EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Monday marked the official start date for the UTEP men’s basketball team as they get set for the upcoming 2019-2020 season. The new look Miners return three starters from last year’s team that finished just 8-21 (3-15), last in the Conference USA standings.
Truth be told, UTEP’s scout team was more talented the actual team itself. Most of their roster consisted of Division I transfers who were forced to sit last year out due to NCAA transfer rules. The Miners have a total of seven eligible DI transfers this year, as well as four returning sophomores that will largely makeup their rotation.
“We have a number of guys who can play this year and can hopefully get things done for us,” said head coach Rodney Terry. “There’s a lot of excitement and I think anytime you start a new season there should be a lot of excitement.”
The talent is undeniable. Bryson Williams has a chance to be the Conference USA Player of the year, Eric Vila is a stretch four who can put the ball on the floor and Souley Boum, Anthony Tarke, Deon Stroud, Kaden Archie and Daryl Edwards will all be vying for playing time at guard.
“I think this team’s talent level is through the roof,” said Williams. “I feel like we have a lot of potential. There’s no telling where we can go this year. We are trying to be everyday guys and go hard everyday. Our goal is to go to the NCAA Tournament.”
Sophomore Jordan Lathon will likely be asked to be the point guard after averaging 10.9 points per game as a true freshman in 2018-2019. Fellow sophomores Nigel Hawkins and Efe Odigie will also figure into the rotation. Hawkins averaged 12.6 points per game last season while Odigie averaged a double-double (12.7 points per game, 10.1 rebounds per game).
Not mentioned is the likes of Tydus Verhoeven, Ountae Campbell and Kaosi Ezeagu, all of whom are more than capable of making an impact on this roster. The question is how Terry will keep everyone happy with playing time.
“Well, it’s a better problem to have than what we had last year,” Terry joked. “It’s a team game. It’s not an individual sport and if you want to have aspirations to play at another level, then your team needs to be successful. The program needs to be successful. That’s what you are trying to get guys to buy into.”
UTEP will play a charity game against Texas Tech on Saturday, October 12. Despite it only being the first day of practice, they are already itching to get out on the floor against last year’s national runner-up.
“I think we are going to play a really fun style of basketball and I hope the fans enjoy it,” said Vila. “We are just so excited to get on the court. We’ll keep practicing, but at the end of the day we can’t wait to play.”
UTEP will open the season on Tuesday, November 5 against New Mexico Highlands. The Miners’ first matchup with Battle of I-10 rival New Mexico State will be on Tuesday, November 12.