MinerTalk: Seven Golden Nuggets from UTEP Basketball Offseason Workouts
Change hit the UTEP men's basketball program this offseason but for second year head coach Joe Golding, change is embraced within the squad.
The Miner men's basketball team retained just three players from last season's 20-win team, as the coaching staff was tasked in retooling the entire roster from scratch. Throughout the past three months, the staff worked to finalize its roster and recruit talent to fill voids on the team.
Now, most of the members of the new team are on campus participating in summer workouts. Coach Golding joined the MinerTalk podcast to discuss these recent changes throughout the offseason and previewed what's ahead for the group.
New Blood, New Energy in the Building
There was a unique buzz that I felt when I stepped foot inside the Foster Stevens Center. Tons of new faces, raw talent and a nucleus that is trying to familiarize themselves with one another. Southern Miss transfer Tae Hardy caught my eye initially, as he worked on his shooting on the side. Hardy is still working his way back from an elbow injury. He's cleared for drills and skill work, but isn't allowed to participate in any contact drills. Evansville point guard transfer Shamar Givance moves with a ton of fluidity.
Chapin graduate Antwonne Holmes is already with the squad working out. He's in for a long summer, but I'm really excited for the local prep standout. He looked like he belonged in the mix.
Overall, it's hard to get too excited about watching the team work out, but there are definitely pieces on this team. There are guys with a lot to prove. This team features guys with chips on their shoulders. It will be fun to watch this team build chemistry and develop as the summer goes along.
El Pasoan Garrett Levesque Earns Walk-On Opportunity
A new face was at workouts on Thursday in El Pasoan Garrett Levesque. The Coronado graduate, who spent his senior year at Vermont Academy and transferred from Tarleton State to UTEP, earned a walk-on opportunity with the Miners. At 6-foot-6, Levesque can play a combo guard role for the Miners and try to earn some playing time in the years to come.
At Tarleton State under former UTEP coach Billie Gillespie, Levesque played sparingly in just nine games off the bench as a freshman. At the high school level, he averaged 13.3 points and 5.5 rebounds with Vermont Academy. Out of high school, he had offers from the likes of Army and Cal Baptist. He is the son of Julie Levesque, the Senior Associate Athletic Director at UTEP.
Here are some of his highlights:
Austin Cox, Jeremy's Son, Added to the Staff
There's a family coaching connection now on staff at UTEP. Austin Cox, son of associate head coach Jeremy Cox, is replacing Caleb Villarreal as the Director of Basketball Operations for the Miners. Villarreal took a job outside of coaching, which then created a vacancy at UTEP.
Austin will join his father on the coaching staff after a season with the Stephen F. Austin basketball team, where he served as the Director of Basketball Operations for the 2021-22 season. Prior to SFA, Austin was an Elite Enterprise Account executive at Hudl, a leading player in the recruiting landscape for college athletics. He also spent time at Southern Mississippi (Chief of Staff) and Texas Tech (head manager).
Bryen Spriggs, Reggie Miller Round Out ACU Connection
As Butch Pierre left UTEP for an assistant coaching job at Wichita State, coach Golding decided to promote from within for his next assistant coach. Bryen Spriggs, a catalyst for the Miners' recruiting efforts this offseason, has been promoted from Chief of Staff to an assistant coach for the squad. Spriggs and assistant coach Earl Boykins were instrumental in building the roster for the 2022-23 season.
In addition, Golding was able to add one of his former players from Abilene Christian into the coaching mix. Reggie Miller, one of the best players on the 2021 ACU team that knocked off Texas in the NCAA Tournament, was recently named onto the coaching staff. This is a significant addition for the Miners, as they received a fresh new face that can relate to the current players.
Strength and Conditioning is a Primary Focus
UTEP head coach Joe Golding talked about how important strength and conditioning is for this team. As a result, he hired one of his former guys from Abilene Christian in Brandon Decker.
Decker brings nine years of coaching experience to UTEP. He was with Golding at ACU from 2017-21. Prior to ACU, Decker worked on the strength and conditioning staff at Alabama State (2015-16) and spent one year (2014-15) at Murray State. He got started at Penn State as an intern in 2013.
Golding wants to see guys like Jamari Sibley put on more weight this offseason. In addition, players like Tae Hardy and walk-on Milos Merrick will be working back from injuries.
No Jonathan dos Anjos Yet
Each new member has already touched down in El Paso with the exception of one of their most sought after guys: Jonathan dos Anjos. The Florida Southwestern junior college transfer is still working on finishing up things on the academics side before he joins the Miners. Golding would like to get him at some point this summer so he doesn't fall too far behind on the team.
As a sophomore from Brazil, dos Anjos averaged 12.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and shot 54% from the field this past season. The 6-foot-7 Division I bounce-back is expected to play a key role on this team this year.
Schedule is Almost Wrapped Up
Coach Golding revealed that there will be 20 Conference USA games this season and 11 non-conference games. Of the 11 non-conference, the Miners will have seven home games.
Considering the Miners already have the NM State game built in, along with two guaranteed at home with the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational and three guarantees in their Thanksgiving week MTE (Alcorn State, Cal State Bakersfield and Texas A&M Corpus Christi), the Miners don't have much flexibility in their non-conference home schedule. We also know that the team is opening the season on Nov. 7 at Texas. But once the schedule becomes public, don't expect high-level mid-major or Power-5 teams to be on their home schedule.
The WestStar Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational (Dec. 21-22) field was announced on Thursday, which features North Carolina A&T, Kent State and NM State. The Miners will face NC A&T first, while Kent State and NMSU will battle it out in the first round. If UTEP and NMSU win their respective matchups, the two teams will have a chance to play three times this year. This marks NM State's first time in the invitational since 1961.