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UB men’s basketball holds first practice of season

Bulls have first practice without Hurley, Evans and Moss

YouTube: UB Bulls men's basketball starts practice

Even head coach Nate Oats knows there’s no replacing Shannon Evans and Justin Moss.

It’s highly unlikely to find immediate successors to a second-team All Mid-American Conference star point guard and the reigning MAC Player of the Year. So don’t expect just a few players to fill their void in the men’s basketball team's lineup this season. 

“You’re not going to necessarily replace them piece by piece,” Oats said at Buffalo’s first practice Friday. “You’re going to have to do it a little differently. We planned on not having Shannon for a while. The Justin thing came up in the summer … The ball is going to move a bit more, we’re going to get some shooting from the perimeter and we’re going to do it by committee.”

The Bulls completed their first official practice of the 2015-16 season Friday in Alumni Arena. Buffalo is the reigning MAC champion and is coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance, but has a host of new faces after the departure of former head coach Bobby Hurley and several key players. The Bulls have eight new faces with a mix of freshmen and transfers.

Oats praised the new Bulls, but the team is still a long ways from repeating Evans’ and Moss’ production.

Evans followed Hurley to Arizona State in April while Moss, a forward, was expelled from UB and subsequently removed from the team after stealing money from the dorm of two football players during the summer. Together, the dup scored nearly 33 points per game last season.

One name in particular Oats kept going back to was Willie Conner, a 6-foot-5 junior swingman from Odessa Community College in Texas. The junior college transfer is already being considered as a potential starter.

He also cited Nick Perkins, a 6-foot-8 freshman forward, to make an immediate impact for the team. Oats wants him to mimic Moss in the lineup, but is adamant about using a player so young to fill the shoes.

“He’s good. For a freshman, he’s good,” Oats said. “But he may have to play a little more than anticipated as a freshman.”

As impressive as the new class may seem, Oats is still confident in what remains from last year’s team. He expects sophomore guard Lamonte Bearden to take a step forward this season in the scoring department. Bearden made strides during the offseason to put on muscle – his lack of which was one of his biggest criticisms from an impressive freshman campaign. The sophomore said he put on around eight pounds in muscle and is in great playing shape.

Oats also expects senior guard Jarryn Skeete to regain his 3-point form. Skeete shot just .384 from beyond the arc last season, highlighted by a 4-of-6 performance against then No. 1 Kentucky.

It’s the existing players that Oats wants Buffalo to lean on. They were the ones that have postseason experience and they’re the ones who could help get them back, despite what skeptics believe.

“Guys are playing hard. Little chip on some of their shoulders,” Oats said. “Some people think we’ll be favored had not the stuff happened during the summer. The first practice, you’re not looking for execution and making shots. You’re looking for effort. I thought we got a really good effort today.”

The Bulls open their season on Nov. 6 against Daemen College at Alumni Arena. Tipoff is scheduled for 9 p.m.

Jordan Grossman is the co-senior sports editor and can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @jordanmgrossman. 

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