John Shulman pored over practice plans from each of his previous University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball seasons, looking for ideas to incorporate into Friday's session.
He closed all of the files and put them back. Then he took out a pen and scribbled a new plan for Friday.
The Mocs are a new team with five freshmen, at least some of whom will have to play a lot. The result is a slow building of fundamentals that began with summer and individual workouts and continued Friday evening in the Chattem Practice Facility.
"We've never been this young before, so I put those old plans away," Shulman said. "This is going to be a different team, so our preparation is going to be different. We have to be simple because they're talented guys and athletic guys, but the more you think, the slower you are."
Team captains Drazen Zlovaric, Zacchaeus Mason, Ronrico White and the injured Dontay Hampton led the Mocs through stretching drills before beginning the first practice in a new season.
"We're ready to get back, and us guys back have been thinking about it since the end of last season," said sophomore Lance Stokes, who endured the 11-21 record in a 2011-12 season with high expectations. "This year I want to make sure we all have fun and work our tails off.
"Everybody is super-excited, and it's a different feel."
White, also a sophomore, has a fresh memory of being a freshman. He said it will be different for this year's newcomers, because last season's squad started four seniors and a junior.
"I see a bunch of guys ready to get going," White said. "We all have a lot of learning to do. This is the first official day, and the freshmen have to learn and the old guys have to help out."
The practice started with a basic four-on-four shell drill to emphasize jumping to the direction of a perimeter pass. Shulman had to stop it and emphasize the defensive fundamental.
"We have to get a base defensively, and I'm talking simple," Shulman said. "We have to get habits. It takes 21 days to make a habit. It's about building habits about defense and boxing out."
The practice also included a variety of rebounding and defensive drills as well as teaching four fundamental offensive plays.
"For the next three weeks, we will be building habits," Shulman said. "Some as simple as staying down in one-on-one defense and not going for a pump-fake. They are learning."
David Uchiyama is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who began his tenure here in May 2001. His primary beats are UTC athletics — specifically men’s basketball and athletic department administration — and golf, which includes coverage from the PGA Tour to youth events. He also covers other high school sports, outdoor adventures, and contributes to other sections of the newspaper when necessary. David grew up in Salinas, Calif., and began working ...