Golden Eagle Basketball Opens
Hattiesburg, Miss. - Tough practices are the norm for Head Coach James Green's Southern Miss basketball team, and Saturday's workouts were no exception as the Golden Eagles officially opened preparations for the 2001-02 season.
The team will practice at 7 a.m., and 4 p.m., Sunday, resume its normal 6:15 a.m., weekday workout schedule starting Monday, and then open the season with exhibition games Nov. 7 and 14, and the regular season three days later on Nov. 17 against intrastate rival Jackson State.
Golden Eagle fans familiar with Coach Green's workouts felt right at home at today's workouts, and even Green, himself, was pleased with first-day action. "We were nervous, and we had a lot of new guys out there not understanding exactly what we need to do," Green said. "That required a lot of explaining, but we expected all of that. There also was some excitement in the fact that we have some guys who can do some different things out there on the court.
"It's going to take some time before we can really look at our team and tell how much of a chance we have to be competitive early on. I see guys wanting to get better, but also guys not understanding just how tough it is at our level, and, in particular, how tough it is for them at Southern Miss, to have a chance to get out there and play."
Green says new players coming into the program are almost completely overwhelmed. "Early on, we really harp on all the little details, it makes the players tire more easily, and being tired just makes the workouts harder," Green said. "It's also sometimes more difficult for a junior college guy than a high school player because the junior college player has had to learn a couple of systems, and then comes here and faces another new system.
"You don't know for three or four days how well the guys are going to pick things up. The main thing we look for early on is effort. Once we get that effort, we'll start putting other pressures on them.
Green says it's much too early to tell what kind of identity this team will eventually have. "We know what our eventual identity will be," he said. "Because we're going to form some of that identity, toughness, defending and taking care of the basketball, but each team eventually takes on its own identity and it will be interesting to see what this team does."
The Golden Eagles are coming off their first-ever Conference USA championship, and Green sees that as a plus, in spite of the extra pressure involved. "It gives us something to believe it," he said. "It can happen. I think we have players good enough to go out and compete for the title. Whether or not it happens remains to be seen. We may be too young; but that's always our goal, to win the league and advance to the NCAA tournament."
Green also says the opening day of practice is always a big day for the players, but that the same also is true of the coaches. "You would think we would learn to sleep the night before our first practice, but I still haven't learned that," he said. "I guess I'm still excited about it."
The Golden Eagles return considerable experience from last year's title team, including forward Mario Myles, who started 29-of-31 games last season, while averaging 5.9 points a game. Forward Kilavorus Thompson, who started 27-of-30 games last season and averaged 7.4 points a game, was being counted on to provide experience, but a summer league knee injury will prevent Thompson's playing this season.
Also back are forward Elvin Mims, who played in 30 games, starting six, last season while averaging 10 points and 5.4 rebounds a game, point guard Brad Richardson, who averaged 5.1 points in 31 games last season, forward Pete Meneses who played in 26 games and averaged 3.7 points a game, forward Clement Carter who averaged 2.7 points in 30 games, guard Bernard Duncan, who saw action in 24 games and averaged 2.6 points and guard David Haywood, who redshirted last season but gained valuable practice experience.
Also available is a talented group of newcomers that includes the height Green and staff will need to replace the departed Vandarel Jones, who earned C-USA defensive player of the year honors, while starting all 31 games and averaging 12.7 points and a team-best 7.4 rebounds a game last season. Also gone are leading scorer David Wall (14.0 ppg) and Mel Cauthen (5.9 ppg, 98 assists).