Dontay Hampton had a ritual of walking from his on-campus apartment to McKenzie Arena before every University of Tennessee at Chattanooga home game.
It helped clear his mind.
He hasn't walked to a game yet this season. A torn ACL in his right knee suffered in July, and the subsequent rehabilitation, prevented such harsh actions on a tender joint.
Hampton will not walk to tonight's game. It's on the road at The Citadel (3-9, 0-2 SoCon). But the senior from Arts & Sciences will play for the first time this season. He has the green light to go.
"Everybody keeps asking, but I'm not yet excited," Hampton said. "I worked out the morning, so I'm treating it as a normal game. If you get too amped-up, you lose focus."
UTC coach John Shulman jokingly calls Hampton and sophomore guard Ronrico White "lovers" after being roommates.
"They played good together last year," Shulman said. "It's like they were dating last year. Then 'Tay hurt his knee and they broke up."
The guys play along, at least for now, with Shulman's joke. After all, the Mocs are 4-1 in their last five games with the loss coming at Georgia Tech. Everybody on the team, even the managers, have been a good mood lately after a 2-8 start to the season.
"We're just flirting now," Hampton kidded before practice in McKenzie Arena on Wednesday. "I know where Rico is going to be on the floor. But somebody tipped a skip-pass in practice yesterday.
"We'll be back dating in Charleston."
Said White: "He was the first one I worked-out with, and we built chemistry from there. He introduced me to everything on campus.
"Now, I'm dating the ball -- the basketball."
The mood is light for UTC, which embarks on its Charleston swing beginning with a game at The Citadel tonight and a game at College of Charleston at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Hampton's return to the rotation could be invaluable as UTC goes deeper into the heart of Southern Conference competition. He's one of two seniors and the only player with a championship ring from the 2008-09 season when he was a redshirt walk-on just helping the team in practice.
"They call me O.G. for 'Old Guy,'" Hampton said. "I'm not quite excited yet. I just want to play how I usually play. Everybody has a routine, and that walk would help.
"But I'll be fine."
The seriousness starts tonight at 7.