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LAS VEGAS — A former Bobcat began Friday living a dream.

Jake Hendricks was playing in the semifinals of the Mountain West Men’s Basketball Championship in the Thomas & Mack Center on the campus of UNLV. The 6-foot-5 guard has been a leader for Wyoming this season and hit some big shots for the 11th-seeded Cowboys on the first two days of the tournament.

Hendricks and Wyoming took on Utah State late Friday night with a berth to the championship on the line. It was an interesting experience for the Smithfield native to go up against the school he grew up watching.

“I know a lot of the guys, so it’s going to be fun,” said Hendricks after the Cowboys beat Nevada, 74-71. “It’s going to mean a lot. We just got to come out and work hard and follow the game plan and see what happens.”

Hendricks played 38-and-a-half minutes against the Wolf Pack, scoring 12 points on four 3-point shots. He also grabbed two rebounds, dished out two assists and came up with three steals in the quarterfinal win. It was the 18th time this season he reached double figures in scoring.

In the first round on Wednesday, Hendricks helped the Cowboys make history in the MW tournament. Never before had the 11th-seeded team won a game. Wyoming beat Colorado State, 80-74. Hendricks played 39 minutes, scoring 16 points, hauling in six rebounds, dishing three dimes and coming up with two steals.

“I think a lot of people would doubt a 2-16 (in league games) team, an 11 seed,” Hendricks said. “We’ve had a lot of close games. … But I would say for the most part we were probably pretty doubted.”

Hendricks is one of just two seniors on the Cowboy team. For the season, he is second on the team in scoring (10.4 points per game) and steals (1.1), and third in rebounding (3.9) and assists (1.2).

His 88 3-pointers of the season is in a class of its own for Wyoming. That is more than double the nearest teammate. Hendricks has started all 32 games this season for the Cowboys and averaged more than 34 minutes an outing

The junior college transfer has made his presence felt in Laramie. Those 88 treys this season is the fourth most in a season in school history and just four away from third and eight off of second. His 155 career 3-pointers in a Cowboy uniform is ninth, three away from eighth. In seven games this season Hendricks has hit five or more 3-pointers.

“My coach and team always tell me to keep shooting,” Hendricks said. “They always give me confidence. And it goes back to all the practice we do.”

On Senior night on Feb. 25, Hendricks went out with a bang. He matched his career high with 27 points, drilling seven shots from beyond the arc. Hendricks scored 27 last season against Denver.

“We’ve been in a lot of close games this year, so even though we have lost, it’s given us confidence that we can play with everybody in the conference. We just haven’t closed out the close games. We made a lot of mistakes. I think down the stretch last night (Wednesday) and tonight (Thursday), we fixed those mistakes, and it’s just given us confidence that we can beat anybody.”

The Cowboys were certainly a hot team the first two days and had plenty of buzz about their run.

Hendricks has been one of the most effective 3-point shooters in the MW. In his first season at Wyoming, he appeared in 23 games with 20 starts, missing part of the season with an injury.

During the 2018-19 campaign, Hendricks averaged 10.8 points per game, with 2.9 3-pointers per game. He knocked down 67 treys for the season, hitting at a 41 percent clip. He also added 2.9 rebounds per game, one assist and steal per game.

Hendricks made his way to Laramie from the College of Southern Idaho. In his second year at CSI, he played in the National Junior College Championship game. He also set the CSI school record in career 3-pointers with 191.

Before playing collegiately, Hendricks starred at Sky View High School. He earned second-team all-state accolades after averaging 16.1 points and 4.2 rebounds his senior year.

Shawn Harrison is the sports editor at The Herald Journal. He can be reached at sharrison@hjnews.com or 435-792-7233.

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