Which Wyoming hoopster wore it best? No. 24
LARAMIE -- Do you ever see a number on a Wyoming basketball jersey and think of all the great players to wear it?
Yeah, me too.
In this summer series, I’ll give you my take on which Pokes’ hoopster was the best ever to don each number. The criteria are simple: How did he perform at UW? What kind of impact did he have on the program?
No. 24 - HUNTER MALDONADO
Guard, 2017-23, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Résumé in Laramie
* 128 games played at UW
* 13.3 points per game
* UW's all-time leader in assists (513)
* One of only three players in UW history with a triple-double
* One of only 38 players to score 1,000 points in UW history
* One of only 15 players to score 1,500 points in UW history
* NCAA Tournament appearance (2021-22)
* First Team All-Mountain West selection (2021-22)
* Honorable mention All-Mountain West (2020-21)
* Honorable mention All-Mountain West (2019-20)
Hunter Maldonado dipped his toes in the NBA waters this offseason.
He was told his outside shooting needs improvement. He will get a chance to do that for a sixth season in Laramie this fall.
Even if the soft-spoken leader from Colorado Springs would've left for the pros, he will go down as one of the best -- and arguably more underappreciated -- players in Wyoming basketball history.
Maldonado's career quietly started with a 20-win season. The next two -- though he averaged nearly 15 points per game -- didn't result in 20 victories total. Wyoming basketball had slipped to depths (single-digit win total) not seen since the Cowboys won just four games during the 1973-74 campaign.
Despite playing in only eight games in 2018 after suffering a debilitating back injury, Maldonado plugged on. With little fanfare and the losses mounting, No. 24 showed up to work night in and night out and it typically resulted in a double-figure outing.
After the 2019-20 season, head coach Allen Edwards was relieved of his duties. That left Maldonado with another major decision -- should he return to Laramie or see if the grass was greener elsewhere?
Before the ink was dry on Jeff Linder's new contract, he was in Maldonado's living room sharing a vision for the future. One that included winning -- him being the main reason why.
Maldonado bought in, returned to UW and averaged 12.5 points per outing in a COVID-19 shortened season. Last winter, Maldonado, along with 6-foot-9 forward Graham Ike, became the focal point of Linder's offense.
That combo -- along with a plethora of role players -- helped lead the Cowboys to their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2015.
At times, it was nearly unstoppable.
Consider Colorado State head coach Niko Medved an admirer.
"He's a terrific player," Medved said after Maldonado netted a career-high 35 points and dished out seven assists in an 84-78 overtime victory over the Rams last January. "I mean, he's a better passer than he is a scorer, in my opinion. He's a really good player. So, I mean ultimately, you start bringing all the help and he's like a passing station. He's kicking it out and finding shooters like he did at the end of the game."
The 6-foot-7 Maldonado netted a career-high 18.5 points per outing. He pitched in with 6.3 helpers and 5.7 boards a night. He was the only player in the nation to average that many points and rebounds per game. That production earned him First Team All-Mountain West honors.
Maldonado, who served as the Pokes' point guard in 2021-22, dished out 207 assists. Late in the regular season, he became the all-time leader in UW history in that category, surpassing Sean Dent's 502 helpers. Maldonado now has 513. That number could become unbreakable if the super senior decides to return this season.
"It's pretty exciting to see," Dent said back in March. "Hunter is such a good guy, too, and he's been through a lot."
Twalure "Turk" Boyd (1984-88) averaged 5.9 points per game during his four-year career in Laramie.
More impressively, Boyd was a guard on a 1985-86 squad that played for an NIT Championship inside Madison Square Garden. He followed that up with a trip to the Sweet 16 after upset wins over Virginia and No. 15 UCLA the following season.
The Cowboys again reached the Big Dance during the 1987-88 campaign.
Sure, Fennis Dembo and Eric Leckner stole the headlines, but Boyd's athletic ability is still stuff of legend on the high plains.
Boyd is still ranked fifth all-time in games played at UW at 129.
Who else wore No. 24
Harold Whitefoot (50's), Terry Happel (50's), Curtis Jimerson (60's), Jack Carr (60's), Doug Nelson (60's), Tom Asbury (60's), Bill Lazzeri (60's), Franklyn Irvin (70's), Ron Crowell (70's), Jettie Rice (70's), Lonnie Buckner (70's), Rob Garrelts (70's), Wayne Irving (80's), David Ortiz (80's), Travis Butler (80's, 90's), Paris Corner (00's), Chris McMillian (00's), Mikel Watson (00's), Parker Emerson (00's), Marios Matalon (00's), Tyrone Marshall (10's), Louis Adams (10's)
Look who wore the No. 23 best right HERE.
Check out our "Who Wore it Best" football series right HERE.
* All available rosters provided by the University of Wyoming Athletics Department. If we missed a player who wore this number, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
* A number of players wore different jersey numbers during their careers. From the 1930's through the 50's, players were issued a home and an away jersey.