For three of Weber State’s four men’s basketball seniors set to be honored Saturday in their regular-season finale, the only regret seems to not have found WSU sooner.
And for the fourth, he created a legacy strong enough to land atop a major section of the program’s record books.
Dontay Bassett, Michal Kozak, Koby McEwen and JJ Overton will be recognized ahead of the 6 p.m. kickoff against Southern Utah for Senior Night – as will Donatas Kupsas, who remains eligible but is in the process of getting his diploma and probably leaving the team.
McEwen tweeted Sunday that he would have liked to start his career at Weber State.
Overton’s typical expressive nature – “basketball, I don’t know if people can say it yet, but I love this game” – echoes the sentiment.
“It’s been everything and more,” said Overton, who started his junior college career before two seasons at Utah Valley. “I wish I’d come here every four years and met Coach (Randy) Rahe five years ago. My time at Weber State was, I’ll never forget. That’s the year I remember. remember the most of all my years playing college basketball.
After transferring from Florida, Bassett’s two seasons at WSU began with a roadblock, as a knee injury sidelined him for the start of the 2020-21 season, and other injury issues. in the offseason have snowballed into conditioning struggles before that. season.
But after missing the first 15 games, aside from two slumps, Bassett was named the starter on Jan. 13, the Wildcats went on an eight-game winning streak and he’s started all 15 games since.
“Everything happens for a reason. I didn’t start the season the way I wanted, but I feel like what I’ve been through has allowed me to become a better player and team-mate,” he said. he said, “These two years have been great. I have no regrets.”
He proved to be a solid contributor last season, but this season his numbers are up, averaging 9.7 points per game, shooting 55.6% from the field and 34.1% from the line 3 points.
“It’s great because I’m there to help my team. That’s what was killing me, when everyone was there and I couldn’t be there with them…it really ate at me, so when I’m able to go out there and everything giving…just being able to live in the moment.”
With several NBA-like prospects around him, he could barely scratch 7 minutes a game in Florida. At Weber State, he averaged 20 minutes per game in 37 games.
“With a lot of top players, some just don’t get the opportunity they deserve. So getting to a situation where you’re needed and wanted is something that can benefit other players who are transferred,” Bassett said. “People looking for a good spot, a good culture, a good relationship with the coaches, Weber State embodies that.”
As good as basketball has been for Bassett — the Oakland, Calif., native who didn’t learn the sport until he was 16 — the classroom has been better. After a degree in African American Studies in Florida, Bassett added a second bachelor’s degree in professional sales from Weber State and plans to complete graduate degrees to become a mental health social worker when his basketball career is over. .
“I’m the first college graduate in my family and now it’s crazy I have two degrees. Where I’m from is surreal to think about,” Bassett said.
An injury derailed Kozak’s hopes for his second senior season, but last week in northern Arizona he carved his name into the WSU record books by playing his 133rd game – the most history of the program.
He needed his ankle cleaned up in the offseason after several sprains. He was mostly set to go when this season started but, by then, WSU was opening the season with an eight-game winning streak.
“Once you have that winning formation, you don’t want to change much, so I understand that,” he said. “It teaches you to be humble and to look for the positive in everything that happens. I’m just ready whenever my name is called.
His name was called last week due to foul issues, and he recorded 15 minutes with a rebound and a steal in a blowout victory over NAU to set the new career game record.
“I’m happy to have achieved the record in a game where I participated and helped the team,” said Kozak. “It makes things a little bit sweeter, these whole five years I’ve been here. It’s something I will remember and remember for the rest of my life.
For his career, he averaged 5.8 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. He also has 104 blocks, breaking a four-way tie for fifth at WSU (Zach Braxton, Brekkott Chapman and Darin Mahoney have all totaled exactly 100 career blocks) to take sole possession of fifth on this list.
He too will complete two bachelor’s degrees before his departure, in business administration and professional sales. And at the end of the season, he will be able to return home to the Czech Republic for the first time in more than two years, spend time with his family and try to find a professional team.
McEwen recently became one of about 20 active 2,000-point scorers in college basketball, with 30 of his 147 career games at Weber State after two seasons each at Utah State and Marquette.
He’s scoring a career-high 18.3 points per game and is having his best shooting season since his freshman year. And he wishes it all happened at WSU because, in his words, he’s surrounded by love.
“My coaches have had the utmost confidence in me. They are in the gym with me every day. It’s not just a manager or a GA working on me, the coaches take their time every day to make sure I improves me,” he said. “Coach Rahe lets me know all the time that he loves me. Just stuff like that. We have real relationships, the coaches are down-to-earth people.
“I know for a fact that if I call them after I leave here, if I need something or if they need something, or if they just want to talk, we’ll pick up the phone.”
Going into Saturday, WSU is 20-10 and 13-6 overall in the Big Sky. It’s the best team success McEwen has had in his career and he hopes to cap it off with an NCAA Tournament bid. Would he advocate for other transfers like him to choose Weber State?
“I will definitely do it, 100 times out of 100,” he said.
He says he hasn’t thought about his career yet; he first waits for it to be over. But looking back, he expressed his gratitude for the journey that took him from Toronto to Wasatch Academy in Utah and to college.
“When I was in high school, I didn’t know how good I could be. I just knew I was working hard and ready to compete. I didn’t think I would be who I am now,” McEwen said. “I never thought I’d score 2,000 points in college.”
The San Diego native chose to end his career at Weber State partly because of his studies. He will add a diploma in professional sales to his bachelor’s degree in psychology. And he hopes to return to Weber State when he’s done playing wherever he lands next to earn a master’s degree in criminal justice.
On the court, Overton’s scoring average (12.2 points per game) is down slightly from his last season at Utah Valley, but his efficiency has never been better, posting a career-best 53 .5% from the field, 32.1% from 3 and 63.3% from the foul line. And the 6-foot-6 active wing has made WSU’s defense one that can play in passing lanes, get disruptive and make their offense work.
“I have never played with as much talent as our team has ever had in my life,” he said. “And I met, my relationship with everyone on this team and the brotherhood, I made long term and forever friends with most of these guys. I know once I’m gone I can call them and it won’t be awkward, it will be a normal day to talk to my friends. Our relationship off the pitch has made this year special.
He will try to keep playing basketball somewhere as long as he is young and healthy, he said, and especially wanted to share his positive outlook with the WSU community.
“Weber State took a gamble in recruiting and signing me, welcoming me. I’m blessed for every opportunity I’ve been given,” Overton said. “I’m lucky to be in this situation. It’s a lesson in humility to say that I was able to play in Division I… it was a great experience.
Due to injury and COVID-19 eligibility relief, Kupsas is in his second year of eligibility but is completing his fourth season in the program. The 6-foot-8 forward is expected to graduate in professional sales this spring and will be honored with the seniors ahead of the game.
Kupsas tore his ACL in the second game of the 2019-20 season after getting a starting role. Coaches liked his defensive versatility and he showed promise with a soft shooting touch before the knee injury altered his ability on the pitch.
He earned praise from the coaches as a teammate and for his work ethic.
Former Weber State head coach Dick Motta (1960-68) will be honored with a retired banner at halftime of Saturday’s game.
Motta oversaw the program’s transition from junior college to Division I, won three Big Sky titles and coached the Wildcats to their first NCAA Tournament bid in 1968.
He was then hired to coach the Chicago Bulls and served as an NBA head coach for 25 years. He was NBA Coach of the Year in 1971 with the Chicago Bulls and won the 1978 NBA title with the Washington Bullets. He ranks 13th in NBA history in career wins with 935.
His banner will display the number 164, representing his winning total as head coach of WSU.