Boise State men's basketball pushed by high hopes

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJuly 10, 2013 

AUSSIES ON WORLD STAGE Incoming freshman Nick Duncan helped Australia to a fourth-place finish at the FIBA U19 World Championships on Sunday, pulling down six rebounds and scoring seven points in a loss to Lithuania. Junior Igor Hadziomerovic, above, is 2-0 at the World University Games with Australia, and will face Canada on Wednesday in Russia and the United States on Thursday.

THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

— The Boise State men's basketball team wrapped up summer practices Tuesday sporting something new - a target on its back.

Knowing full well the amount of returning talent, along with many early projections having them among the Mountain West favorites, the Broncos have taken the high expectations in stride, using them as motivation.

"Every year, we have the same goal, to win the conference, but I don't think we'll be satisfied just making the (NCAA) tournament, we want to win there, make a run,'' junior guard Derrick Marks said.

NCAA rules allow the coaching staff to work with the team in a practice setting two hours per week.

Following Tuesday's session, after which players will return home until school starts and coaches hit the recruiting trail, coach Leon Rice praised his team's summer and "single-mindedness'' toward meeting those high hopes.

"We came here to build a program where you have high expectations,'' Rice said. "I came from a place (Gonzaga) where you're expected to win the league, be top 10 or top 20. That's what I want here, and you can't do it without those expectations. There might be years like this past one where we come out of nowhere, but I want it to be consistent where you get to deal with this.''

With the Broncos returning 92.4 percent of their points, the Broncos won't be coming out of nowhere. Last season's team exceeded expectations, reaching the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

"I'm really proud of this team,'' Marks said. "We've got a great mindset right now. Last summer we weren't as focused.''

Rice said his players must push themselves a step further this season, not just to reach a higher goal, but also because they're in rarified air as the hunted.

"They have a hunger about them,'' Rice said. "We did a lot of good things last year, beat a lot of good teams. You have to play at a high level to do that, and we've got to do that again to match what we did. Now you've got to improve on that because you aren't surprising anyone.''

NEW COURT COMING NEXT WEEK

The Broncos are putting down a new floor at Taco Bell Arena.

"I'm real excited, I think it's going to look like a big-time basketball court,'' Rice said.

Boise State has not released details of the court.

NO AUSTRALIA TRIP THIS YEAR

The Broncos had been hoping to take a preseason trip for a series of exhibition games, but the departures of assistant coach Dave Wojcik and director of basketball operations Chris Cobbina over the offseason has forced the team to scrap the plans - for now.

Rice said he is hopeful the team can take the trip next year.

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_southorn

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