Nield working on bringing Wolverines together during summer workouts
Utah Valley senior guard Blaze Nield thinks the term “offseason” is a misnomer.
“We’ve been busy, for sure,” the former Lehi High standout said. “There hasn’t been much of an offseason for us. At the end of the season we immediately started workout out with weight training and on the court.”
There’s a lot of work to do for the Wolverines, which finished 20-12 in 2021-22. The season ended on March 9 with a second-round Western Athletic Conference Tournament loss to Abilene Christian.
The biggest job ahead for UVU is replacing 6-foot-11 center Fardaws Aimaq. At the end of April, Aimaq decided to take his talents (18.9 points, 13.6 rebounds per game) to Texas Tech.
Summer workouts for NCAA teams include eight weeks of eight hours per week, with four hours in the weight room and four hours on the court. Right now, UVU is adjusting to losing their big man in the middle.
“It’s the just the way we run things,” Nield said. “I feel like we’re going to spread the floor more and that will give us different ways of attacking the defense. It will make us a little more unpredictable on offense. It’s been good for us to work on figuring out a way to get by without Fardaws. It’s going to give us a different dynamic and we can play to some different strengths.”
Nield started all 32 games at point guard last season, leading the team with 124 assists and 26 steals while averaging 6.9 points per game.
“At first, I was really working on my body this summer,” Nield said. “I wanted to get healthy recovering from the long season. Now I’m focusing on playmaking and different reads on the pick and roll. I’m working on my offensive game: Shooting, scoring, ball handling. Its the same old skill work but I’m trying to take it to another level.”
It’s Nield’s last season of eligibility but he plans on graduating this summer with a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish.
Second leading scorer Justin Harmon (10.9 points per game), who missed 11 games due to injury, will return. Guard Trey Woodbury, who averaged 15.6 points per game two seasons ago, played in just two games last year due to a knee injury but he’s rounding into shape this summer.
“Trey has been back and working out,” UVU coach Mark Madsen said. “He may not be at 100 percent yet but he’s almost there. He should be ready by the time the season starts.”
Madsen also said junior guard Le’Tre Darthard, who made 36% of his 3-pointers last season, is back and “shooting the leather off the ball” in summer workouts.
Madsen was most recently recruiting at the NBA Global Games in Atlanta. He’s already brought some key transfers to Orem, including 7-foot Akron center Aziz Bandaogo, John A. Logan College swingman Cam Alford and Tarleton guard Tahj Small.
“Aziz is a great defensive player with a strong offensive game,” Madsen said. “He can also stretch out to the mid-range with a great jump hook. He plays hard. Cam had a 30-point game as a freshman in junior college. He’s an explosive scorer who can really help us.”
One of the summer team-building activities was a home run hitting contest. Nield admitted the Wolverines struggled against the one of the school’s softball pitchers.
“After she left we hit a few,” Nield said. “The coaching staff hit more home runs than the players did. But we’re spending more time together and getting used to each other to focus on our sense of unity. We want to share the ball and play for each other. I think the coaches expect me to be a leader and make sure we’re all headed in the same direction.
“Our expectations are high,” Nield continued. “This is my last season and I want to go out there and give it my all. We’re looking to compete for a conference championship, win the conference tournament and make it to March Madness. We’re working hard to come together while adding the new pieces. We’re game planning on how to attack other teams. We just need to listen to our coaches and execute the game plan.”