Men’s basketball team begins preparation for season opener
With two weeks left before the Cougars play their first game, first-year head coach James Dickey will have his hands full leading up to the month of November.
Last season, the Cougars posted a 19-16 record, winning 10 games at home. For the first time since 1993, the Cougars found their way to the NCAA Tournament after winning four games in four days at the Conference USA Championship, claiming the title. The Cougars went on to lose 77-89 to Maryland in the first round of the tournament, but the appearance has energized the program.
“Coaching ball is coaching ball,” Dickey said. “Our players have really worked hard in the offseason. I have been pleased with the conditioning effort, and I have been pleased with the way that they have bought in.”
The Cougars lost depth in their guard play after Aubrey Coleman signed with Aliaga Petkim, a Turkish team. Kelvin Lewis also went overseas to play for Kavala of Greece.
“We have to build on that tournament championship, the four-day run that they had last year,” Dickey said. “ We obviously coach a little bit different, philosophically. I don’t see Aubrey or Kelvin anywhere. You’re talking about 42 points that are gone.”
Returning to the squad are seven players that made the tournament run last year. Three of the four returning seniors include three guards — Adam Brown, Cory Tellis and Zamal Nixon — and senior forward Maurice McNeil. Dickey said that he will have to rely on the play of the seniors.
“We are going to depend a lot on our seniors,” he said. “It is their responsibility to take some of the ownership of this team, to be accountable and hold everybody else accountable — not just the coaching staff. We will look for Zamal, Adam and McNeil to do that.”
Dickey said McNeil could have a chance to average a double-double this year if the forward prioritizes rebounding.
“All of those guys at different times played key roles, especially down the stretch, to get them to the NCAA Tournament,” Dickey said. “They are going to have to be productive.”
The Cougars averaged 78.6 points per game against their opponents, while keeping their opponents to 75 points per game last year. Dickey said that the one coaching philosophy he would like to dial in from his 10-year tenure as the head coach for Texas Tech is a strong defense.
“We feel that it’s something we need to do every night, and staying strong to our shot selection while improving on all the little things,” he said.