MINERS
First UTEP Basketball Practice Filled With Instruction

John Bohannon fronted Cedrick Lang at Tuesday's practice.


John Bohannon fronted Cedrick Lang at Tuesday's practice.

Oct. 1, 2013

Photo Gallery from UTEP's First Practice

The 2013-14 UTEP basketball season officially got underway on Tuesday with a two-and-a-half hour practice at the Foster Stevens Basketball Center.

Typical for a first day with coach Tim Floyd and his staff, there was a lot of teaching and not a lot of live action.

"The players learned the language for how we call different things and what we expect as far as listening, paying attention and doing things the right way," assistant coach Phil Johnson said. "It was not as spirited and up-tempo as it will be in the weeks to come. There was a lot of talking."

Before practice, Floyd expressed excitement at the start of his fourth season at the helm of the program.

"I think a lot of the guys are really eager and chomping at the bit," he said. "We've moved [the start of practice] up early. I think it's probably a great thing for us. We have typically not been very good early. We're going to have to respond to some new players on the floor, and they're going to have to respond to us.

"We are going to have demanding practices and lengthy practices. We are going to maximize the 20 hours of work. We are going to maximize time in the film room. Now it's time to get to work."

UTEP has eight returning players and seven newcomers. Much has been said about the players who signed national letters of intent with the team in the last year, but didn't make it to campus.

"I think it's very fair to talk about who's not here," Floyd said. "There was so much coverage of this [recruiting] class, which was ranked in the top 10 in the country. It's unfortunate. That being said, it's time for us to try to get this group ready to go. It's not that we don't have talent. We're void of people at maybe the most important parts of the floor, which is the backcourt. That's where you win in college basketball. And I think by all accounts, Jacob Thomas and Isaac Hamilton were projected starters in the backcourt."

Hamilton and Thomas aren't here. Neither is Andre Spight. Their absence creates opportunities for returnees C.J. Cooper, McKenzie Moore and Jalen Ragland, along with a fleet of newcomers. "Jalen Ragland and Jake Flaggert, two young guys that we may have thought about redshirting, can't redshirt and are going to have to play," Floyd said. "It's not that these guys can't play. They can play. I just think we were all excited about what might have been."

Everyone on the 15-man roster is healthy with the exception of 7-1 Matt Willms, who is limited to no contact for now while attempting to recover from a shoulder injury.

"The labrum is a serious injury," Floyd said. "They're looking at five months if he does have surgery, which would put him [out until] the first of March. He sat out last year. The young man really needs to play and really wants to play. Is it practical for him to play? I don't know. I'm not a doctor. We'll find out how he responds to our work and the physicality of our work. But he's another guy that you could've penciled in as a potential starter."

Another newcomer that has really stood out in preseason drills is 6-8 forward Vince Hunter. While Floyd was quick to temper enthusiasm, it's clear that he's looking forward to seeing what the Detroit native can do.

"You watch street ball and it's entirely different from how guys look once you hit the floor," he said. "What we do know [about Vince] is he's our best athlete and he has a great motor and he is an instinctive rebounder. Whether or not he can make a pass or a shot against pressure defense or he can think and execute what we're trying to do in terms of our actions and our offense, we don't know those things. We don't know and won't know for a while.

"I know one thing, when I watch him play a little pick up ball I like what I see. I'm glad he's here."