After a season that saw Union University graduate three of their top four scorers while finishing with a 21-11 record, the Bulldogs will look to their newcomers (six freshmen, two transfers) to play a significant role to continue their success in the upcoming 2016-2017 season.
Head Coach David Niven mentioned that all of the newcomers have the potential to play significant roles this year. Among those are junior Charlie Wilson, freshman Tray Boyd, junior Nick Velasquez, and freshman Bennett Fuzak.
Charlie Wilson is a 6’8″, 220-pound junior forward from Pensacola, Florida. While this is his second year in the program, this year is the first year he will play for the Bulldogs. He did not play last year due to a knee injury.
“Sitting out really helped him out a lot from a standpoint of not only getting healthy but continuing to develop as a player,” Niven said.
Prior to Union, Wilson played at Alabama Southern Community College for two years.
“He’s a great kid, an excellent teammate,” Niven said. “He is a guy that was a late bloomer as far as high school goes. He played on his JV basketball team up until his senior year in high school and was not heavily recruited coming out of high school. He ended up going to junior college and had a really good career there, but blew his knee out at the end of his sophomore year. A lot of bigger schools stopped recruiting him, but we kept recruiting him. He is a guy that I think is going to be a fan favorite from a standpoint of that he’s a fun guy to watch.”
Wilson looks to contribute this year due to his athleticism, which allows him to play above the rim . He dunks the ball with ease and appears to want to rip the rim out of the backboard every time he dunks. Along with his athleticism, he possesses the skill to knock down shots from the perimeter and has a plays with an effort that matches all of his talents.
Wilson believes this year will be a great and fun year for the Bulldogs.
“[This team] has the talent to win a ring! Fans can expect plenty of highlights,” Wilson said.
Tray Boyd is a 6’4″, 170-pound freshman combo guard from Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from Olive Branch High School in Mississippi. Boyd credits the good atmosphere he experienced from the coaches and players of Union for the reason he chose the school.
He describes his style of play as “a scoring point/shooting guard that tends to look for my shot, but when I’m not feeling it I look to create a shot for my teammates.”
“The team will shock a lot of people this year, making it further than Union has in the past,” Boyd said. “Fans can expect a lot of three balls and lobs from the UUMBB [Union University Men’s Basketball Team].”
Nick Velasquez is a junior combo guard from Mililani, Hawaii (Punahou HS).
Velasquez is a transfer from Bakersfield College in Bakersfield, California. Last year at Bakersfield, Velasquez averaged 20.7 minutes per game, 12.8 points per game, and 5.0 rebounds per game.
Velasquez says that his style is “a combo guard. You’ll see me with the ball, but my main strength is shooting.” His stats from last year at Bakersfield definitely show that shooting is one of his main strengths. Velasquez shot 47.3% from the field, 46.7% from three-point range, and 93.5% from the free-throw line last year.
“[The team] will be more of a run-and-gun type team because we all can shoot,” Velasquez said. “We’re all pretty fast, we don’t have any big, husky guys and that’s really by design. The fans can expect a lot of excitement. We have a good team coming in. We have a lot of newcomers, but if we can get the team aspect down early, we’ll be hard to beat.”
Bennett Fuzak is a 6’8″, 225-pound freshman forward from Geneva, Illinois (Geneva Community HS).
Fuzak describes his style as a three-point shooter, even claiming that “shooting three pointers is what I do best, usually off pick and pop situations or flare screens.”
During his high school career, Fuzak was named to all-conference twice, all-state twice, the MLK All-Tournament Team, and Team MVP. This was largely in part to his three-point shooting ability. Fuzak currently ranks second all-time at his high school for career three-pointers made, and fifth all-time in three-pointers made in a season.
He said he chose Union because of the family atmosphere.
“All the guys on the team are like brothers and I know the coaches have my back no matter what,” Fuzak said.
“This team has the ability to be something very special,” Fuzak said. “We have a lot of very talented players so if we work hard and play together, we could really make a run in the tournament. The fans can expect an exciting year and hopefully a lot of wins!”