The Boise State men's basketball team has plenty of new men on its roster, but one returning impact player feels like a new man.
Sophomore Nick Duncan has dropped about 20 pounds in the offseason. He scored a team-high 14 points on Saturday against La Verne in the Broncos' exhibition opener in 17 minutes.
"I felt strong, much better than last year if I played 17 minutes," the 6-foot-8 Duncan said.
Duncan is due for a big uptick in minutes this season as an expected starter after averaging 17.1 minutes per game as a freshman with 10 starts. He averaged 5.0 points per game, 2.6 rebounds per game and made 41-of-100 3-point attempts. SI.com had him at No. 46. on its preseason list of breakout players.
After occasionally guarding players two, three or four inches taller than him last season, Duncan will be able to settle into a more natural spot with the Broncos adding some height in the offseason.
"I won't have to run rim to rim, which will be nice, because fatigue killed me sometimes last year," he said. "I won't be having to guard the 7-footers as much, able to be on the perimeter offensively and defensively a little more, which will really help me."
Defensively, Duncan will take on the sort of players 6-6 Anthony Drmic was guarding in 2013-14. His fellow Aussie has taken notice of Duncan's improvements and ability to take on a bigger workload.
"If you leave him open, it's a mistake," Drmic said. "Duncan's definitely gotten better over the summer you can't leave him open. Obviously he's not going to get as good of looks during the season, I don't think — hopefully he does."
Boise State hosts Montana Tech in its second and final exhibition at 8 p.m. Friday. Ticket info here. With five newcomers and potential contributors in James Webb III and Rob Heyer coming off redshirts, the exhibitions are good chances to get those players court time against real, live competition.
"We have seven new guys, and we got them a lot of experience," Boise State coach Leon Rice said. " I think that was really valuable."
Rice said Thursday that senior guard Igor Hadziomerovic (back) will play Friday after missing the first exhibition. Junior guard Montigo Alford, a College of Southern Idaho transfer, was recently cleared for contact and could make his Boise State debut against Montana Tech. A big part of the exhibitions is figuring out the right combinations of players — Rice said he found a few he liked and one that he hopes to avoid in the near future. He also praised David Wacker and Kevin Allen's combined 22 points in 25 minutes.
"If we probably would've given them touch after touch in the post, they could really have put up some huge numbers, so I was really impressed with what they did," Rice said.
The team likely will redshirt more than one player, Rice said. Though he noted he has yet to make a final determination on who those players will be, he pointed out how it helped the Broncos with Mikey Thompson, and teams like New Mexico with Cameron Bairstow and Gonzaga with Kelly Oleynik.
"We're getting close, I think we'll finalize it with this exhibition game," Rice said. " this year we've got 13, 14 guys that can help this team, you have to weigh the benefits of sitting out a year, then getting that year at the end of the career when they're more mature."