State junior colleges had a jump on them all, hitting the hardwood Oct. 1, like Itawamba Community College's first year men's head coach Grant Pate.
"It's exciting for the guys to begin practice," Pate said. "They get to go from preseason to in-season.
"It brings that new energy level."
Pate brings a new energy level to the Indians, coming off a successful four years as the head coach of the Tupelo Golden Wave, including an appearance in the Class 6A championship game this past season. And now Pate has been on the court two weeks preparing the Indians for the 2012-13 season, which begins for ICC Nov. 5 hosting Shelton State (Ala.) at the Davis Event Center.
"The guys have been really competitive, really focused," Pate said. "Right now, we're just trying to work on the basics.
"We're trying different lineups, see who fits with who, and all get on the same page. The skill level is higher in junior college, and the guys are a little more athletic, but there is a commonality to it all - all guys want to compete and win."
Pate has a core of sophomores he will be counting on heading into his first season at Itawamba.
He reports that Deontaye Ewing from Tupelo and Quinton Lee from Tennessee, are showing great leadership from their guard positions so far. And that Parris Jeans from Mooreville and Tre Welch from Alabama, are providing a nice physical presence inside in early practices.
"Our goal is to build around the sophomores this season," Pate said. "But we have a large freshman group, and we're counting on them to keep working."
Practice is on the same time frame on the campus of Northeast Community College, including second year coach Brian Alexander of the Lady Tigers.
"Practices these first two weeks can be very rusty," Alexander said. "Starting this week is when we start to polish things up.
"We're trying to figure out who are rotations are going to be."
Northeast will open its season Nov. 5 hosting East Central. The Lady Tigers have only two returning sophomores.