Basketball season is officially here! The Wyoming Cowboys make their 2018-19 season debut Tuesday against the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos in Laramie at 8 p.m.

Wyoming returns just two starters and five lettermen from last season’s team. There are nine newcomers on the roster for third-year head coach Allen Edwards.

Returning all-conference selection senior Justin James leads the Pokes into the new season. He averaged nearly 19 points, six rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game last season. The other returning starter is sophomore Hunter Maldonado, who averaged 5.3 points and 2.2 rebounds per game. The three other lettermen that are back are senior guard Nyaires Redding (3.7 ppg & 1.3 apg), senior forward Jordan Naughton (2 ppg & 1.2 rpg in limited action), and sophomore forward Austin Mueller.

Nine newcomers include redshirt freshman Hunter Thompson out of Pine Bluffs, WY. Then there’s three junior college players in guards A.J. Banks and Jake Hendricks, plus forward Lwal Dung. Five prep school freshman complete the roster.

Edwards says with this new team,

“I like the length. I like the athleticism. I think we still need a little seasoning from some of the newer guys… I like what they will be at the end of the day.”

The Cowboys open against a UC Santa Barbara team that is very similar. They return one starter in guard Max Heidigger, who averaged 19.1 points per game last year and made a school-record 95 three’s. He was a First Team All-Big West selection. There are five other returners, but then the Gauchos have 10 newcomers that include five Division I transfers.

Edwards added, “We’re starting off with a very, very good basketball team, somewhat similar, in a sense of losing guys. I know they did a great job within their conference last year. I think they finished second. They lost a lot but did replace those guys with some Power 5 (conference schools) transfers, one from Oregon State, one from Alabama. There are some talented young guys, as well.”

UC Santa Barbara went 23-9 in head coach Joe Pasternack’s first season.

This will be the seventh meeting between the schools, but the first since 2012. Wyoming leads the series 4-2. The Pokes have won the last three.

The game starts at 8 p.m. Radio coverage is on KCGY (FM 95.1) beginning at 7:30 p.m.