College basketball • Point guard left a huge void when he departed for NBA.
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Weber State lost a huge piece of its basketball program when Damian Lillard left for the NBA last spring.
Lillard's points can probably be replaced, even if spread around a number of players. But other parts of Lillard's game will be a bit more difficult to replace.
"The biggest thing is taking a leadership role," Rahe said Thursday. "We lost a lot of leadership."
And not just with Lillard. Kyle Bullinger and Darin Mahoney graduated and, with Lillard, take 343 combined games with them. Weber State opens the 2012-13 season at home Nov. 9 against Arizona Christian before a three-game road stretch that includes games at San Jose State, Utah State and Dayton.
Weber State, 25-7 last season with a second-place finish in the Big Sky Conference, has once again been picked by coaches and media to finish runner-up to Montana.
Rahe isn't buying those predictions just yet, especially following Wednesday's annual Purple and White scrimmage. Junior college transfer Davion Berry scored a game-high 18 points from the wing, including a sparkling 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.
Senior wing Scott Bamforth, one player expected to take a leadership role, scored 15.
"We're not very good yet," Rahe said. "But it's a good group. By conference time, I think we can be competitive. It will be a process."
Berry, Bamforth, center Kyle Tresnak and forward Byron Fulton will provide points. They also may have a role in developing new leadership.
The third part of Lillard's game Rahe must replace is the skills needed to play point guard. Junior Jordan Richardson has been inconsistent in his time at the position. Sophomore Gelaun Wheelwright, who was starting at the shooting guard at season's end, is also learning the point.
"It takes time to get comfortable," Rahe said. "We have to get some guys to step up."
By the end of the conference schedule, Rahe wants WSU to be one of the seven teams competing in the Big Sky Tournament. With the additions of North Dakota and Southern Utah, 11 teams will play in a true round-robin season format, with each playing 20 conference games.
Only the No. 1 seed will have a bye into the semifinals of the three-day tournament, held at the site of the regular-season champion. ESPNU will telecast the championship game.
"We're hoping for good balance," Rahe said. "We need to share the load."