Aug. 22, 2006
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- -
Southern Miss got an early start to its men's basketball season Tuesday afternoon with a three-plus hour practice at Reed Green Coliseum in preparation for a Labor Day weekend exhibition tour in the Bahamas.
The exhibition tour, which the NCAA allows once every four years, enables third-year coach Larry Eustachy and the 14-member squad 10 extra practices to ready them for the trip and a jump start to the normal starting time during the second week of October. The extra practices should help a squad that features 10 newcomers, including seven freshmen.
Although it was not a normal first practice for Eustachy, his squad still went through a vigorous workout that ended with three-on-three full-court scrimmages.
"We got all these new guys, and we want to take it slow," Eustachy said of the first practice. "We went for a long time but not nearly as hard. For some of these guys, it was the hardest day that they have had in their life but it was really a soft day by what we normally do."
Eustachy added his reasoning toward this practice is that when the team ordinarily begins preparation for the season it comes in October and they have had six weeks of conditioning to prepare. With the start of the fall semester beginning Wednesday at the University, some of the players did not arrive on campus until Monday night.
"If we wanted to run them to death they way we normally would, then they wouldn't have learned anything today," Eustachy added. "We wanted to keep them fresh and teach them, with the understanding, that we are going to get a real base with conditioning and toughness and we got a lot in today."
Sophomore guard Courtney Beasley, who earned Conference USA All-Freshman honors a year ago en route to tallying the fourth most points ever for a Golden Eagle freshman with 333 points, enjoyed the early start to practice and it gave him a chance to see his teammates play.
"It was a good day for everybody, playing together and seeing where everyone is in their conditioning," Beasley said. "We got a chance to see some of the new guys and see what they are able to do."
After one practice, Eustachy likes the group that he and his staff have assembled to be the 2006-07 edition of the Golden Eagle basketball team.
"I love this group," Eustachy said. "There is a lot of character and a lot of talent as well as a lot of youth. We are going to have to be real patient."
The focus now is to get the team ready not only for the three games in the Bahamas but for the rigors of the regular season. The Eagles are slated to play a single game on Saturday (Sept. 2) and then two more games on Sunday (Sept. 3).
"This will help us a lot (by getting an opportunity) to go somewhere that we haven't been," Beasley added. "It gives us a chance to get together as a team. It is not just a trip but we are trying to get better for the season."