For the fourth time in five years, the UTEP men’s basketball team will get its season underway with an exhibition game versus Southeastern Oklahoma State. The Miners and the Savage Storm will meet on Sunday (Oct. 30) at 1 p.m. in the Haskins Center.
UTEP beat Southeastern Oklahoma State to open the 2012-13 (70-63), 2013-14 (91-63) and 2014-15 (105-58) seasons.
The Savage Storm was 11-17 last season and returns eight players, including three of its top four scorers. But this time of the year it’s not about the opponent, it’s about the Miners continuing to get better.
UTEP is coming off the Orange and White Scrimmage last Saturday where Omega Harris put on a show (34 points), Matt Willms returned to the hardwood (14 points) and Paul Thomas demonstrated that he may be the Miners’ most-improved player (16 points/10 boards). There’s still plenty of work to be done and plenty of questions to be answered.
“We’ve got a long, long, long way to go, and we should 10 days into practice,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “We weren’t ready to have that scrimmage. It was a little too early for us. We’ve got a couple of newcomers that have to come a long way in order for us to have a chance to compete.”
One is Kelvin Jones. The 6-11 freshman center put up 10 points and 10 rebounds in the Orange and White Scrimmage.
“He’s got a lot of talent and he’s just got to learn to play harder for longer periods of time, something most freshmen go through,” Floyd said. “But we love the fact that he’s got an upside.”
Another player the Miners appear to be counting on in 2016-17 is freshman guard Deon Barrett.
“He was not as good Saturday as he was earlier this week in practice, but he seems to have learned from that experience,” Floyd said. “What we wanted was for our players to get out in front of people, to make some mistakes, to be able to look at it on film and try to improve.”
UTEP will play two exhibition games, the second coming on Nov. 5 when they’ll entertain Alaska Fairbanks at 1 p.m. Floyd was asked about what he’s trying to get out of the exhibitions.
“I do think that we’ve got to formulate a plan of attack that’s a little bit different from last year,” he said. “We had intended on playing with two big guys versus four guards. As a result, we’re in a transition period offensively. We want to see if we can grow a little bit there.
“We are not prepared to play against zones or presses or any of those things right now because we’ve really tried to crawl and have these young guys learn something. What we want to see in the game is if the things we have been teaching transfer into a game situation. I think that these games are so important for the development of young players. They’ve got to learn with their mistakes. That’s the whole key to it and we won’t know about our freshmen until they make mistakes in an exhibition game and we go to the next game and see if they can improve.”
Sunday’s game is “Trick or Treat With the Miners.” All kids (12 and under) get in free by wearing a costume. After the game, they can visit trick or treat booths in the arena concourse for free candy from UTEP student-athletes. Kids should bring their own trick or treat bags or buckets.
Exhibition ticket prices are $10 (adults) and $8 (youth). UTEP Basketball season tickets are also on sale by calling 747-6150.