Miners Hope to Surprise People in 2007-08
Oct. 11, 2007
The UTEP men's basketball team has been picked eighth in the preseason Conference USA coaches' poll, released on Thursday in Memphis, Tenn.
"My philosophy has always been sell low and deliver high," said Tony Barbee, who is entering his second year as the Miners' head coach. "Expectations outside of El Paso are not that high, which is fine by me. I'd rather be picked eighth and finish second than be picked fourth and finish ninth, like we did last year. Ultimately we have to do it on the court. I think that ranking will motivate our players and drive them to have a very successful year."
Barbee said he is not only excited about his team's prospects for 2007-08, but the direction Conference USA is headed in general.
"If we don't have four or five teams in the postseason this year, I'll be disappointed," he said. "We've got to compete and see where the chips fall. We have high level players coming back in this league, and it feels like we're starting over."
The Miners lost four players who started at least 12 games last season. UTEP returns its leading scorer (junior guard Stefon Jackson) and five other letterwinners.
"I'm excited about the progress Stefon made over the summer," Barbee said. "He has worked hard on his game and extended his range. We have a senior point guard in Marvin Kilgore. They say guards with experience win games in college basketball. We'll see.
"It was a very productive summer for our veteran players," Barbee said. "Stefon put on five to seven pounds and improved his skill level. Jeremy Sampson has put on 15 to 18 pounds, and a lot of times confidence comes from strength. Victor Ramalho struggled with his conditioning in the preseason last year, but he has come back in unbelievable shape. Corey Speight came back in great shape, and Marvin is Marvin. I haven't been around anyone who has worked harder on his conditioning and strength. He has put himself in position to have a great senior year."
UTEP also introduces six freshmen who form the nation's 34th-best recruiting class, according to HOOP SCOOP Online.
"I'm excited about them, but they're freshmen," Barbee said. "They'll have their ups and downs. One of the biggest things we did was address our lack of size. I was the biggest guy on our team last year."