'Different energy' for basketball Mocs

'Different energy' for basketball Mocs

October 10th, 2012 by David Uchiyama in Sports - College

UTC men's basketball coach John Shulman.

Photo by John Rawlston/Times Free Press.

30 minutes or less

UTC is selling basketball season tickets with the guarantee that they will be delivered in 30 minutes or less today if the order comes from within a five-mile radius of McKenzie Arena. UTC athletics employees, including Mocs coach John Shulman and Lady Mocs coach Wes Moore, will deliver the tickets in person.

John Shulman has put the disappointment and acidic memory of the 2011-12 basketball season in the past.

He and his University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's team have moved on with the assistance of five freshmen who know little of the underwhelming 11-21 season and 5-13 Southern Conference record.

"We're excited to get to it and last year's taste out of our mouth," said Shulman, who is entering his ninth year as the Mocs' head coach. "I feel a lot of different energy. It's night and day -- the absolute opposite.

"The freshmen have no idea what happened last year, and they could care less. They're looking forward to this season."

The Mocs' first official practice of the season is Friday. Players have endured various workouts on the court and in the weightroom -- and off-beat exercises during a week of boot-camp -- since summer sessions.

"We have a completely fresh basketball team and opposite of last year, and I'm not saying anything bad about last year. We have a completely different attitude, and I'm looking forward to it," Shulman said. "If people come out and watch our team, they're going to see from the first second out, they'll see a different team.

"Last year, we had a bad year," Shulman admitted. "Those are the same kids who won the North Division two years ago. You're going to see a completely different team."

Freshman Farad Cobb will start at point guard while senior Dontay Hampton recovers from a torn knee ligament.

As for the other newcomers, guard Casey Jones from Louisiana challenged Jonathan Adams, director of basketball operations, to a shooting contest before a team meeting Tuesday. Shulman said Gee McGhee became a vocal leader this summer. Eric Robertson won three straight Alabama state high school championships, and Alex Bran is a walk-on who was a candidate for a Tennessee Mr. Football award.

"All the freshmen who are going to be playing, they could care less [about last year]," Shulman said. "They're young and dumb. I have a tough time remembering the good times, and I can't forget the bad times. These freshmen are going to have to learn as they go.

"This is going to be a pretty good group -- I don't know when."

Scott Brincks, the director of athletic performance, noticed some stark differences between the 2011-12 squad and the group that he put through boot camp two weeks ago.

He had players pounding sledgehammers on tires, pushing football sleds hours before dawn, piggybacking teammates up hills in North Chattanooga, and among other drills, pushing a golf cart around campus after dark.

The drills were, well, different. The attitude was new. Various offshoots of the word "fresh" abounded Tuesday -- refreshing, different, new.

"I see cohesiveness, I see guys liking each other, I see guys that are willing to put themselves out there for a teammate, where I didn't see that in the past -- not with everybody but with certain guys," Brincks said. "When you don't have everybody buying in, it creates issues, and right or wrong, that's just the way it went.

"Overall, this group, I see a much tighter-knit bunch and they love and enjoy the game. That's what I see. These guys enjoy it."

Sophomore Ronrico White said he enjoyed the switch-up of workouts. He played a minor role for the Mocs last season by coming off the bench and averaging five points per game while shooting 39.5 percent from the 3-point arc.

"I'm trying to use last season as motivation to not let last season happen again," White said. "You have that extra drive to do another rep, another set.

"We haven't really discussed last season. It's irrelevant to the freshmen. They have a new attitude."