Dave Walsh: One Thing’s For Sure When Cowboys Basketball Goes International – It’s Hot!

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By Dave Walsh, columnist

The schedules are coming out for all Wyoming teams that will begin play next month, and I couldn’t help but take particular interest in the UW Men’s hoops schedule. 

It’s been a couple of years since my last Cowboys basketball broadcast, but I couldn’t help but notice that we now know where and when the Wyoming Cowboys basketball team will be playing this season. 

I just get a big kick out of that moment when we learn the when and wheres, that moment when the schedules – the full schedules – are announced. It’s just a lot of fun to take note of the nonconference opponents on the schedule and where the Cowboys will play them. 

This year’s slate includes plenty of quality opponents, and the Pokes will play just as many of those nonconference games away from the Arena-Auditorium as they will in it.

The Cowboys will play six non-league games in Laramie, the other six will be neutral-site contests. They’ll play in Salt Lake City, in Chicago and in Phoenix. But before those games against Santa Clara, Dayton and Saint Mary’s, the Cowboys will play three games at the Paradise Jam. After starting the season with three games at home, the Pokes will participate in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas.

Yes, that St. Thomas! As in St. Thomas, the United States Virgin Islands!

The Cowboys will get tropical and play Howard, Drake and Buffalo in St. Thomas.

And it’s a rare appearance for a Cowboys basketball team outside the United States. I know this is the U.S. Virgin Islands, so let’s just say it’s a rare appearance to anywhere other than a U.S. state.

It’s only happened a few times, and I remember two of the most recent international roadies for Cowboys basketball. It was just a handful of seasons ago in November 2017, when Wyoming played in the Cayman Islands. That Caribbean locale played host to two Wyoming victories – over South Dakota and Louisiana. A very young Hunter Maldonado played in those two games.

And I was honored to travel with the Cowboys in November of 2010 when they played in the Cancun Challenge. This was one of the – if not THE – first times that Cowboys basketball had ever played abroad.

It was late November 12 seasons ago when the Pokes left the chilly, darn-near frigid temperatures of Laramie, Wyoming, and began a very interesting journey to Playa Del Carmen. It was in the high-80s when the Cowboys arrived in Mexico, and for every minute they were in Mexico. It’s not a dry heat, oh no, it was dripping wet. The air was thick with damp, hot humidity.

The Cowboys did not fare well in this pre-conference gathering. Wyoming would lose to Missouri the first night. And in a tight one, the Pokes were beaten by Providence the second night.

The games were played in a small, steel-built, storage-type structure. The basketball floor, a wooden surface, was brought in and put in the middle of the room. And there was grandstand seating on two sides. It was a very open-air atmosphere with two open ends that were only partially closed off during the games.

So … it was hot!

And I don’t mean it was just uncomfortably warm. It was flat-out flop sweat hot!

One of the other things I remember about that trip to Mexico was the security. From the moment we got off the airplane in Cancun to the moment we climbed aboard to leave days later we were accompanied by armed guards. Heavily armed guards. Dressed in full-camouflage military gear, helmeted and armed with automatic rifles. 

But just like at most other venues the Cowboys visit, we were all treated very well. We stayed at a wonderful resort and the service was great. We never left the resort, we weren’t allowed to, but we didn’t need to.

The basketball court was right there in the middle of the resort. It was a short walk to anywhere you needed to go.

This Wyoming team was led by top scorers Desmar Jackson and Amath M’Baye. Wyoming native Adam Waddell was early in his Cowboy career. Afam Muojeke and Francisco “Paco” Cruz were two other young players on the squad who, along with Waddell, would find a great deal of future success with the Cowboys.

It was quite the experience, an interesting and unique little roadie, the first time Cowboys basketball went international.

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