UMW News BureauThe University of Montana Western Bulldogs men’s basketball team opens the 2011-12 season at home with two games against the University of Lethbridge on Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Straugh Gymnasium on the Montana Western campus. By Lowell Peterson The University of Montana Western Bulldogs men’s basketball team opens the 2011-12 season at home with two games against the University of Lethbridge on Friday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. in the Straugh Gymnasium on the Montana Western campus. The Bulldogs have high hopes for another successful season as they return several key players from last year’s team and will have the services of some tough and hungry redshirts eager to see action. Montana Western also added some talented new recruits who will make an immediate impact on the court. Outside shooter Jared Smithson and all-conference first team guard Cody Thueringer both graduated and will not play this year, but the Bulldogs will return four seniors who saw action as starters last year, led by 5’10 point guard Brandon Brown. Brown, from Tacoma, Wash., led the conference in scoring (20.2 ppg) and assists (4.8 apg). He was the Frontier Conference MVP and earned honors as an NAIA first team All-American. Tyler Hurley, a 6’5 second team all-conference selection, averaged 12 points and 5.4 rebounds last season while Kyle Perry, a 6’9 post player, averaged 7.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Perry also led the conference in blocked shots with 47. Kyle Erickson also returns with his all-out-hustle style of play. The 6’4 Erickson played both guard and post, averaging 6.1 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. JC Isakson (6’1 Jr.), Levi Simon (6’0 Soph.), Gabe Rucker (6-1 Soph.) and Bridger Chambers (6’6 Sr.) return after playing some key minutes for the Bulldogs last year. Redshirts Tyler Miller (6’5 Soph.), Jordan Overstreet (6’2 Fr.) and Austin Mailey (6’0 Fr.) are eager to contribute after spending a season improving their games. Vince Turk a 6’8 post player will be eligible in the second semester and will add additional size to the frontcourt. Grant Fink, a 6’8 talented post player, missed last season with a torn ACL. Fink reinjured the same knee again the first day of practice and appears lost for yet another season. Montana Western signed three talented players who should have an immediate impact on the team. Cedric Clarington, a 6’3 junior guard from Bellevue Community College, averaged 14.8 points per game last season and will vie for playing time at the one and two guard spots. Jake Owsley, a 6’8 post from Bozeman, Mont., played last year at North Idaho College and Jacob Proctor, a 6’6 post from Spokane, Wash., transferred to UMW from Whitworth College. Their athleticism and skills will provide help at both ends of the court and give the Bulldogs much improved depth at the four and five positions. Two other freshman signees, 6’4 Zach Smith from Monroe, Wash. and 6’2 Dane Stiles from Malta, Mont., will redshirt this year for Montana Western. Also redshirting will be athletic 6’2 sophomore Kris Castro, who had an excellent year last season with the Bulldog junior varsity team. Montana Western has a challenging nonconference schedule and one of the highlight games will be a rematch against Robert Morris University at Rocky Mountain College in Billings, Mont. on Fri., Nov. 11. The Bulldogs lost to the number-one-ranked Eagles in the opening round of the N.A.I.A. national tournament last year, 77-76.