UTEP Men’s and Women’s Basketball Squads Preview Talent for Fans
Both the men’s and women’s basketball team got a chance to showcase their team in front of fans at the Don Haskins Center Thursday evening, as they participated in practice drills and an autograph session for those in attendance.
The women’s team first practiced in front of fans and under the direction of head coach Kevin Baker, they even participated in a mini-scrimmage. And Baker made it a point to tell the fans, “we’re a young team, but we’re a good team.”
Then came out Rodney Terry and his team, as the men’s basketball squad came to showcase their talents after they had already practiced earlier in the day. The men’s squad ran basic drills in front of fans and concluded the night with an exciting dunk session that allowed players to show what they can do at the rim.
Both teams passed the eye test, but here are some initial reactions of watching both teams play:
The tandem of Paul Thomas, Kobe Magee and Evan Gilyard will be key for the Miners this year, despite their treasured newcomers. All three need to take a big step forward as veteran leaders and don’t necessarily need to be the focal point of the team, but must command the team in the right direction. Thomas, who’s the lone senior, looks strong and poise. Magee is the best shooter on the team and it’s not even close. Gilyard reminds me of Boston’s Terry Rozier -- undersized, but a fierce competitor that’s hungry for an opportunity to shine.
Baker talked at nauseam of how special redshirt junior forward Ariona Gill was going to be and how redshirting her last season was one of his best coaching decisions. Right off the bat, you can see how explosive Gill is on the team. She looks to be one of the best two-way players the team has, and with returners like Jordan Alexander, Jordan Jenkins and Zuzanna Puc, it will provide a great supporting cast to a standout player like Gill. The ceiling is high for her, really high.
The newcomers on the men’s basketball team really passed the eye test. Eligible players like Jakobe Dill, Kaosi Ezeagu, Nigel Hawkins, Jordan Lathon, Efe Odigie and Garrett Sullivan showed what they can do on the court, while those that have to sit out per NCAA transfer rules, like Souley Boum, Ountae Campbell, Anthony Tarke, Tydus Verhoeven, Bryson Williams and Deon Stroud still were present in front of fans Thursday.
Hawkins, although he has a little hitch in his shot, is probably the second-best shooter on the team already. Odigie has a chance to be one of the best two-way players on the team just on pure explosiveness and his physical features. Ezeagu will provide formidable relief minutes, which can turn into eventual starting minutes. Lathon passed the eye test too, and could likely work his way into the starting rotation.
There’s a lot to be excited for in terms of UTEP basketball. And with just about a month until both teams tipoff, it was a great chance to peek into each team and see how far along they’ve gone since summer camp and practices.