Cowboys open hoop drills; Rottinghaus, Boswell sit out

Updated: October 18, 2003, 7:08 PM ET

LARAMIE, Wyo. -- The Wyoming Cowboys, sporting seven new players, opened practice Saturday and sixth-year coach Steve McClain liked what he saw.

"We've got a lot of new faces out here and they've got to get used to playing together and get used to each other," McClain said. "But I liked their enthusiasm, I liked their attitude. It made me feel good for the first day."

Several hundred fans scattered throughout Arena-Auditorium occasionally cheered and applauded good plays.

Two players sat out with injuries: 6-foot-5 senior guard-forward David Rottinghaus (stress fracture in leg) and 7-foot freshman center Jarrod Boswell (knee).

There was not much scrimmaging, mainly fast-break drills and lots of defensive work.

"We've got to be a better defensive team than we were last year," McClain said. "We're going to be able to score enough points to win games. We're going to have to be a very solid team-defensive group and I think with the athletes we have on the wing, the depth we have on the wing, we can do that."

McClain admitted it was a much different atmosphere without veteran stars Uche Nsonwu and Marc Bailey, seniors on last year's 21-11 team.

"For four years I've walked out here and seen Uche and Marc Bailey and so you kind of walk out today and you say, they really aren't here," the coach said.

Among the newcomers who impressed was 6-foot-4 junior guard Dion Sherrell, a Detroit, Mich., product who transferred from Schoolcraft Community College.

"I like Dion Sherrell," McClain said. "I think he has really worked hard and he's just gotten better every day. Then Mikel Watson -- the freshman -- for his first day out here in a first true college practice, he handles himself with great maturity."

Jay Straight, a 5-11 junior point guard who was honorable mention All-Mountain West last year, said he feels this is his team to lead.

"I think so," he said. "I'm a three-year starter. I played in an NCAA Tournament. I've got a little bit of veteran in me. I've got a little bit of leadership. Just watching Marcus and Uche do what they did ... It's easy for me to step up and become a leader now."

Straight said the many new faces slowed practice somewhat, but added, "Everybody's excited and the good part about it is we're all full of energy. ... We're all excited to go, especially after seeing the predictions (fifth in the MWC). Everybody kind of has a chip on their shoulders. We're excited about getting going."

Tim Henry, a 22-year-old, 6-foot-5 sophomore guard-forward from Orem, Utah, who transferred from Salt Lake Community College, said he was relieved the first practice was over.

"Just to get the jitters out," he said. "It was a lot different than I expected, a lot better than anything I ever experienced in a practice."

Rottinghaus, who suited up but just shot around, is expected to miss the exhibitions Nov. 1 and Nov. 8 against EA Sports but hopes to be ready for the season opener Nov. 22 against Southern Illinois.

"I've been on crutches seven weeks, got off yesterday," he said. "I feel good. I started rehabbing it more and more every day. It's a little sore, but I'll get through that."

He suffered the same type of injury -- a stress fracture of the tibia just below the knee -- to his right leg in the spring. The latest injury, to his left leg, occurred in September. He said it could be attributed to the way he lands after he jumps, but doctors aren't sure.

Boswell, from Lakeside, Calif., hurt his knee falling down some stairs a few weeks ago and will undergo surgery this week.

"He could be out two weeks or the season," McClain said.

Returning starters are Straight (10.5 points, 2.7 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 34.6 percent of 3-pointers); Rottinghaus (6 points, 2.6 rebounds); and Joe Ries, a 6-foot-8 senior forward (7 points, 4.2 rebounds).

Other returnees include 6-2 senior guard David Adams; 6-10 junior forward-center Alex Dunn; 6-9 senior forward Mory Correa; 6-8 senior forward-center Omoniyi Makun; and 6-11 senior center Ryan Wildenborg.

Newcomers include three freshmen: Boswell, from Lakeside, Calif.; Watson, a 6-2 guard from Oceanside, Calif.; and Josh Dees, a walk-on from Georgia and son of former Wyoming coach Benny Dees.

Four junior college transfers round out the rookies: Sherrell; Henry; Jerry Webb, a 6-5 junior guard from Sheridan College who was an academic casualty last season; and 6-5 guard Steve Leven of Airds, New South Wales, Australia.

Leven can practice but can't play for one season after transferring from Texas.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index