GREENSBORO, N.C.—UNCG men's basketball begins preparations for the 2011-12 on Friday when the Spartans hold their first official practice session.
Head coach Mike Dement begins the sixth season of his second tenure at UNCG and his 10th season overall with the Spartans looking to build upon last season's strong finish. After opening the year with a 0-15 mark, a team consisting of 11 first-and-second year players closed by winning seven of their final 16 games. The Spartans also won their opening game at the Southern Conference tournament before falling in the quarterfinals.
The Spartans return four starters and several key reserves from last season's squad, including 2011 Southern Conference All-Freshman team honoree Trevis Simpson. In 27 games, including nine starts, the 6-4 swingman averaged 11.8 points and 3.6 rebounds per game. Other returning starters include 6-10 senior center Aloysius Henry (9.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg) and junior point guard Kyle Randall (9.4 ppg, 103 assists). Forward Aaron Brackett (7.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and guard Korey Van Dussen (8.7 ppg, 3.0 rpg) also return.
In all, eight players who averaged 14 minutes per game last season return for '11-12.
"We've got a relatively veteran group to work with this year in comparison to last year," said Dement. "But considering we only have three seniors, we're still pretty young. We return as many players as any other team in the North Division. How they improve will help dictate our level of success.
"We've got 25 practices between Friday and our season opener (Nov. 11 at Tennessee). Hopefully our maturity and experience will help us get the most out of those practices and we'll be ready. We better be; we have five games in the first 10 days of the season. We'll be tested right away."
After visiting Tennessee and Georgetown (Nov. 14) as part of the Maui Invitational, the Spartans host UNC Pembroke (No. 17), and play two more Maui-related games at Middle Tennessee State (Nov. 19-20).
"There's not going to be a lot of space and time to make adjustments early in the season," said Dement. "So we'll have to be ready right away."
Brackett, Henry, Randall and Van Dussen were mentioned by Dement as key figures for the Saprtans this season.
"Our ability to achieve success all starts with guys like Kyle Randall, Korey Van Dussen, Aaron Brackett and Aloysius Henry," he said. "Kyle and Korey worked very hard during the off-season and should have a lot of confidence heading into the season. Aaron and Alyosius now have a year of Division I basketball under their belts, so we're expecting more consistency from each of them instead of an occasional big game."
Simpson highlights a talented class of sophomores who saw extensive time as freshmen. The explosive swingman is UNCG's top returning scorer and closed the season by averaging 14.8 points and 4.4 rebounds in the Spartans' final 16 games.
"Trevis is a very talented young man," said Dement. "But like most of the rest of our guys he needs to improve his consistency. When he does that he'll be one of the better players in the SoCon."
The 2011-12 campaign officially tips off on Sunday with the Go Blue Preview from 5-6 p.m. at Greensboro Coliseum. The Spartans also host Greensboro College in an exhibition game on Thursday, Nov. 3, before the season begins eight days later.
Season ticket renewals are in progress and single-game tickets go on sale Monday, Oct. 17. For more information, call the UNCG Ticket Office at (336) 334-3250.