For the University at Buffalo's men's basketball team, Sunday was opening day, as new head coach Jim Whitesell and his players had their first official practice in the new season.
Whitesell has been a head coach before and was an assistant at UB for Nate Oats, until Oats moved to the University of Alabama men's team and Whitesell moved up. Whitesell's his team and the roster will gradually be shaped by his recruiting.
Right now, he only has one four-year senior, point guard Davonta Jordan. During the practice, Whitesell was watching and consulting his planning sheet for the practice. He wants to get players who can be molded over four years.
"C. J. Massinburg and Nick Perkins will be two players that will be Hall of Fame players here," the coach said. "They were two kids that were four-year players and they didn't start as freshmen. They came off the bench and they grew into great players. That's part of the process here. Yeah, you bet. We don't necessarily have the one-and-dones, but we got good players who can develop into great players."
Those players not only play hoops, but they also have to be in the classroom and study halls to stay eligible. Jordan said it is not easy, but he tries to teach first-year players.
"We've got to try to put it in their ears that it don't happen overnight. It don't happen just by sitting on the couch or playing the game. You actually have to come in here and want to win and want to grow as a team. Without being together and being a team, we won't be able to do it," Jordan said. "I tell them constantly work on your game and just stay in it, go your way every time, especially as a freshman, making changes. I just tell them, 'Stay with it.'"
Floridian Jordan said he also talks to those freshmen about time management, playing basketball and making sure they do the academic work to stay eligible to play.
Whitesell said the regular season opens Nov. 8 with Dartmouth and then to Toronto for a game with national basketball power Harvard.
"They're ranked in pre-season 23rd and we'll play them in Toronto, and we have UConn right after that. They were a national champion a couple of years ago and they're going to be very good," he said. "Our schedule is very tough. We go to Vanderbilt. We go to DePaul. We've got the local schools here, with Canisius, Niagara, St. Bonnies. It's a great schedule. We've got our hands full."