NASHVILLE --- The Tennessee State men's basketball team is in its first full week of practice in preparation for the upcoming 2016-17 season. Third-year Head Coach Dana Ford, who is the reigning Ohio Valley Conference Coach of the Year, gave his thoughts on summer workouts, and what he has seen from his team so far in practice.
TSUTigers.com: How did the offseason go for the team?
Head Coach Dana Ford: “I think it went fairly well. We were able to get a majority of our guys here for multiple summer sessions, get them together in the weight room, some individual instruction utilizing our two hours a week that we’re granted. More importantly, guys really got better on their own, and they spent a lot of time in the gym. We stayed pretty much 100 percent healthy, so that’s always good.”
TSU: As you get into practice, what are some things you’re hoping to see from your team early on?
DF: “I think the main thing is their ability to consistently focus every day in order for us to try to get better each and every day. Looking for some leadership from some of our returners, and then we need our new guys to be able to learn as quickly as they can in order to play a major part in helping us win. We only return five or six guys who actually played in games last year, so those other six or so newcomers will be vital to our success.”
TSU: How much does it help having more returners this season?
DF: “I think it helps with the transition for the new guys more than anything. Also, it allows you to have more continuity in practice where there is not as much lag time with guys trying to figure out what we’re looking for and getting from drill to drill. When it comes to games, I think that’s when the presence of the returners will really be felt because they’ve kind of been there and done that. They can provide a confidence level for the new guys.”
TSU: What was the focus of this year’s recruiting class?
DF: “We wanted to get bigger. We felt like last year’s team was a little on the small end and it really cost us against some of our bigger opponents. We feel like we physically wore down as the year went along. We also wanted to become a better shooting team. I’m still not sure if we’re showing early signs of being that team yet, but I do think that our guys are capable of making shots. Of course, we would always like to be stronger and more athletic with each class.”
TSU: What are some of your impressions of the newcomers?
DF: “It depends on who we’re talking about. Delano Spencer has shown a competitive edge in practice which is very welcoming for us as a staff. He’s got to still learn how to process things defensively in order for him to see playing time for us. Ken’Darrius Hamilton is kind of in the same boat as Delano. He’s definitely going to be a competitive kid but he also has to learn how we defend and how we go about rebounding and things like that. Xavier Williams would probably be the same. Those guys kind of stick out. Then you add Christian Mekowulu and Jordan Reed into that mix as well because neither one of them played for us last year. They’re a little bit more accustomed to how we do things, so their transition has been a lot easier, but overall, after just a couple practices, we’re pretty pleased.
TSU: What are some of your expectations for this year’s team?
DF: “I just want them to be good kids and have a lot of character on and off the floor. I want them to compete. We expect the guys to compete every single day; play with their hair on fire and hopefully that leads to success for us. (I want them to) just appreciate the opportunity they’ve been given to be part of a Division I program and have a chance to compete for championships.”