Senior point guard Dontay Hampton joined his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga basketball teammates for three laps around the court in McKenzie Arena before practice Thursday.
It was the first time he jogged since tearing the ACL in his right knee on July 14 while practicing by himself. Doctors cleared the incumbent starter for light running Thursday afternoon.
"Tay running around the court is what our team is about," coach John Shulman said. "Day by day, Tay has to get better. And we have to be patient with Tay."
But Hampton has not shown much patience to date. He shoots a little and dribbles before practice. Then he spends most of the time working with athletic trainers to improve the strength and flexibility in the knee. The estimated timetable for his return is the end of the calendar year, give or take two weeks.
Yet Shulman continued the comparison of Hampton and the 2012-13 Mocs, who could have four freshmen in the rotation.
"Some days he gets down in the dumps because he wants to be out there with the guys," Shulman said. "And some days, or games, these freshmen aren't going to be as good. It's a process. Dealing with a young team, you have to be patient. Dealing with an ACL, you have to be patient."
The team jog took the Mocs over the Market Street Bridge, past the Tennessee Aquarium and on Lookout Mountain - figuratively. Those Chattanooga monuments are shadowed in a refurbished playing court in McKenzie Arena. Chattanooga's Praters Flooring refreshed the old paint scheme (which had two 3-point lines) and updated it with a bleaching of the maple playing surface.
"John Prater loves Chattanooga, and this was his idea with the bridge, the aquarium and Lookout Mountain," Shulman said. "It helps us recruit and it's going to be fun for fans to come in here and see not only a new floor, but hopefully a new team."