Lamont Paris takes long-term approach with Mocs men's basketball team

UTC men's basketball coach Lamont Paris will count on young players this season, his first with the Mocs. The roster will look a lot different than 2016-17, when seniors stocked the lineup.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball team entered the 2016-17 preseason with a top-heavy roster featuring six seniors, although there was little experience behind them.

This year will be ... different.

As coach Lamont Paris prepares for his first season at UTC, the senior class is made up of one player - reserve forward Trayvond Massenburg - and experience has been replaced by youthful skill. A number of Mocs have opportunities to earn playing time with a team expected to take its fair share of lumps in 2017-18.

Paris's approach to his first recruiting cycle could have been different, though. He might have gone after junior college players, citing a desire to win now, which was the tactic former Mocs coach Will Wade used after the 2013-14 season, his first in Chattanooga. It's also the approach Matt McCall, who coached the Mocs the past two seasons, is expected to use now at Massachusetts.

But Paris chose a different route, deciding to go young - very young - which, in part, is a sign he believes he can both recruit and develop talented players once they get into his program.

It also can be taken as a sign he's in no rush to leave.

Gone are Jonathan Burroughs-Cook, Chuck Ester, Casey Jones, Tre' McLean, Greg Pryor and Justin Tuoyo, who last season combined for 1,772 points, 742 rebounds and 4,235 minutes. (And those stats are slightly warped due to a torn ACL suffered by Ester that caused the 6-foot-7 senior, considered to be the team's most important and irreplaceable player, to miss the entire season.)

In their places are freshman guards Jonathan Bryant and C.J. Massengill, the latter a walk-on player; freshman forwards Justin Brown, James Lewis and Duane Moss; and junior college transfer Joan Duran, the lone holdover from McCall's final recruiting class.

"We needed some four-year guys to even it out," Paris said Thursday. "We wanted to do that so that three years down the road, we could reap the benefits of having some guys that were here and had learned stuff for three years. At that point, hopefully we'll be really good, with the guys doing what we ask them to do and what we like to do, and then the kids after that, they can show them. Then we can (add to) the roster here and there with a transfer here and there, a junior college guy here and there, but mainly with high school guys that have right core values and good skills.

"I just thought that high school guys was the way to go to provide stability. We wanted to make sure we give ourselves the best chance to win down the road."

The most experienced returning player is either sophomore Rodney Chatman, who played in all 31 games last season, with three starts; or Makinde London, an uber-talented junior forward who had an up-and-down first season in Chattanooga after the one-time four-star prospect transferred from Xavier. He had eight starts in 30 games.

The returning Mocs combined to average 17.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game in 2016-17 - great stats for one individual player, but telling when divided between six. And only one player, London, has multiple years of Division I basketball experience.

"Everyone would like to have a senior-laden team with four all-conference players back and the three leading scorers," Paris said. "That would be ideal, and I don't think anybody would ever pretend they'd wish they had a team that had very little in-game experience, but that's what it is, so I appreciate the opportunity to teach, because that's what the whole thing is about.

"We have a lot of inexperience. Combine that with changing things, teaching different things and everyone is a relative new guy, but even the most experienced guys aren't that experienced in terms of time on the court."

The Mocs currently have one scholarship available that could go to either another incoming freshman or a graduate transfer. Paris "didn't know" if he was going to use the scholarship this season.

"We could be done; we could also not be," he said. "Stuff happens this time of year, so it's hard to say. It's not really up to me, though.

"I'm comfortable with where it is now, though."

Right now, it's a youth movement at UTC.

Contact Gene Henley at Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.