Wade's Chattanooga Mocs tasting competition in Bahamas

Wade's Chattanooga Mocs tasting competition in Bahamas

August 8th, 2014 by Gene Henley in Sports - College

UTC men's basketball coach Will Wade speaks to the media at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.

Photo by Angela Lewis/Times Free Press.

"Anxious" and "eager" don't adequately describe the emotions for University of Tennessee at Chattanooga redshirt basketball players Justin Tuoyo and Tre McLean, as they get closer to playing their first games since March of 2013.

They are among the eight newcomers who will get their first taste of coach Will Wade's "Chaos" system in a game setting as the Mocs play three games in three days in Nassau, Bahamas, starting Sunday.

The Mocs, who finished 18-15 last season, will play the Grand Bahamas All-Stars on Sunday at 7 p.m., the CT Knights on Monday at 7 and the Bahamas All-Stars on Tuesday at 9. UTC is one of two teams from the Southern Conference making the trip, as Samford will play games Aug. 17-19.

For Virginia Commonwealth transfer Tuoyo and Queens (N.C.) College transfer McLean, it's been too long since they've stepped on basketball courts. The 6-foot-10 Tuoyo hasn't played since logging three minutes in the Rams' 78-53 loss to Michigan in the second round of the 2013 NCAA tournament.

McLean had six points and 11 rebounds in a March 4, 2013, loss to Belmont-Abbey in the NCAA Division II Conference Carolinas tournament.

Those two, along with junior college transfers Duke Ethridge, Chuck Ester and Jacolby Mobley and freshmen Brandon Maxwell, Shaquille Preston and K.J. Bates, will earn their first minutes as they try to mesh with six returnees on a team that will be one of the preseason favorites to win the SoCon.

"It's hard to sit out and watch," Tuoyo said this week. "It was my freshman year at VCU, so I didn't play much, so I really haven't played since my senior year of high school.

"I haven't played against somebody new in a while, so this weekend is going to help a lot."

UTC has spread out practices over the summer, and what has been clear to the coaching staff is that there will be a lot more competition for minutes this season. Wade wants to play "10-11" players in his system, which allows for 200 minutes of playing time -- all of which seem to be up for grabs.

The fight for minutes hasn't turned ugly yet, but the battles have become heated at times.

"Last season, the biggest issues were that there was no competition. There were certain guys that knew they'd play regardless, so there was no accountability," Wade said. "Now there's competition everywhere, and the guys are aware that if they show what they can do in practice, then they will play in the game. You earn what you get based on how you practice.

"It's been fun to see the guys compete and see who wins individual matchups."

Because they were around the team last year, Tuoyo and McLean were able to get a taste of what's going on within the program. The three games in Nassau will give the other six newcomers an opportunity to see how the team could mesh.

"We've came a long way since the beginning of practice," McLean said. "We have a lot of new guys that don't understand where this team could end up and how great a season this could really be.

"This weekend could help us see how much we could accomplish."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.