July 10, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas – The Mavericks returned to the hardwood this week, taking up residence in a familiar gym as summer practices got underway. Twelve of the 13 scholarship players on the roster, including five newcomers, hit the P.E. Building court under the direction of Scott Cross and the rest of his men's basketball coaching staff.
At first glance, Cross likes what he sees.
"It's exciting being back out here," said Cross, who is going into his eighth year at the helm of the program. "The guys look really good. They've been working hard with coach Alan Bishop in the weight room. It's probably the biggest team I've even been around and I've been here since '95. This by far should be the longest, most-athletic team we've had.
"Now it's a matter of getting them tough like we want them, we have to get them to compete and obviously that variable of how they fit together. The talent level is there so the bar has been raised. We just have to put all the pieces together and figure out how to win basketball games."
Four players stand at least 6-foot-8, topped by 7-foot sophomore center Stuart Lagerson. The other three are entering their first year at UT Arlington – junior transfer Anthony Walker (6-9), freshman Brandon Williams (6-9) and freshman Jorge Bilbao (6-8).
"We're definitely taller than last year," junior guard Jamel Outler said. "Our coaches go out there and recruit, and are definitely adding pieces to the puzzle. We've got some high-flyers, the point guard play is great and we've got shooters, so it's a great mix."
Among the returners are Outler, senior point guard Shaquille White-Miller, senior forwards Brandon Edwards and Greg Gainey, and sophomore guard Drew Charles. Two transfers who redshirted last season – junior forward Vincent Dillard and junior guard Reger Dowell – are eligible this season. Junior transfer guard Lonnie McClanahan also joins the mix. Junior guard Johnny Hill, a transfer from Illinois State, is sitting out this season.
Though the Mavericks bring back several players who started last season, Cross said much needs to be decided before working out a rotation. White-Miller is the only player currently not practicing as he recovers from offseason surgery.
"It's going to be extremely competitive, one through 12 right now since Shaq is down with the surgery," Cross said. "It's two-deep at every position. Nothing has been determined. I like them all. I think they can help us. I'm excited."
The Mavericks are allowed to practice two hours per week on the court with basketballs for eight weeks. The practices are scheduled to end before the start of the fall semester. Cross and his staff aren't getting too deep into the playbook over the summer.
"We're trying to get the basics down," he said. "Eighty percent of what we do is pretty simple. It's the 20 percent which are all the plays and the different reads."
With renovations underway on the practice courts in College Park Center, Cross took the Mavericks back to their practice roots. The P.E.B, affectionately known as the Sweat Box, was the team's primary practice center before moving into CPC.
"I always had good memories of the Sweat Box," Cross said. "It's been a good practice facility for us. It's Texas Hall that was not so great. This is old, but it's still got a good basketball feel, and you can get a lot accomplished because of all the goals and space in here."
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