Enter the New Era of Rodney Terry and UTEP Men’s Basketball
The storybook novel that is the UTEP men's basketball program will notch a new chapter in the history books on Tuesday evening, as first-year head coach Rodney Terry and the team will be able to debut their season against UT-Permian Basin at the Don Haskins Center.
To quite understand this new era of UTEP men's basketball, one must forget everything they learned from previous regimes and start fresh. With just three returners from the 2017-18 season, this year's squad will look entirely different than ever before.
"We don’t have a lot of bench this season," said Terry. "We’re thin. With seven scholarship guys, down one of our better players, we have six guys right now for scholarship players and we need our walk-on’s to come in.
"Right now our young guys got to play. That’s the beauty of this year. They’re going to get a chance to play, play through mistakes, learn to play hard and learn to play at this level."
Returners include senior forward Paul Thomas and sophomore guards Kobe Magee and Evan Gilyard.
Yup, we know the drill. "Our core guys, that will be the most important for us," Terry said. "Paul Thomas has done that for us on a high level. The same thing for both Evan and Kobe. I think those guys, based on their experience last year, are going to be better next year."
Eligible scholarship newcomers onto the squad include freshmen forwards Efe Odigie and Kaosi Ezeagu, and freshmen combo guards Nigel Hawkins and Jordan Lathon. Other walk-on's that might join the mix include guards Jakobe Dill and Garrett Sullivan, and forward Gilles Dekoninck.
"This team lacks experience and the only way they’re going to get it is if they get thrown in the fire," Terry said. "They’re going to have to compete against a really good non-conference schedule. We’ll get a chance to compete at this level and what it takes on both ends of the floor."
Year one of Terry will include a lot of components to the game. He wants his team to fight through adversity, uses "play hard" as a mentality and strives to be consistent on both ends of the court.
"I think the thing we’ve tried to instill in this group is they have to play extremely hard. We’ve got four freshmen, two sophomores and one senior scholarship players—they have to play extremely hard," Terry said. "You have to lay out the foundation in terms of identity. We have to be a scrappy team this year and really learn to compete to do it at a high level. Then we can start to learn how to execute on both ends of the floor."
And for the challenge, Terry embraces a young team, to which he deems as an extremely "coachable" one.
"I like it for our first year," Terry said. "We are starting from ground zero here, just like where we started in the first year at Fresno State. No knock against our youth or our players."
But unlike his seven years with Fresno State, Terry decided to go the transfer route, buying in for the future, instead of going the JUCO route for recruiting.
"We have done it differently than we did it at Fresno State," Terry said. "We had some junior college players come with us at Fresno State when we started, but they didn’t really fit our culture, so I didn’t want to make that same mistake here. We went the transfer route. We’re going to sit some really good players out that will be good contributors here in the future. We’re going to play with our young guys this year and this year will be very valuable to them."
The Miners will open up their non-conference schedule with the likes of NMSU (Nov. 9, Nov 28), New Mexico (Nov. 24), Marquette (Dec. 4), UC Riverside (Dec. 16), among others.
"Every year we’re going to play a very competitive non-conference schedule that’s going to challenge our team," Terry said. "It’s not enough to just schedule a couple big games. You have to go win those games and that’s how you get respect around the country."
As far as who will be the next star or standout scorer, Terry believes it will take time for the team to truly have a breakout talent. He expects this team to be a score-by-committee at first, and then develop a true identity as the season rolls along.
Tip-off for tomorrow's game is set for 7 p.m. at the Haskins Center.