Optimism surrounds team in first year of Hurley Era
Mix of old, new faces lead Bulls into fresh season
Senior forward Javon McCrea led the Bulls with 18 points and 7.9 rebounds per game last season. The team looks to improve on its 14-20 2012-13 season in Bobby Hurley’s first season as head coach. Spectrum File Photo
Expectations around Alumni Arena are high for the men's basketball team this season for a few reasons.
Senior forward Javon McCrea is returning for his final season. After being named to the All-Mid-American Conference first team in back-to-back seasons, he has one last year to break through and win the program's first postseason MAC Championship. Then there is the return of standout senior guard Jarod Oldham, who played in only 11 games last year before suffering a season-ending wrist injury. And don't forget the emergence of many new, high-potential players, both freshmen and transfers.
But new head coach Bobby Hurley is the reason for most of the buzz around Alumni Arena.
Hurley - a two-time All-American and national champion at Duke in the '90s - was hired by Athletic Director Danny White in March shortly after White fired 14-year head coach Reggie Witherspoon.
Hurley is now leading a team that already had aspirations for a MAC title this season, and his addition only raises the bar.
The new coach brings a totally new style of play to the Bulls - they will play at a faster tempo than the past. The team has proved to be committed to the new style.
"I think the commitment has been great," Hurley said. "For me, they have been a pleasure to work with. The guys have great work ethic, good talent level. It's a nice blend of good inside players, good perimeter players. It's exciting to coach these guys every day."
The Bulls have a plethora of proven point scorers on the floor in McCrea, Oldham, junior forward Will Regan, sophomore guard Jarryn Skeete and senior guard Josh Freelove. Hurley foresees some growing pains as the Bulls adjust to a new offense, but he thinks they will be a tough team to defend.
"I know that we are going to be difficult to guard because I think we are going to put a number of players on the floor that can score, that can create their own shot, that are legitimate threats," Hurley said. "And then we have an all-conference player in Javon that is patrolling the lane and we got pretty good depth. I feel pretty good about a lot of what I am seeing right now."
Hurley has been particularly impressed with the leadership from McCrea, Oldham and Regan.
He said each player brings something different to the team and they have helped smoothen the transition to Hurley's system.
"Our team is very talented," said senior guard Corey Raley-Ross, who will compete for time at small forward. "Unlike our teams before, we're more together, so I feel like if anybody can bring us down, it's us."
Raley-Ross credits the team's unity to the number of older players on the squad who have stepped into leadership roles and emphasized the importance of working together.
Expectations are high among the players, as well. They believe they have the talent level and unity to make a run in the MAC and NCAA tournaments.
"I think with coach Hurley here bringing his livelihood and his passion to the game, I think we have a good chance to win the MAC this year," Freelove said.
The Bulls will start their season at Texas A&M this Friday. Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. The team's first home game of the year is scheduled for Nov. 16 at 3 p.m. against Division II opponent West Virginia Wesleyan.
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