EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The college basketball season is still over four months away from tip-off, but the UTEP men’s basketball team is already gearing up for the 2019-2020 season.
The Miners are back to work on campus after enjoying a couple weeks off following the end of the school year. UTEP is coming off a disappointing 8-21 (3-15) season in Rodney Terry’s first year as head coach, finishing last in Conference USA.
UTEP was forced to sit six players during the 2018-2019 season after transferring to the program. Terry played four freshmen regularly as a result and the lack of depth was easy to spot late in games.
This season, the Miners expect to compete for a conference championship and it started during the spring and continues into the dog days of summer.
“Player development is always something you have to hang your hat on every year,” said Terry. “We started the foundation here last year in trying to really develop our young guys. We have a good group of players. The biggest thing for us is to develop those guys and have our freshmen that played last year play like sophomores and juniors this year.”
UTEP returns three starters in Efe Odigie, Nigel Hawkins, and Jordan Lathon. The freshmen trio all scored in double digits, including Odigie, who averaged a double-double (12.7 PPG, 10.1 RPG) last season. Those numbers, along with adding the six transfers has this team optimistic for the upcoming season.
“I think there’s more excitement,” said Lathon. “We were competing against them all year, so we know what they bring to the table. Every day, every practice they were going at us hard, so having those guys with us is really fun now.”
The style of play will likely be the same under Terry in year two, but with more weapons the Miners feel like they can finally play at the level their head coach expects.
“We need to come in, compete, gel as a team and then take it one day at a time,” said Hawkins. “We still want to hang our hat on what we do best, which is defending and playing fast. This is going to be a different team, so we are going to be physical and we’ll have more depth. It’s going to be exciting.”
Terry understands there are more mouths to feed with a deeper rotation, but this year’s team is focused on one thing and one thing only: winning.
“We have depth and we have a number of guys that can play. You want that and I think that creates competition,” said Terry. “There’s competition in practice everyday that is going to make our guys better. It’s going to make our team better. I’m excited about this group. I think this is a group of guys that are very unselfish and all they care about is trying to win.”
UTEP has yet to release their 2019-2020 schedule, but is expected to do so in the coming weeks.