* University of Wyoming press release

LARAMIE -- The Wyoming Cowgirl basketball team officially kicked off the Heather Ezell Era Friday afternoon with their first official practice of the 2022-23 season. The Cowgirls return a trio of starters and 10 letterwinners from last season’s squad that finished third in the Mountain West and made it to the Third Round of the Women’s NIT.

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Friday’s practice comes roughly a month before the Cowgirls open the season with a pair of home exhibitions. Wyoming hosts Colorado Christian at 6:30 p.m., October 28 and then Sioux Falls at 2 p.m., Nov. 5. UW opens the regular season Nov. 11 at North Dakota while the home-opener is Nov. 15 as Gonzaga comes to town.

Wyoming returns a pair of All-Mountain West performers from a season ago as Allyson Fertig and Quinn Weidemann return. Fertig was the 2021-22 Mountain West Freshman of the Year while Weidemann was named to the All-Defense Team for the second consecutive season. The third Cowgirl starter returning for 2022-23 is Tommi Olson, who along with Weidemann, is taking advantage of a fifth year of eligibility thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Weidemann enters her final season in the Brown & Gold 21st all-time in program history with 1,113 career points. Weidemann also enters the year seventh all-time with 198 made 3-pointers during her Cowgirl career, is 14th in career games played with 117 and is 18th with 245 career assists. Olson, meanwhile, ranks 12th in program history with 147 career steals and is 14th with 281 assists.

UW looks to replace a pair of starters from a season ago in McKinley Bradshaw and Alba Sanchez Ramos. Bradshaw was an All-Mountain West Team honoree last season after scoring nearly 15 points per game. Sanchez Ramos, meanwhile, averaged eight points and 6.4 rebounds per game in 2021-22. With that, the Cowgirls still return 66-percent of its scoring output from last season and 71-percent of its rebounding effort.

The Wyoming bench returns seven key contributors in Tess Barnes, Lexi Bull, Grace Ellis, Emily Mellema, Paula Salazar, Marta Savic and Ola Ustowska. The Cowgirls also welcome a trio of newcomers in transfers Malene Pedersen (Kansas State) and Bailey Wilborn (Maine), as well as incoming freshman Grace Moyers (Erie, Colo.) who joined the Cowgirls second semester last academic year.

Ellis and Mellema each played in all 30 games last season, with Ellis making eight starts in 2021-22. Ellis averaged 5.6 points and 3.5 rebounds per game off the bench last season and shot an impressive 55-of-64 (86-percent) from the free-throw line. Mellema averaged 3.7 points, 1.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per contest in her freshman campaign last year. Salazar, meanwhile, appeared in 25 contests and averaged 3.8 points and a pair of rebounds per game while finishing second on the squad with 10 blocks.

Fans can get their first glimpse of the 2022-23 Cowgirls with a trio of outreach events coming Oct. 15 and 16. The Cowgirls will hold an open practice on the 15th from 4-6 p.m., at Kelly Walsh High School in Casper.

UW will follow that up with a meet-and-greet and autograph session with the team Oct. 16 from 9 to 10 a.m., in Douglas at the high school. Following that, Wyoming will close its mini-tour with an open practice from 1-3 p.m., at Storey Gym in Cheyenne Oct. 16 as well.

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