The Sun Bowl Association and WestStar Bank are pleased to announce the teams coming to El Paso for the 57th Annual WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational, which will be held in the Don Haskins Center, Friday and Saturday, December 21-22.
The four-team tournament includes two top-100 (RPI) teams and a former UTEP-conference rival from the Western Athletic Conference. Wyoming returns to El Paso for the holiday tournament and joins East Tennessee State, Norfolk State and home team, UTEP on the hardwood.
“We appreciate all the hard work that the Sun Bowl committee puts into hosting this tournament, and finding quality opponents to compete in it year in and year out,” said UTEP Head Coach Rodney Terry.
East Tennessee State is making its first appearance in the oldest collegiate holiday basketball tournament in the nation, while Wyoming is making its second appearance. The first time the Cowboys played in the WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational was in 2007, going 1-1 that year.
This is Norfolk State’s third appearance in the Invitational after making it to the championship game in 2015. The Miners have played in every tournament since it began in 1961.
“We are thrilled about this year’s field. We are hoping to continue our plan of bringing in the best teams we can find,” Sun Bowl basketball committee chairman Barry Kobren said.
“East Tennessee posted an RPI of 92 and Wyoming finished with an RPI of 98 last year. With the addition of new UTEP head coach Rodney Terry and some great recruits coming to El Paso, this looks to be a very competitive tournament once again.”
The North Dakota State Bison defeated the UTEP Miners 63-51 in the championship game of the 2017 WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational to take home the hardware on Friday, December 22, 2017 in the Don Haskins Center. NDSU used a 19-2 scoring run during the final seven and a half minutes of the game to secure the victory.
Guard Paul Smith, who was awarded the Barry Kobren Most Valuable Player Trophy, led all players with 19 points. Sophomore guard Tyson Ward, who was named to the all-tournament team, tallied 10 points and 11 rebounds.
“This tournament has become a tradition and the history of teams and players that have come through El Paso is tremendous,” Sun Bowl Association Executive Director Bernie Olivas said. “Our basketball committee, which is led by Barry Kobren, continues to seek out and work towards bringing quality teams to the Don Haskins Center and El Paso.”
In 2009, the tournament was renamed to honor former UTEP head coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Don Haskins. “The Bear” coached at UTEP from 1961 to 1999, winning 719 games and making 14 postseason appearances. Haskins famously led the Miners to victory in the 1966 National Championship game over Adolph Rupp and the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats.
Officials added, “The Sun Bowl Association would like to thank WestStar Bank for supporting the nation’s oldest holiday basketball tournament as it has been the title sponsor for 10 consecutive years.”
ABOUT THE 2018 TEAMS
East Tennessee State
- ETSU head coach Steve Forbes enters his fourth season with the Buccaneers, and has totaled 76 wins and a .724 win percentage in his first three seasons. Forbes holds the 14th highest win percentage among current NCAA Division I head coaches.
- ETSU is a member of the Southern Conference and has made 10 trips to the NCAA Tournament, while totaling 22 conference championships in program history.
- The Buccaneers are coming off a 25-win campaign in 2017-18, including a 16-game win streak, which tied a program record and also stood as the longest win streak in the country at one point during that run. The Blue and Gold also tied a program record with 11 true road wins a year ago.
- ETSU boasts one of the nation’s longest three-point streaks, as the Bucs have made at least one three-pointer in 963 consecutive games, marking the seventh-longest active streak.
Norfolk State Spartans
- Head Coach Robert Jones (Sixth Season)
- NSU finished 14-19 overall last year, 11-5 in the MEAC.
- The Spartans tied for 4th in the league standings in 2017-18, the first time in 7 years they did not finish 3rd or better.
- They have still finished 4th or better in the league in 11 of the last 12 seasons.
- NSU set school records last year for 3-pointers (254) and 3-point field goal % (35.9)
- The Spartans ranked in the top 60 in the nation last year in turnovers forced, rebounds per game and field goal % defense.
- Head coach Robert Jones is 87-82 in his 5 seasons, including 58-22 in MEAC games.
- Played in the 2015 WestStar Bank Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational Championship.
- Head Coach Rodney Terry (First Season)
- UTEP Basketball enters a new era in 2018-19 as Rodney Terry was appointed the 19th head coach in program history on March 12.
- Terry posted four 20-win seasons in the last five years as head coach at Fresno State, leading the Bulldogs to the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
- Joining Terry on the UTEP staff are assistant coaches Lamont Smith, Brian Burton and Nick Matson, and Director of Basketball Operations Mark Gisbertz.
- The Miners return four key players from the 2017-18 season in senior forward Paul Thomas (8.1 ppg/5.4 rpg), junior guard Isiah Osborne (9.4 ppg) and sophomore guards Evan Gilyard (9.1 ppg) and Kobe Magee (4.5 ppg). UTEP also introduces a talented group of incoming freshmen including forward Kaosi Ezeagu, guard Nigel Hawkins and center Efe Odigie.
- Head Coach Allen Edwards (Third Season) has won 20 or more games in his first two seasons as head coach.
- Wyoming is led by First Team All-Mountain West Player Justin James.
- The Pokes will play their first game in El Paso since 2008 when UW played in the Sun Bowl Invitational.
- The Cowboys have hit over 300 three pointers in each of the last three seasons.
- Wyoming has had two of their all-time top three scoring seasons in two seasons under Edwards.
- 2017 Final RPI – 98
- 2017 CBI Champion