University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach Will Wade has a vision for a fun and fan-friendly first day of practice.
The fan base doesn't quite lend itself to a Midnight Madness. But perhaps a Mocs Mayhem. Maybe in McKenzie Arena complete with the UTC pep band and cheerleaders. Or downtown. After all, the Mocs and Lady Mocs have showcased themselves before football games in the First Tennessee Pavilion in recent years.
"What about putting down a court in front of the Aquarium?" Wade proposed.
It could work -- someday. But not today.
"I'd like to do something downtown," Wade said. "I'd like to take it to the middle of the city. But we have to grow the program to where it's sustainable. We're the city's team and we want to take it to the city."
The Mocs will hold their first official practice of the 2013-14 season this afternoon at the Chattem Basketball Practice Facility. There will be no fanfare in the facility, just the necessary staff, players and coaches behind closed doors.
"We're excited to get started and cranked up," Wade said. "We've been able to install bits and pieces, and it will be nice to have the full team and full allotment of time to where we can work at it."
The first day of official practice for the last few years has been on the Friday closest to Oct. 15, which lent itself to extravagant celebrations on campuses across the nation. The NCAA now allows teams to begin official practice -- 20 hours per week with the full team and all coaches -- 42 days in advance of their first game with a mandatory 12 days off. In recent years, the NCAA also has allowed more player-coach workouts during the summer and first weeks of the fall semester.
As a result, the anticipation and celebration of the first day of practice has become somewhat muted. Yet it's still an important date.
"I'm really looking forward to getting together with other players and the team and see it come together instead of individual workouts," sophomore Casey Jones said. "I want to see it all."
The Mocs will begin their season on Nov. 8 against Covenant in a doubleheader with the Lady Mocs.
"I've been telling Coach Wade," senior Zaccheus Mason said, '"I've been ready for my senior season and I'm ready to get it started."
It starts, today.
Junior guard Ronrico White has not been working out with teammates after hip surgery in the summer, and Wade said he hopes to have White back by the first Southern Conference game, which is on Jan. 4 at Furman. ... VCU transfer Justin Tuoyo, who will sit out the season per NCAA rules, underwent knee surgery and is expected back within a week. ... Freshman guard Anthanee Doyle is battling an illness and has a recovery plan with benchmarks set by UTC director of sports medicine Todd Bullard. ... Wade held walk-on try-outs Wednesday night and found two or three guys who may help the team at least as practice players. Wade said: "We need bodies to play the way we want to play. In practice, the more bodies the better."
Contact David Uchiyama at email@example.com or 423-757-6484. Follow him at twitter.com/UchiyamaCTFP.