ARLINGTON, Texas - Today marks the first authorized date NCAA rules allow the UTA men’s basketball team to begin practices for the upcoming season. But, as has been the case for the last seven seasons, the team won’t touch a basketball until the conclusion of its annual Boot Camp.
The Mavericks conducted the last of their intense 5-day Boot Camp today with an early morning training session in UTA’s Physical Education Building. The team went through its daily routine of physically demanding activities with an emphasis on defensive techniques and training.
Afterward, Scott Cross rewarded the players with a special Boot Camp workout shirt and presented sophomore guard DJ Bryant with a WWE-style championship belt, designating the Sarasota, Fla. native as the toughest player over the entire camp.
“DJ is a machine,” said Cross. “Jorge (Bilbao) was a machine last year and you have a guy like Erick (Neal) who is like that, as well. DJ is so mentally strong. He gives his best effort in every single thing we do. He is a great leader. He is always the first one here and is getting the guys ready. He is one of the highest character kids I’ve ever met, is competitive and a great teammate.”
Cross started the boot camp tradition in 2010 and has watched it evolve into a critical part of his team’s “Take The Stairs,” “toughest team wins” mentality. He lauded the effort of the players this year, which is exceptionally revealing considering there are eight new faces on the team.”
“I thought this was one of the best overall boot camps we’ve conducted,” said Cross. “A lot of the guys made some real progress this week. We learned a lot about the new guys, characteristics we didn’t know some of them had. It was a very productive week. We got tougher and prepared ourselves for the long season ahead.”
Most of the team has been intact since the beginning of the summer and has taken part in limited practice sessions for the last four months. Graduate transfer Johnny Hamilton joined the team recently and a few players had some bumps, bruises and preventative treatments during that time.
But, for the most part, the entire team in right on track on the program’s plan that has prepared them for the season.
“I think this boot camp was probably step two in the process for the newer guys,” said Cross. “We’ve had limited practices and fitness sessions during the summer and since the fall semester started. That built a foundation. While boot camp does prepare your body physically, it is much more about getting mentally ready for the season and learning about perseverance.”
After taking Sunday off, the team will gather on Monday morning in College Park Center for their first practice as defending Sun Belt Conference champions.
“I am excited for practice to get started next week,” said Cross. “We have everyone here and ready to go. They will have a day to get their legs back under them, but I think everyone will be excited to practice with a specific purpose in front of them. We will start putting in more offensive concepts and get more direct with our goals and objectives.
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 games 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 Friday, Oct. 6.
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