Challenge accepted: Wyoming’s Brendan Wenzel proving he belongs
LARAMIE -- Brendan Wenzel found himself at a crossroad this offseason.
His weight was the main issue. He wasn't going to see a minute of playing time until that was rectified. That was Jeff Linder's promise with the guard hovering around 220 pounds.
"I've mentioned it to him numerous times, especially back in the in the spring, I'd say, you're going be the first guy that ends up being in the transfer portal twice in the same semester," Wyoming's second-year head coach said after the Cowboys knocked off Utah Valley 74-62 Saturday night inside the Arena-Auditorium. "... You know, for him, it hasn't been easy."
That victory over the Wolverines, the Cowboys ninth in their first 10 games of the season, may not have been possible without the 6-foot-7 San Antonio native.
Wenzel netted a career-high 12 points in 18 minutes of play off the UW bench. That included a pair of 3-pointers. What the stats don't show you is the charge he took around the 4:00 mark.
"Man, it was big, it was big," Wenzel said. "... So, taking that charge, I thought it really brought energy to the whole gym -- to us."
The Cowboys survived a second-half collapse and pulled away late. One of those Wenzel threes, along with a slam dunk and a pair of free throws, helped seal the deal.
That type of output on the offensive end doesn't surprise Linder. That's just part of the reason he recruited him to Northern Colorado in 2019. Instead, Wenzel went the Pac-12 route, signing with the University of Utah after averaging 24 points a night at O'Connor High School.
It was in Salt Lake City, Linder said, that Wenzel was being morphed into something he's not -- a power forward. That's where the former three-star recruit started packing on the pounds.
"He could barely move," Linder said, adding Wenzel wouldn't see the floor until his body fat index fell below 15%. "So, it's a big credit to him for putting in the work."
Drake Jeffries was asked Saturday night about the progress of his teammate.
He was brutally honest, too.
"Oh man, he's gotten so much better," Jeffries said. "When he got here he was fat. I won't lie, he was around 215 pounds. He was a big boy. Now, he's got his body right. He's really gotten in the gym, worked out and, you know, really bought into the program of being a Cowboy."
It was either that or else.
No one heeded the warning more than Wenzel.
"Now I'm down to like 195. Jimmy got me right," he said, referring to UW's sports performance coach, Jimmy Edel. "I've been working every day since I got here."
That meant plenty of cardio, including sprints on the turf inside War Memorial Stadium. That, along with countless reps, Wenzel said, have made him the Cowboys' unofficial sixth man off the bench.
That all started with a challenge and an honest stare in the mirror.
"I think, for him, he had to decide whether or not he wanted to be at this level," Linder said. "I told him, you know, this level is not for everybody. I mean, the demands that come with this level, the sacrifices that you have to make, you have to want to be here.
"... You're starting to see when you put together days, you do the right things and you have the right habits. He's a guy who can help us win games."
Wenzel said he wanted it.
Now, he's proving it.
"It's my job," he said. "I know what I have to go in and do. I need to go in and produce."