Basketball practice starts today for the Columbus State Cougars and Lady Cougars, and nobody is more excited than women's head coach Jonathan Norton.
However, the reason for his excitement may be a bit different than what you might be expecting.
"It's going to be nice to look out there and see people taller than you," said Norton, whose team hosts an exhibition against Reinhardt University on Nov. 2. "We didn't have that last year."
The Lady Cougars finished 16-11 in 2012-13 -- CSU's ninth straight winning season -- and Norton is anxious to see what the eight freshmen on his roster can do.
"It's a time of excitement," said Norton, who is 64-45 in four seasons as CSU's head coach. "I think all of our coaching staff are chomping at the bit to get out there and get started. We have an exhibition Nov. 2, so we have three weeks to get a lot of freshmen up to speed. We're more than ready to get started full-time."
Most of the freshmen are post players, but Norton said his newcomers are already picking up some tips and tricks from the Lady Cougars' veterans as well as assistant coach Quacy Timmons.
"It helps that we do have two veterans coming back down low," said Norton. "Having those two plus (Timmons) gives me some comfort inside. I'm already seeing strides. We're focusing on fundamentals like going to get the ball and making the simple reads. You don't have to teach them 101 post moves. They just need to have a bread-and butter move and a counter to that. Also, we're teaching our terminology and lingo that we use in practicre. That's our focus. We're trying to make it as simple as possible."
After the exhibition against Reinhardt, the Lady Cougars open their regular season on Nov. 15 with a home game against Fort Valley State. Tipoff for that game at the Lumpkin Center is scheduled for 6 p.m.
CSU's men completed their preseason conditioning Friday with a five-mile team run, and head coach Robert Moore is ready to get started.
"We're really excited," said Moore, who is entering his fourth season as the Cougars' head coach. "I feel like we did well in conditioning and with our individual drills. All of the guys are in pretty good shape, and in the next couple of weeks we should get in condition enough to play a game. We've got a lot of good new people who I think can help us immediately and some good returnees as well."
The Cougars were 13-13 last season and missed out on the Peach Belt Conference Tournament a year after finishing as the PBC Tournament runner-up and qualifying for the NCAA Tournament. Moore said he and his players have had a lot of time to dwell on what went wrong last season.
"Last season, we had a lot of things going on with our team with injuries and other things," said Moore. "We didn't make a run to the playoffs like we did (in 2011-2012). We were disappointed in our season. But we've got a lot of new guys along with good returnees. We have a lot of guys at different positions who can compete for playing time immediately."
CSU starts its season with an exhibition at Alabama-Birmingham on Nov. 8 and tips off its regular season with a home game against Carver Bible College Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lumpkin Center.
Like the Lady Cougars, the CSU men's roster is loaded with newcomers, mostly junior-college transfers. So, Moore will be spending a lot of time this preseason trying to blend new players with the returnees.
"Right now, we only have five guys returning who saw significant time last year," said Moore. "We added nine or 10 new guys who can get in there and compete for playing time. Right now, we're just trying to get 10 guys ready to play. Chemistry is very important. Sometimes you may not put your best five players on the floor at a given time, but you put the five that can best get things done. What we'll start on (today) is mixing the new and old players and seeing who plays best together."