By James Bartolo
Four men’s basketball seniors played their final game as a ThunderWolf Saturday in a 91-88 loss to Western State.
Will Newman, Mika Nuoliverta, Josh Smith and Mark Williams were all recognized for their contributions to ThunderWolf basketball during halftime at Massari Arena.
Newman served as the team’s starting point guard for the past two seasons. He shot a career 47.5 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three. “He can do everything,” head coach Ralph Turner said. In his senior season, Newman led the team in scoring with 17.4 points per and made 84.5 percent of his free throws.
Nuoliverta, a 6-foot-11 center from Finland, spent just one season with the ThunderWolves. As a ThunderWolf, Nuoliverta played 19.1 minutes and scored 10.4 points per game. Nuoliverta posted a 90 percent field goal percentage and scored 20 points against in a Dec. 16 matchup against Western State.
Smith, like Newman, also started his junior and senior season. The 6-foot-6 guard-forward was heavily relied on for the ThunderWolves, playing 32 minutes per game as a senior. On Feb. 17, Smith scored 21 of his 26 points against Colorado Christian off 3-pointers.
Williams scored 13.9 points per game as a junior, but missed the first month of his senior season due to injury. In his Dec. 1 return against Fort Lewis Williams unleashed for 20 points and grabbed 4 rebounds. Though a reliable scoring option throughout his ThunderWolf career, Turner said Williams was “always about the team.”
The loss to Western State prevented the ThunderWolves’ playoff hopes, but Turner said coaching is about more important than wins and losses. “It’s about changing lives. It’s about getting kids ready for the future and making them better people,” Turner said.
Turner said he is still optimistic about the team’s future despite losing four “fantastic” seniors. “We have a number of very talented players coming back. We have signed two kids early who are going to really help right away. We are on a recruiting trail right now working hard to find other pieces,” Turner said.