T wo Wyoming recruits and returning sophomores were honored with the second annual Heart of a Champion award on Friday night. Star Valley’s Kolter Merritt was named the Trapper men’s …
Two Wyoming recruits and returning sophomores were honored with the second annual Heart of a Champion award on Friday night. Star Valley’s Kolter Merritt was named the Trapper men’s winner and Pinedale’s Roxanne Rogers was named the women’s winner.
The Heart of a Champion award is awarded to one athlete on both the Northwest College basketball teams, denoting the toughest, hardest working athlete in honor of former coach Jay Collins who passed away suddenly in July 2022.
SETTING THE TONE
Both athletes had familiarity with Collins prior to his passing, as Merritt is the final remaining Trapper who was rostered under Collins during his redshirt freshman year, and Rogers became acquainted with Collins through spending time in Cabre Gym prior to her freshman year last season.
“It’s really special to me because I knew coach Collins that summer going into my freshman year, and his wife Sheila is a very important person to me,” Rogers said. “She was tremendous my freshman year. She’s an incredible person and for me, that’s a huge honor because I know how important he was to Northwest and Powell.”
Rogers is the lone returning starter from the Trappers last season and one of three returning sophomores, and has continued to set a strong tone in games and practice.
“I know what is about to happen,” Rogers said. “Going out there and being confident, showing them that they can do this too — I think that’s super important because they jive off my energy.”
Rogers currently is averaging 20.8 points per game over the first eight games of the season, while improving on her efficiency from last season early in her sophomore campaign.
Merritt is in his third year at Northwest, and was one of the recipients of the inaugural award last year while also being the first to receive the Jay Collins Memorial Scholarship.
“It’s such an honor,” Merritt said. “Working my tail off, I got to know coach Collins for a short time, but he’s the one who introduced me to all this and I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Merritt took a redshirt year two years ago, and continues to set the tone for the Trappers hustling every play whether in practice or in a game.
“I try to show all the kids to work hard,” Merritt said. “You can’t just walk into this half-heartedly. Do your best, do what you can control which is hustle, go get a rebound and play tough. That’s all you can ask for and I’m showing them that’s what coach Collins would want.”
Despite being listed in a tie for the third shortest player on the team at 6 feet, 1 inch, Merritt leads the Trappers at a clip of 9.1 rebounds a game — 4.7 ahead of the next most on the team — while also being the second leading scorer at 12.9 points.
EARLY SEASON OUTLOOK
Starting out the 2023-24 season both teams have had different starts, as the Trapper women sit with a 5-3 start and will look to improve on a strong start.
“There are still things we have to work on everyday, but this group of girls is fantastic,” Rogers said. “They work hard.”
While the men have had difficulty finding a winning formula early on, recording just one victory, they are hoping for brighter days ahead.
“We have a really young team this year,” Merritt said. “We have had a lot of adversity this year, but I feel like we have come together as a team and we are good when we are firing on all cylinders.”