ARLINGTON, Texas -- According to NCAA regulations, the first official day the UT Arlington men's basketball program can start practice for the upcoming season is Saturday.
But, for observers of UTA hoops one of the surest signs the season is almost here is the arrival of the program's annual preseason conditioning boot camp.
Today, UTA head coach Scott Cross and his staff put most of the Mavericks' 18-man roster through its first of five days of military-style conditioning sessions designed to help the student-athletes develop their mental and physical strength and prepare for the grueling 5-month season.
The team arrived at Maverick Stadium this morning in good spirits and ready to tackle the activity for the day -- a "burpee" style exercise that incorporates a pull-up, a push up and jump.
"I thought today was good," said Cross. "Everybody had a great attitude and mindset and we are starting to get the tough mindset that we need to be successful. This boot camp is where that all begins.
"The toughest team always win. I looked back at the games we lost last year and I honestly felt the teams that beat us were tougher. In the end, it is a battle of wills. Imposing your will is about being tougher and making your opponent play the way you want to play. It is about making your body and mind tougher so you can go out there an impose your will on the opponent."
The Mavericks' roster features seven seniors who have been through the program's boot camp several times previously.
"Today went pretty well," said senior guard Erick Neal. "The younger guys got tougher and, I think, the older guys did as well. We come out here to compete and to push each other every day. It is just like in a game. When you need to kick it into another gear, that is where boot camp comes in.
"My role as a senior is to lead by example. When they see me working hard and doing the little things, that helps everyone, especially the young guys, understand that is how we need to do things in order to be successful."
The team returns to Maverick Stadium early in the morning for the rest of the week in preparation for preseason practice. On Saturday, the UTA men and women's teams will participate in a clinic, Ameritrade Hoops For Troops at Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth. The team will return to campus and finish its final challenge of boot camp.
UTA opens the season on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a 7 p.m. homecoming contest against Loyola Marymount. The Mavericks play a total of 31 games prior to the March 7-11 Sun Belt Conference Championships in New Orleans.
The teams's 15-game home schedule includes non-league games against Cal Poly, Florida Gulf Coast University, LMU, North Texas, Rice and UT Dallas.
For ticket information, click here or call the UTA Box Office at (817) 272-9595. Season tickets are currently on sale. Single game tickets go on sale Oct. 6.
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