Coach Denny Huston is beginning to feel like it's really his basketball team out there practicing this season.

It's his third season as coach at Weber State, but, he says, "We've been here for two seasons and had two completely different teams to work with in each. This year the hammer is really on us. Our recruiting effort over the past two seasons now begins to show itself."The Wildcats, who opened practice at 9 p.m. Sunday, have four returning starters and two other players who saw considerable action last season, when a young Weber was 14-15. The Wildcats were 17-11 in Huston's first year, when he took over a team built by former coach Larry Farmer.

"Our first year," says Huston, "it was a veteran team which had to get used to a new coaching staff and philosophy. Last year, it was a veteran coaching staff getting used to a completely new set of faces.

This year's prize is 6-foot-5 freshman forward Jim DeGraffenried, the top Utah prep scorer last season.

The returning starters are senior forward Aaron Bell (11.5 points per game to lead the team), forward/center and three-year letterman Anthony McGowan (11.3), senior guard Tony Nicholas and senior forward/center Jerry McIntosh. Senior center Mike Pomeroy and senior center/forward Chris Metke also return after productive, if not starting, seasons.

Junior Jason Joe will apparently take over point guard from a graduated Mike Ostlund, although freshman Robbie Johnson is expected to push for the spot. Redshirts Al Hamilton, a sophomore forward, and Elroy Miller, a freshman guard, and Kurt Schwan, freshman forward, join the club this season.

Dave Baldwin, junior forward, is Huston's only junior-college transfer this season, although sophomore forward Olaf Schnindler brings international experience from playing on club and junior national teams in Germany.

Weber's practice game is Thursday, Nov. 8. The season opens Nov. 16-17 with Weber's new tournament with University of Winnipeg, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and a team from Belgium.