Zaccheus Mason watched and learned.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's lone senior endured the pain of watching teammates practice while knowing that this is the time of year to relax his oft-injured right knee.
"It wasn't fun at all sitting on the sidelines, watching the guys compete and get better every day," said Mason, who started his college athletic career at a tight-end at Ole Miss. "But I knew I had to take time to rest my knee. It's a long season. I want to be good to go through the long haul of the season."
Mason earned a spot on the coaches' 10-man preseason All-SoCon team after Mason led the team in scoring with an average of 14.9 points per game.
"He's one of the best players in the conference, and having him out there is a tremendous asset to our offense," first-year coach Will Wade said. "He's one of a few guys who can go and make a play and get a bucket when things break down.
"It's been nice to have him back in practice."
UTC opens its season next Friday night against Covenant College in one of three non-Division I games on the schedule.
"We've improved defensively in the half-court and we've put a lot of time into close-outs and contesting the 3," Wade said. "I feel great about our transition offense. We're not where we need to be shooting-wise."
The NCAA mandated that teams could begin practice this year 42 days prior to their first game.
Three SoCon teams started even earlier, taking advantage of a rule that allows teams 10 days of practice prior to an overseas trip once every four years. The Citadel went to Canada, UNCG went to Spain and Davidson went to Italy and Slovenia.
"I thought the extra time was really helpful for this group," said UNCG coach Wes Miller who has seven freshmen on the roster. "That kind of time in August in invaluable because we don't have that continuity from last year to this year."
A settled Setlzler
Samford coach Bennie Seltzer is in his second year as a head coach after a successful career as an assistant to Tom Crean at Marquette and Indiana.
He's a lot more comfortable than one year ago.
"I think things are a little different in that now I understand things because that first year it's the first day every single day," Seltzer said. "Now, the veterans understand what I expect every single day when we go in to practice."
Elon assistants take the court
Elon coach Matt Matheny didn't jump into practice to help the Phoenix play 5-on-5. But a couple of his assistants needed to do just that because Ryan Winters and Egheosa Edomwonyi were out with injuries.
"Our assistant coaches have played well in practice, but I can't play them," joked Matheny, whose team has been picked as one of the preseason favorites. "Monty Sanders played really well yesterday."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or at 423-757-6484. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.