McCall, Mocs eager for exhibition against Covenant

UTC men's basketball coach Matt McCall shouts instructions during a scrimmage last month. The Mocs face NCAA Division III member Covenant College in an exhibition game Friday and open the season Nov. 13 at Georgia.
photo UTC men's basketball coach Matt McCall shouts instructions during a scrimmage last month. The Mocs face NCAA Division III member Covenant College in an exhibition game Friday and open the season Nov. 13 at Georgia.

The Matt McCall era of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball will begin tonight.

Kind of.

The Mocs host NCAA Division III member Covenant College in an exhibition game this evening at McKenzie Arena at 7. The game won't count toward UTC's official record, but it will be a chance for the new head coach to experience coaching in front of the home faithful, as well as seeing how his players perform in game-type settings, with fans, a band, a dance team and cheerleaders.

NCAA rules allow teams to have two closed scrimmages, two exhibition games or one of each. The Mocs chose the latter option and scrimmaged Eastern Kentucky a week ago at Maryville College.

The season officially begins a week from today with a trip to Georgia.

"The key for me is to make sure we play our style of game, play our system," McCall said. "I'm really looking forward to getting out there in the arena."

The 33-year-old head coach admitted he didn't know how he would handle the butterflies of walking out on the court to coach in his first game, saying he "got nervous" before games when he was an assistant coach. He plans to run five miles today to clear his mind before the game.

"I'm going to be wrapped up in the game itself - what we're doing on offense, what we're doing on defense. That's going to be more of my focus," he said.

Even with a new coaching staff, UTC was picked to win the Southern Conference this winter.

"I can tell by the way the players are playing that the coaching staff has been giving the players confidence," said senior Casey Jones, the SoCon preseason player of the year. "It's different from last year. Players are playing better because they feel that the coaching staff is more confident and they feel they have a little bit more freedom, so I'm excited to see everybody transition from last year.

"I'm sure we're going to take a big step up this year."

After six months of battling and banging with each other on a daily basis in practice, center Justin Tuoyo said it's going to be good to play somebody other than teammates.

"We can see a whole new Chattanooga now," the 2014-15 SoCon defensive player of the year said. "We've built a program and can see it take the next step forward.

"We feel we have the chance to do that."

Contact Gene Henley at [email protected] Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.