ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cooperative weather and another new face highlighted today's third day of the UTA men's basketball program's annual Boot Camp at Maverick Stadium.
On a cloudy day that, eventually, became a downpour immediately afterward, the Mavericks went through a circuit of exercises attributed to legendary Olympic wrestler Dan Gable. Each team member used a 45-pound weight plate for a series of lifts, followed by a timed run up-and-down the 100-yard Maverick Stadium football field.
Today's activity marked the third of five days of specialized military-style preseason training sessions the program conducts to prepare for the upcoming season. The defending Sun Belt Conference champions are scheduled to open their first official practice Monday morning in College Park Center.
"Today was the midpoint of boot camp, which is probably the one day players over the last several years have said is the most difficult," said UTA head coach Scott Cross, the winningest coach in program history. "They did a great job. I felt like guys really pushed themselves outside of their comfort zone. In fact, there were several guys who broke through a barrier today."
Yesterday, senior forward Kevin Hervey took part in a full team workout for the first time since undergoing a minor procedure on his previously injured knee. Today, the team welcomed graduate transfer center Johnny Hamilton to his first day of training.
Hamilton, a native of Rio Claro, Trinidad, graduated from Virginia Tech in August and began graduate school at UTA in September. He played two seasons at Jacksonville (Texas) College before transferring to Virginia Tech for his final two seasons.
Last year, he suffered a hand injury early in the year and, having played only three early-season games, qualified for an additional year of eligibility due to medical hardship. Eligibility paperwork provided by Virginia Tech and the Atlantic Coast Conference was completed and he was certified after business hours yesterday.
"Being Johnny's first day, it would have been easy for him to just throw in the towel and say his body wasn't ready. But he fought through it," said UTA head coach Scott Cross. "I don't think he has had a chance to do a whole lot since he's been here, especially not having been officially certified until last night. He has a number of expectations with grad school and he is learning about the area, the University and our program. So, I don't think we expected him to jump in fully fit and ready. But, he did a great job and had a good first day."
A 7-foot center, Hamilton only began playing basketball at the age of 16. Just two years later he emerged as one of the top junior college centers in the country. As a sophomore, he blocked 112 shots for a 4.3 per game average. In his two seasons at Virginia Tech, he only appeared in 20 games but blocked 17 shots and shot 59 percent from the field.
"I'm happy to be out here with the team finally," said Hamilton. "I love my (new) teammates. That is one of the reasons I came (to UTA). I had a chance to join other teams. But, I loved the vibe. I think we are all together and that is a great thing."
UTA opens the season on Saturday, Nov. 11 with a 7 p.m. homecoming contest against Loyola Marymount prior to a 7-day stretch in which it plays four road and/or neutral site contests that are part of the Barclays Center Classic. The Mavericks play a total of 31 games prior to the March 7-11 Sun Belt Conference Championships in New Orleans.
The team's 15-game home schedule includes non-league games against Cal Poly, Florida Gulf Coast University, LMU, North Texas, Rice and UT Dallas. The Mavericks open Sun Belt play on Dec. 29 at Coastal Carolina before returning to Arlington for their league home opener against Troy on Jan. 4. Senior Day is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 24 against Georgia State.
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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