Basketball starts Thursday at 6 with an exhibition against North Alabama.
There's a lot of enthusiasm for this team, and a common theme for the Rebels at this point seems to be athleticism, wingspan, and effort on defense. That's good news for a team that ranked 11th in the SEC last year in scoring defense, giving up 69.1 points a game.
We'll see if early enthusiasm equates to success on the floor as the Rebels replace the program's third-leading scorer, Chris Warren, and will rely on newcomers to play big roles in the backcourt.
Newcomers will also contribute to the team's athleticism and defensive potential. Aaron Jones and Jelan Kendrick are 6-8 and 6-7. Terrance Henry is 6-9 and he moves out to the 3. That's a lot of hands in the passing lanes, tipped balls and disruption for the opposing offense. Potentially.
"Focus" and "locked in" are the buzz words for this team right now, one that is tired of coming close to the NCAA tournament the veterans say. If that's in fact true you would think the effort and intensity that it takes to play successful defense would be in place more nights than not. You play 35 games you're going to have an off night here and there. The teams that limit those off nights can take the next step.
That's what it will take for this team to take the next step. Terrance Henry says it's going to happen, that the NCAA drought ends this season.
It's a confident group that will take the floor against UNA later this week and will open the regular season Nov. 11 against Louisiana-Monroe. (The alma mater was once known as Northeast Louisiana.)