HATTIESBURG - The Southern Miss basketball team held its first practice for the 2014-15 season, and it looked very much like a first session at times for a group of new and unfamiliar Golden Eagles.
“It's as sloppy as you can ever imagine,” first-year head coach Doc Sadler said. “As I told the guys, I expect that. Let's worry about two things right now, bring me your effort and good attitude, and we'll be fine. We went up and down the court a few times. These practices are all screwed up because I'm trying to teach. Nobody gets in a rhythm, but I thought the last 30 minutes were not all that bad.”
USM returns just four players who saw significant time last season – redshirt sophomore forward Matt Bingaya, redshirt senior guard Chip Armelin, junior Norville Carey and senior Jeremiah Eason.
Sadler knows he'll have to be patient with the group as they prepare for the Nov. 14 home opener against William Carey.
The goal right now is getting the Golden Eagles more familiar with a pro style offense that will rely on running the court and picking the right shot.
Players like Bingaya will get more chances to take the outside shot. In the past under former coach Donnie Tyndall, the focus for Bingaya was going to the rim and crashing the boards.
“I've got a lot more freedom,” Bingaya said. “I've been working in the offseason, shooting in the gym, day in and day out. The three-ball is going to be be there for me and other people on the team.”
This year's USM team will feature eight players who will suit up for the first time.
Sadler said that his three true freshmen – guard Keljin Blevins, forward Eddie Davis and guard Kevin Holland – should all see playing time this season.
While Bingaya and Armelin have shown they can score in bunches at times, this year's team has no clear go-to player to start fall practice.
Rasham Suarez, a Donnie Tyndall recruit that Sadler managed to keep on board, has a good shot to be the man running the point as a junior college transfer.
“It's going to be a team,” Suarez said of the team's offensive production. “As the point guard, I've got to figure out who is hot the hand and who is not.”
I plan on running a feature in Thursday's Sun Herald on Sadler's squad.