Western Carolina’s men’s basketball team will open its season Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Bowling Green in the Ramsey Center.
The Catamounts have experienced a significant roster turnover since the end of last season’s 11-16 campaign.
The changes start at the top with Coach Justin Gray. The former Wake Forest player replaced Mark Prosser, who resigned to become head coach at Winthrop. Ironically, Gray had served on the Winthrop staff the past two seasons.
“Our guys play hard,” Gray said after a recent practice. “One of the common things we talk about is being relentless. Our guys go hard, and we also compete. That’s something that I want to stand out every single day. I also want us to have a tight unit. There’s a lot of emotion out there, guys are helping guys up and getting on the floor and supporting each other. Those three things are huge for us.”
He said the high number of transfers and the coaching change present some challenges.
“There’s a lot of different lingoes, so to speak,” Gray said. “We have a lot of different people, and it’s a new staff as well. What we’re doing now is team concepts, things we want to happen. We want to make sure we’re playing fast, we’ve got to get up and down, we’ve got to have space, we’ve got to rebound, we’ve got to be tough.”
As for areas to improve on, he said, “We’ll need to work on the communication between everyone. That’s something that is always important with a new team. And then the standard of how hard I want to play. That’s something that we’re getting adjusted to, but the guys go hard. I appreciate the effort that they give.”
The Catamounts were picked last in pre-season polls by the coaches and media. Both groups made UT-Chattanooga the favorite with Furman second.
The coaches went with East Tennessee third, followed by Mercer, Wofford, UNC-Greensboro, Virginia Military, Samford, Citadel and WCU.
The media had Wofford third, followed by Mercer, ETSU, UNC-G, VMI, Citadel, Samford and WCU.
The schedule is as follows:
Nov. 9 – Bowling Green; 12 – at Wake Forest; 14 – at East Carolina; 19 – Maryland-Baltimore County at Longwood; 20 – American at Longwood; 21 – at Longwood; 27 – at Gardner-Webb.
Dec. 1 – Warren Wilson; 4 – at USC-Upstate; 8 – Tennessee Tech; 11 – UNC-Asheville; 20 – at Georgia; 22 – at UNC-Charlotte; 29 – UNC-Greensboro.
Jan. 1 – at East Tennessee; 5 – Citadel; 8 – at Samford; 12 – UT-Chattanooga; 15 – Wofford; 19 – at Furman; 22 – at Mercer; 26 – at Citadel; 29 – Samford.
Feb. 2 – ETSU; 4 – at Virginia Military; 9 – at UT-C; 12 – at Wofford; 16 – Furman; 19 – Mercer; 23 – at UNC-G; 26 – at VMI.
March 4-7 – Southern Conference Tournament at Asheville.