Steamboat Springs It wasn't too long ago that Western State College men's basketball coach Mike Moskowitz wouldn't have wanted Cameron Burney anywhere near his court.
As an assistant for the Mountaineers from 2005 to 2007, Moskowitz didn't want players with the kind of off-the-court issues Burney had.
But as Burney has grown as a person and player, Moskowitz was more than happy to hear the 2005 Steamboat Springs High School graduate was looking to transfer from the University of Alaska-Anchorage, where Burney helped lead the Seawolves to the Division II Final Four, to Western State in Gunnison.
"It's amazing what a couple years can do for a person," Moskowitz said. "He got away from that old crowd and into a new crowd. He discovered who he is. It's like night and day."
Next winter, Burney will join nine other new Mountaineers when the basketball season begins.
Burney, who started 34 of 35 games while averaging 5.5 points per game and shooting 43 percent from the 3-point line at Alaska-Anchorage last year, said the opportunity to wrap up his collegiate career in Colorado and in front of his family was appealing.
It also helped that Moskowitz, a Steamboat assistant coach from 1997 to 2000, reminded Burney a lot of former Sailors coach Kelly Meek, one of the more influential people in Burney's life.
Moskowitz is Meek's son-in-law and said the legendary coach will help him in Gunnison as much as he can this year.
"He's a lot like coach Meek," Burney said of Moskowitz. "He's fiery and a hard worker. He knows the game and has my best interests in mind."
Last year was the best season for Western State since 1998-99. The Mountaineers finished 10-17 overall and 8-11 in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, just one game out of the conference tournament.
Burney, who has been in Gunnison the past two weeks training and playing with some of his new teammates, said he's confident Western will compete in the RMAC. While he wouldn't make any predictions, he said the Mountaineers will no doubt be competitive in every game.
"I'm not going to say right now, but watch out for us," he said. "We'll be pretty tough."
Moskowitz said Burney will be expected to score more - something that brings a smile to Burney's face - and fill a leadership role for Western this year. With Burney being a senior and having played at the top level of Division II basketball, Moskowitz said he expects Burney to help mold the chemistry of a team with 10 new faces.
It will be something new for Burney, who was more of a role player and defensive stopper in Alaska.
"I just want to be a good friend and teammate," Burney said. "I'm not used to being a leader, but I know exactly what it takes."
In addition to Burney, Moskowitz added former Alaska-Anchorage players Allen McFarland, a 6-foot-5-inch guard from Las Vegas, and Clayton Spencer, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from Pagosa Springs.
Other recruits to Western include players from Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Australia and Germany.
"We'll be good enough to compete every game in the RMAC," said Moskowitz, noting the favorites in the conference will again be Metro State College in Denver, University of Nebraska-Kearney and Fort Lewis College in Durango. "My goal is to produce solid people and a byproduct of that is winning."
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