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Floyd focused on future with young team

Published: Monday, October 31, 2011

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

With the departure of eight seniors from last year, only three players that saw action on the court will join one of the youngest team's in the nation in head coach Tim Floyd's second year at UTEP.

"Team expectations change every season, and this season happens to be a season based on the fact that we lost our entire team and the fact that we did not choose to rebuild with transfers and junior college transfers. We are putting our trust of improvement on our young freshmen," Floyd said.

Given the circumstances, the team is taking a different approach to this season with one senior and 10 underclassmen.

"We are trying to think long term with what we are doing, so this year may be somewhat of a challenge because we are going to be the youngest team in the United States," Floyd said. "We like the core of what we are doing here, with the idea that in the next three, four, five years, we will continue to build and add on top of these young guys."

The players, on the other hand, are looking to the short-term and are ready for the challenges ahead new season.

"We have a lot of learning to do this year," sophomore guard Michael Perez said. "It's going to be a tough year for us because we have a bunch of young guys but we still have the same expectations that we always have: just win. We will do that however we can. Hopefully we do that a lot by defense."

Last season, under the direction of record-breaking guards Randy Culpepper and Julyan Stone, UTEP finished with a 25-10 record, a Conference-USA Tournament championship appearance and a berth in the NIT.

However, that team had its share of struggles with only three players on the roster listed as 6-foot 10-inches or taller. That translated to the Miners' rebounding dilemma, finishing with a -2.4 rebounding margin. This has been something Floyd has keyed on this offseason.

"He addresses that a lot. In practice we do a lot of stuff to get better at rebounding. He recruited a lot of big guys, new freshmen and new junior college transfers that can rebound for us," Perez said. "(Sophomore center John) Bohannon got better so hopefully we a lot of things change this season."

To address that problem, Floyd recruited two more post players in freshmen Cedrick Lang and Hooper Vint, while adding smaller athletic forwards such as junior Malcolm Moore and freshman Darius Nelson.

"Offensively we don't know that we have a dominant low-post scorer," Floyd said. "We feel like we have a couple of young guys that have a chance to be extremely good players at some point. I don't know if it will happen this or next year because of their youth and age."

UTEP's guard play will have a new face with Perez being the lone guard returning. Floyd added four other true guards and has three forwards who are listed as bigger guards/small forwards.

"I think that our guard play is going to be competitive," Floyd said. "We have three point guards that we signed and I feel like we are going to get into play offensively, defensively and I hope we will be a good defensive basketball team."

There are two possible sleepers and impact players on the defensive side of the ball that have stood out to Floyd, so far.

"I think (freshman forward) Julian Washburn has great feet and has a chance to be a great defender," Floyd said. "Lang has got the size and strength, even though he is a freshman at 6(-foot) 9(-inches), 245 pounds, to be able to defend on the post. Outside of that, we are still trying to figure it out."

As is customary with most of Floyd's teams, the defense will be a cornerstone to this year's team.

"All five players on the court have to have an impact. That's how we play defense," sophomore center John Bohannon said. "We are a good team. I think we play together even though we haven't been around each other for much. We mesh well and I think that is a good strength to have."

Despite the lack of experience and the uncertainty for this year, the players believe that their strong suits will overcome their weaknesses.

"Our strength this season is we have a lot of guys that like to learn and actually work hard. Our weakness is knowing how hard you have to play at all times on the court," Perez said. "We have young dudes so it's going to be hard for them to adjust but hopefully the sooner they get that down we will be better off."

UTEP's first game will be against Eastern New Mexico at 7 p.m. Nov. 3 at the Don Haskins Center in an exhibition game. The regular season will begin at 7 p.m. Nov. 11 when they host UT-San Antonio.

Frankie Rodriguez may be reached at prospector@utep.edu

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