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Western Michigan pins hopes on Wilder, youth infusion

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Last season, Thomas Wilder had a season to build on.

But after averaging 18 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists to earn second-team all-Mid-American Conference honors, Wilder wants more.

The individual accolades are nice, but team goals are more important.

“I just want to win the MAC championship, that’s the only goal,” said Wilder, a 6-foot-3 point guard for Western Michigan. “I’m coming into the season with a lot of confidence after last season. I feel my strength is how I can get into the lane and have the ability to create for my teammates or myself.

“We have a lot of young guys this year and I feel our strength is our athleticism and depth.”

Western Michigan, which won the MAC title three years ago, isn’t expected to contend for the West title, but could be the surprise team if Wilder has another big season and it gets strong production from 6-6 senior Tucker Haymond (15.9 points, 5.8 rebounds) and 7-foot sophomore Seth Dugan.

Dugan averaged 4.8 points and 4.1 rebounds as the backup to junior Drake LaMont.

Wilder, though, also is encouraged by a freshman class that includes guard Jarrin Randall and forward Brandon Johnson, who gained experience during a 10-day European trip in August.

“I think Tucker just has to be himself, play his game and lead like he has the past few years,” Wilder said. “He wants to play well and win and I’m sure he’ll play well.

“Josh is playing with a lot more confidence. He had injuries last year which held him back. He’s been having a better grasp of our defensive schemes and where he’s supposed to be offensively as well.”

Western Michigan opens the season at home against Marygrove on Friday before heading to Oakland on Monday. Next week, it plays in the Charleston Classic, taking on Villanova to open the three-game tournament.

Breaking down the Broncos

Coach: Steve Hawkins, 14th season (237-188, 130-91 MAC)

2015-16: 13-19 (7-11)

Returning: G Thomas Wilder (18 points, 39 percent 3-pointers), F Tucker Haymond (15.9 points, 5.8 rebounds), C Seth Dugan (4.8 points, 4.1 rebounds)

Can’t have a bad season — Wilder: The team’s leader, top scorer and point guard.

Must have a good season — Haymond: He has to be a consistent scorer and rebounder.

Surprise — Dugan: The sophomore had multiple Power Five offers and showed his potential, nearly averaging a double-double.

They win the MAC if ... : They get big play out of Dugan and 6-8 freshman F Brandon Johnson.

They lose the MAC if ... : They don’t get the same production out of Wilder and Dugan fails to take the next step.

Toughest game: Villanova (defending champion), Nov. 17 Charleston Classic

Don’t overlook: at UCLA, Dec. 21