurts is Ze'Rik Onyema, who would've anchored them down low this year alongside Kevin Kalu. This is more of a testament to how valuable bigs are for mid major programs like UTEP, which ended up only recruiting Babacar Mbengue, who will likely redshirt this year.
Among the newcomers, Buffalo transfer Zid Powell will stand out immediately. However, Golding told 600 ESPN El Paso that Powell, who averaged almost 14 points per game in the MAC last year, is dealing with an ankle injury that could keep him out of their two games this week. Corey Camper Jr. is going to be a versatile option for the backcourt and the JUCO transfer could see significant minutes early into the season.
Expect true freshmen guards David Terrell Jr. and Trey Horton to earn some minutes this season. Terrell Jr. has a knack for defense and can defend multiple positions thanks to his 6-foot-4 frame. Horton can shoot and needs his defense to improve in order to get more minutes. While Baylor Hebb won't likely step foot on the court due to his eligibility waiver not clearing, Golding explained that he will have two seasons of eligibility starting in 2024.
Two other players that Golding suggested might earn some minutes include walk-ons Garrett Levesque and Sebastian Cole. The coaching staff really likes the undersized Cole, who joined the team from Otero College. Levesque, a Coronado High School grad, was with the program last season and has made strides with the current group, according to the coaching staff.
The matchups that jump off the page include the SoCal Challenge (MTE), a Power-5 road trip at Oregon and a road test at Abilene Christian, the school that Golding coached before being hired by UTEP.
The Miners' first four games will be at home this year, highlighted by their Monday game against UC Santa Barbara on Monday, Nov. 13, on CBS Sports Network. Circle the week of Nov. 20, when the Miners face Cal and the winner of Tulane/Bradley in the SoCal Challenge, followed by a tough road matchup at Loyola Marymount on the west coast. We'll learn a lot about the Miners early on in the season after this late November test.
To tip things off in the CUSA schedule, UTEP will waste no time and travel to face NM State in Las Cruces on Thursday, Jan. 4. A month from then, they will host highly touted Liberty (Feb. 3). They have challenging road matchups like their Western Kentucky (Feb. 15) and Middle Tennessee (Feb. 17) series, along with their late-season Jax. State (Feb. 29) and Liberty (March 2) away swing.
KenPom, the advanced analysis reference website in college basketball, ranks UTEP as the No. 154 team in the country (out of 362 teams) based on their model. They are guaranteed to play five teams in their non-conference schedule that are in the KenPom top-150, including UC Santa Barbara (129), Cal (146), Loyola Marymount (91), Oregon (41) and Seattle (124).
There are currently four teams in CUSA ranked higher than UTEP on the KenPom rankings—Liberty (76), LA Tech (116), Sam Houston State (140) and Middle Tennessee (151). That would match UTEP's CUSA preseason ranking at fifth in the conference.
Projected starting 5:
- G Zid Powell (For Monday, Corey Camper Jr. while Powell recovers)
- G Tae Hardy
- G/F Otis Frazier III
- F Calvin Solomon
- F Kevin Kalu
Offensive MVP: Zid Powell
Defensive MVP: Calvin Solomon
X-Factor to Watch: Elijah Jones & David Terrell Jr.
Starting five's don't really matter, says Golding. He thinks that this team could end up rolling out 10-12 guys in their rotation game to game early on. Then, the rotation could thin out closer to CUSA action, but the hope is that the coaching staff can flex their depth and rely on more bodies this year, unllike last season.
My predicition is Powell becomes an All CUSA caliber player that the team needs. Shamar Givance was an elite defender and could facilitate properly, but Powell can help take the backcourt to new heights. He trusted his former JUCO coach Bryen Spriggs and the UTEP staff for his final season, and he wants to make the most of it.
For Solomon, he has shown improvement every season since he started at Stephen F. Austin and learned from Jeremy Cox. This season, Solomon wants to be more disiplined offensively and limit his turnovers. If he's able to add a bit more offensively and still be the versatile defender that he's known to be, Solomon will be an all conference player at the end of the season.
My two x-factors are a bit of a long shot, but it's hard to predict where their bench help will come. First, I chose Elijah Jones because I believe the East Carolina transfer, who practiced with the team since January, is an upgrade over past guys like Jamari Sibley. If he and Jon Dos Anjos can help out in the frontcourt, UTEP might be able to throw smaller, yet more athletic lineups in stretches. David Terrell Jr. is as raw as they get, but he could still be an immediate help for this team thanks to his size and ability to play that combo guard/forward role. I think fans will be impressed with him this year and bank on his upside for the remainder of his career.
Season prediction: (20-12) I think the Miners win above their projected total (17.5 games) and win a game or two in the CUSA Tournament. I think they find themselves in a postseason tournament and win a game before ultimately falling. UTEP’s close to be a CUSA title contender. This year excites for year four of Golding in 2024 with solid projected returners. Keeping the team intact, considering the transfer portal and NIL, will be another challenge in the offseason.
UTEP Basketball Practices Ahead of McMurry Home Opener on Nov. 6
Gallery Credit: Zay Galindo