For Homecoming, UNC-Asheville opened men’s and women’s basketball practice. As a die-hard fan and lover of basketball, I attended these practices and took a few notes to share with you.
As a former resident of the Winston-Salem area and a graduate of UNC-Asheville, I don’t need any other reason to like former Wake Forest forward and current UNC-Asheville Coach, Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick. But last year, with her players and system in place, the Bulldogs destroyed the conference by going 16-4. That gives me pride in Coach MKP. Watching her run practice showed me the skills, leadership, and rapport necessary for the postseason run the Bulldogs had last year and the one I hope they achieve this year.
The basics of practice were post, guard, and trap drills and set and scrimmage play. All of which looked very positive for the coming season.
Seeing the team practice, I noticed many of the returning faces that helped the Bulldogs attain a preseason No.1 spot in the Big South. I also tried to note the new faces. Unfortunately, women’s basketball information lacks the availability of men’s basketball, so I haven’t been able to catch up on those recruits. In the future, I will do my best cover the women’s offseason like the men’s, but the steps may be small.
Having done more research on the men’s team, I came in with a set of expectations. The first of those was met: youth. Having lost the entire sophomore class, UNCA compensated with a large freshman group. That inexperience playing at the college level will, as it did in practice, translate to inconsistent play and mistakes at times. However, I have full faith in Coach McDevitt to get the players prepared and, more importantly, to grow throughout the season.
The practice included some drills, but mostly scrimmage play. From that scrimmage, I will share the four biggest takeaways.
- Ahmad Thomas’s Leadership. He worked hard to direct his squad, provided some great scoring, and was a vocal leader.
- Justin Brown’s Scoring. For a player I noted as an attacker, I saw him mostly take jump shots, and with a form that the coaching staff regularly adjusted.
- Malik Smith’s Body. He’s a big guy who will be an incredibly important post presence moving forward.
- Jonathan Baehre. A quick apology here. In my analysis, I thought Jonathan to be a very raw talent. However, he far exceeded my expectations in scrimmage play and will likely grow quicker than I originally estimated.
Additionally, I noticed Giacomo Zilli wasn’t dressed and practicing, but I’m not sure of the situation.