Western State team has Steamboat connections | SteamboatToday.com

Western State team has Steamboat connections

Luke Graham

Western State College's men's basketball program has Steamboat Springs' stamp all over it. Head coach Mike Moskowitz was an assistant for the Sailors from 1997 to 2000 under former coach Kelly Meek, who has joined the team as Moskowitz's assistant this year. Former Sailors standout player Cameron Burney transferred to Western State this year and is expected to be a key contributor.

— Preseason polls, years of futility and the extreme cold have done nothing to temper Western State College men’s basketball coach Mike Moskowitz’s expectations.

While the coach won’t say exactly what his expectations are as far as wins, there is certainly slyness in his voice that hints the Mountaineers could be ready for a breakout year.

“I want them to come out, compete every game and become the best team we can be,” said Moskowitz, who was an assistant coach at Steamboat Springs High School from 1997 to 2000. “Wins and losses come as they are. I think we can win some games. I want us to focus toward coming in every day and competing. We think we can be a pretty good team.”

Moskowitz certainly has the opportunity.

Despite a preseason ranking of sixth in the West Division and 13th overall in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, Moskowitz – who took charge of the team last year under an interim basis before having that tag removed at the end of last season – said this year’s team is built to succeed.

The Mountaineers have nine new players Moskowitz brought in. He said when he set out on the recruiting trail, he wanted to recruit players who have experienced success and who are intelligent and team-oriented.

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“We have enough talent to make some noise,” Moskowitz said. “Wins and losses will be about if we can stay healthy. We have enough from our top seven or eight guys that we can compete in the RMAC. If we stay engaged in our coaching : we can do as well here as they have in the last 10 or 15 years.”

All those new faces include a couple of old Steamboat connections.

Former Sailors coach Kelly Meek – Moskowitz’s father-in-law – is serving as an assistant coach, and 2005 SSHS graduate Cameron Burney is playing for Western State.

Moskowitz said it’s good to have someone with the basketball knowledge of Meek, who retired from coaching last year.

“He’s great,” Moskowitz said. “We butt heads every night, and that’s what makes us a good coaching staff. One thing I know is, he does everything for the betterment of the team.”

In Burney, Moskowitz has a player who advanced to the Division II National Championship game last year with Alaska-Anchorage. While Burney was asked to be more of a defender and spot-up shooter in Alaska, the senior’s role will be more of a leader and scorer in Gunnison.

“Our five seniors are our five starters,” said Burney, who scored 18 points in a 70-64 loss to Air Force on Friday. “Common sense is, in the final year of whatever sport, you give it your all. We understand this might be the last time we play.”

With dates still planned at the University of Wyoming and University of Colorado and a tough RMAC schedule, Western State has its work cut out.

But judging from Moskowitz’s tone and Burney’s confidence, big things could be brewing at Western State.

“I don’t think it’s some quiet confidence,” Burney said. “We’re not worried about proving everybody wrong. We just need to go out there and do it.”