TAMPA, Fla. — For your old Uncle Mel it is sure is nice to meet somebody and shake their hand that knows were the city of Ypsilanti, Michigan is located, is familiar with the campus of Eastern Michigan University and sometimes they miss the maple trees changing there leaf’s color along the muddy-banks of the mighty Huron River.
The University of South Florida men’s basketball coach Stan Heath, rolled out the red carpet and greeted your old uncle like a long-loss friend, he offered a cold beverage, fresh popcorn and good conversation, just before the Bulls officially opened up the 2013-14 NCAA men’s basketball season inside the spacious home of the Bulls-the Sun Dome.
Heath talked about the upcoming changes that are going to happen to his team as the college basketball season unfolds for the Bulls.
The Bulls have said good by to the Big East Conference and hello to the American Athlete Conference. There will be new teams to face and there will also be teams in the league that the Bulls and Heath know so well.
There will be no road trips to see the monuments of Washington D.C. or Georgetown University, the snow drifts that surround Syracuse University or the hustle and bustle of crowed subway trains stopping close to the famous Madison Square Gardens and St. John‘s University..
Instead the Bulls will have to make a trip to the wide open spaces and the oilfields of Houston and Dallas, Texas, still feel those cool sea breeze and those tricky New England winter nights and play the University of Connecticut and can’t forget crossing the Ohio River and play the University of Cincinnati and then back across the river to face the University of Louisville.
All roads though lead to the city that made Elvis Presley famous, home of great food and the Beale Street Blues and the Pyramid. The city of Memphis, Tennessee and Memphis University will host the American Athletic Conference Basketball Tournament.
That is still a long way down the road and there is a lot of basketball to experience before any talk about a tournament trip.
Heath told your old uncle that his team is going to need to find points on the floor. He asked your old buddy if he knew what he was talking about and Uncle Mel nodded in acknowledgement.
Watching Eastern Michigan University play for the past two seasons, the Eagles new basketball coach Rob Murphy introduce Uncle Mel to watching the 2-3 zone defense, a deliberate offense and the consistent search for points.
After listening to the stories about last season for the Bulls, Uncle Mel believes that he understands the philosophy that Heath is teaching to his team.
Last season, the Bulls played a deliberate, methodical offense averaging just 58.8 points per game but Heath wants to change the offense but he still wants to play a strong team defense.
“I feel good at playing at a much faster pace and playing with much more pressure on the defensive end,” Heath said.
Sometime though, Uncle Mel has seen that sometimes that pressure that Heath is talking about, handcuffs the offense and the point guard.
Heath will rely on junior Anthony Collins coming back this season ready to take control of the offense. He ranked 30th in the nation with a 2.37 assist-to-turnover ratio and he finished the season with 197 assists for the Bulls.
The Bulls offense was led by forward Victor Rudd, he led the Bulls with 12.3 points per game and he also led his team with averaging 6.9 rebounds per game. Heath is hoping that Rudd shooting touch will improve, last season Rudd shot 38.6 percent from the floor and 28.4 percent from behind the three-point arc.
Heath is looking to get Rudd some support under the basket and in the low post with the addition of John Egbunu and Chris Perry, both players are big, physical and are freshman.
Egbunu stands 6-10 and has the ability to jump, during a recent scrimmage he impressed Heath by being able to touch the top of the backboard.
“He’s one of those guys if he’s even with you and he goes up, he’s getting it,” Heath said about Egbunu. “We had a scrimmage the other day and he had nine rebounds. We only played 30 minutes.”
Uncle Mel is wondering if that is just good rebounding or just poor shot execution?
Perry is 6-8 and is from nearby Bartow High School, which is located 40 miles to the east of Tampa and ESPN’s high school experts and gurus had Perry ranked as the No. 23 power forward recruit in the nation.
All ready, some of the veterans are impressed by Perry’s ability to work hard on the floor during practice.
“The way he post up is the best on the team right now,” Rudd said. “He has a right hand and a left hand right now, and a lot of freshmen can’t do that.”
Well nieces and nephews remember what your old favorite uncle says, changes are good.
For the Bulls on the court there will be a change of the coach’s philosophy, hopefully there will be changes offensively with more points and with more points there will be changes in the victory column in the standings.
All of the changes get started, Monday night, November 4, 2013, with an exhibition game against Barry University at the Sun Dome beginning at 7 p.m.
The 2013-14 men’s basketball season officially starts, Saturday night, November 9, 2013, against Tennessee Tech at the Sun Dome and that game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.
About the Author
Written by Mel Suiter
Graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 2002 and have been working as a beat writer for The Ypsilanti Courier covering Eastern Michigan University football and men's basketball during my school career and after graduation. I like the Mid-American Conference and the rest of the mid-major conferences.