He’s back: Hunter Maldonado to return in 2022-23
LARAMIE -- One. More. Year.
Hunter Maldonado announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he will return to Laramie for his final season of eligibility after testing the NBA waters this offseason.
The Colorado Spring native had until 11:59 p.m. on June 1 to make his ultimate decision.
Wyoming's senior guard is coming off a career year where he was the only player in the country to average 18.5 points per game to go along with nearly six rebounds and 6.3 assists per outing.
Jeff Linder has hinted at the possibility of Maldonado's return all offseason.
"I mean, he's with us," UW's third-year head coach said back in April. "He's here with us every day and I know he's excited about the guys that we're bringing in and excited about the things that we can do with those guys."
Maldonado, who started his career in Laramie way back in 2017, was a First Team All-Mountain West selection last season after helping lead the Cowboys to a 25-9 record and an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, the program's first trip to the Big Dance since 2015.
After former conference Freshman of the Year Marcus Williams transferred to Texas A&M before the 2021-22 campaign, Linder moved Maldonado to the point guard position. As the Pokes' floor general, Maldonado dished out a career-best 207 helpers. He now has a school record 513 assists on his resume.
Maldonado, along with forward Graham Ike, accounted for nearly 40 points per game a season ago.
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Fellow senior Hunter Thompson announced in late March that he will also return to campus for a sixth season. Drake Jeffries, who averaged 10.3 points per game last season, is the lone player with remaining eligibility to forgo his final season and pursue a professional career.
Linder added a pair of USC transfers, Max Agbonkpolo and Ethan Anderson, and inked former UCLA Bruin Jake Kyman this offseason. Cheyenne's Nathaniel Talich will also be a preferred walk-on this fall.
So, what will the offensive game plan look like this year with Maldonado likely sliding back to the small forward spot?
"Last year, we were so dependent on Hunter Maldonado and Graham Ike in terms of playing through those two guys," Linder told Isabel Gonzalez of CBS Sports. "There wasn't a team in the history of college basketball -- or at least in the Synergy era -- the last 25 years, statistically, that played through the post as much as we did. Which, for me, is something that my teams in the past have not necessarily been. With those two guys being back, we're going to still play to their strengths but I think we will be able to play at a little faster pace, we're going to play a little bit more open. (We will) Be able to play a little bit more like my teams have played in the past, just from a ball-screen standpoint and just playing in space, which I think will be good for Hunter and Graham because it takes some of the pressure off them in terms of them having to make plays for themselves or plays for others.
"There will be more balance ... I think that's what you're going to see this year."
With the addition of incoming freshman Caden Powell, the Cowboys now have filled their official allotment of 13 scholarships.