CSU mens basketball senior night has a lot to live up to

Top row left to right: Colton Iverson (45), Greg Smith (44), middle row: Pierce Hornung (4), bottom row: Dorian Green (22), and Wes Elkmeier (10) near the end of their CSU basketball career as they will be graduating by the end of the school year. The senior Rams prepare for their upcoming games in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Championship.
Top row left to right: Colton Iverson (45), Greg Smith (44), middle row: Pierce Hornung (4), bottom row: Dorian Green (22), and Wes Elkmeier (10) near the end of their CSU basketball career as they will be graduating by the end of the school year. The senior Rams prepare for their upcoming games in Las Vegas for the Mountain West Championship.

During the 2008-09 season, when then-CSU coach Tim Miles recruited four of the Rams’ current starters, he couldn’t have predicted the success they would have this year. The CSU mens basketball senior night has a lot to live up to.

Seniors Dorian Green, Wes Eikmeier, Greg Smith and Pierce Hornung, with the addition of fellow senior Colton Iverson, who joined the team last year, have led the CSU to unprecedented success.

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Under the leadership of current coach Larry Eustachy, the Rams have tied a program-record this year with 23 wins and have positioned themselves as one of the top teams in the Mountain West ahead of their season finale against Nevada on Saturday.

“I’m very impressed with them,” Miles, who is now the head coach at Nebraska, said. “I knew this was gonna be a heck of a team and coach Eustachy I think has elevated their play to such a high level that I think the sky’s the limit for those guys.”

The Rams have succeeded thanks to a group of five seniors that say their biggest strength is how they interact both on and off the court.

Experience and chemistry is the reason the undersized Hornung can rank second in the nation with 4.26 offensive rebounds per game.

It’s the reason why with time running down against San Diego State in February, Green could find an open three pointer to give the Rams the lead. No matter what the situation is, the Rams make each other better.

“As individuals, we’re probably not as strong, but together we’ve played a lot of basketball,” Eikmeier said. “So the experience and familiarity is a big part of our success.

That chemistry is something that Rams have always had and have built upon the last four years.

“That’s what really sold me when I came here on a visit, I saw how close the guys are and it’s been that way every single year,” Hornung said.

“We have a family environment here and the relationships that you build here over the years, it’s something that can’t be replaced and I think we’re all gonna miss that.”

Hornung, Smith and Green formed their friendships early on as they roomed together at different times during their freshman year and have experienced the successes and failures of the program the last four years.

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“It’s a unique ride that we’ve had being that we started, we weren’t very good and now we’re one of the top teams in the Mountain West,” Smith said.

The three roommates each started his career as a Ram in 2009, with Eikmeier transferring to the team from Iowa State a year later, but the final member of the CSU starting five, senior center Colton Iverson, took a different route.

Iverson started his career at the University of Minnesota, but after not seeing starter minutes in his junior season, he decided to transfer to CSU to play out his senior season. It’s worked out well for the Rams, as Iverson leads the team with 14.4 points and 9.7 rebounds per game.

“I wish I could’ve had my whole career at CSU,” Iverson said. “The two years that I’ve been here, it’s been awesome, incredible. We’ve got great fans, coach Eustachy coming in, taking us over has really been a blessing and the guys on the team have great character. I’m really just truly blessed to be here right now.”

After Saturday night, when all the senior night festivities are over and the Rams finish their regular season slate against Nevada, the feeling of walking into a packed Moby Arena will exist only in their memories.

But the relationships that each senior has built with one another will last much longer than that.

“These are friendships that will last a lifetime,” Hornung said. “That’s what’s so special about this program, when anybody comes on a visit here they see these here are close guys that really care about each other and are gonna work hard for each other.”

Assistant Sports Editor Andrew Schaller can be reached at sports@collegian.com.