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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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The Rocky Mountain Collegian

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Men’s basketball begins quest back to NCAA tournament

Collegian | Avery Coates
Isaiah Stevens (4), a Colorado State University point guard, warms up before the men’s basketball scrimmage Oct. 14. The men’s basketball season starts Nov. 6 against Louisiana Tech.

Rams basketball is back, and with a new season comes new hope. For the Rams, the hope lies in the hands of Mountain West Preseason Player of the Year: Isaiah Stevens

Stevens is coming off the best statistical season of his career, averaging 17.9 points per game and ranking fourth in the nation in assists per game at 6.7.


Entering his fifth year ranked 46th in the NCAA top 100 players, Stevens’ confidence is skyrocketing as he looks to monopolize the Mountain West and lead the Rams to a bounce-back season.

“The main thing is to be present in the moment,” Stevens said. “We have a lot of good new pieces as well as some really good returners. A lot of us are ready to compete with a chip on our shoulder but also understanding that it’s only one game at a time. You can’t fast forward to March and try to hurry up and get there, so you have to do the work now in each and every step of the way.”

Sparking team dynamics and adding versatility to the roster, Ram Country welcomes a new batch of talent with key transfers and incoming first-years heading into the 2023-24 season. 

Former Division II Conference Commissioners Association National Player of the Year Joel Scott will suit up for the Rams after finishing out his previous year dominating as a forward at Black Hills State University. The Colorado native from Monument, Colorado, is finally returning home to play with the Rams for his last year of eligibility. 

“I played a lot of collegiate basketball games, and I know it’s a different level, but it’s still basketball at the end of the day,” Scott said. “Bring a little bit of toughness, a little bit of grit and hopefully some leadership too coming up here being an older guy.”

Coloradans seem to always find their way back home, including Colorado Springs natives Javonte Johnson and Nique Clifford, who both add height and versatility to the new roster.

These two transfers go way back to elementary school. Johnson spent his previous three years at New Mexico, and his 6-foot-6-inch build will add a critical role in 3-point shooting for this team. 

Also a 6-foot-6-inch guard, Clifford adds value with his playmaking ability after spending three years at Colorado averaging 5.4 points per game, 3.6 assists and a 33.8% 3-point shooting percentage. 

The Rams are also fortunate enough to bring in quality first-year players with impressive resumes — former Missouri Gatorade Player of the Year Kyan Evans and Austrian Rashaan Mbemba


Mbemba previously played basketball in the Austrian league for SKN St. Pölten before coming to CSU.

“I’m actually playing against people that are my age because I played in a pro league, so I always had to face up against people who are like 30 to 32, people who came out of college,” Mbemba said. “So now I’m kind of like new to the game, but for me, it’s like I’m a freshman in U.S. basketball style, so that’s a big difference for me.”

Mbemba’s power and authority in the paint will allow the Rams to gain traction for this season and in the future, especially with his professional basketball experience.

Despite the excitement from the first-years and transfers, the Rams have multiple returning stars who will continue their dominance on the court and help lead this squad to a successful season.

Coach Niko Medved and the Rams finished with a 15-18 record last season, but with the recruitment this offseason, there is an opportunity for the Rams to bounce back stronger.

“First thing is to get ready for Louisiana Tech — put together a game plan and go out there and play together and play tough-minded,” Medved said. “Whatever the result is, you accept it. If you win, you celebrate for a day, then you move on to the next one. If it doesn’t go your way, it stinks, you go home and learn from it and find a way to get better.”

Reach Luke Hojnowski at or on Twitter @lukehojo.

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