North Texas Daily

Austin Translation: Team starting to gel

Austin Translation: Team starting to gel

November 23
00:27 2011

OPINION

Austin Schubert / Staff Writer –

Five consecutive 20-win seasons. Two NCAA Tournament Appearances. Two Sun Belt Championships. One Sun Belt Conference Runner-Up finish.

The stats speak for themselves: men’s basketball head coach Johnny Jones has created a winning tradition in his 10-year tenure in Denton that UNT has never seen before.

However, this season’s team has its work cut out for it if it plans to keep the winning tradition going.

Following last season’s heartbreaking, last-second loss to Arkansas-Little Rock in the Sun Belt Tournament Championship Game, seven seniors graduated as part of a
class that notched 86 wins.. The class included star point guard Josh White, guard Tristan Thompson (the team’s leading scorer), and center George Odufuwa (the team’s leading rebounder).

Though the task won’t be easy, this year’s team shows promise. Five players from last year are back, including senior forwards Kendrick Hogans and Alonzo Edwards.

In addition, Jones and his staff landed the No. 31-ranked recruiting class in the nation this offseason.

The strength of the recruiting class has been evident in the season’s first few games. Freshman guard Jordan Williams led the team with 16 points in an 81-52 win over
St. Gregory’s in the season opener and freshman guard Chris Jones torched the Texas Tech Red Raiders for 31 points in a 69-64 loss last week.

As if that wasn’t enough, the team’s most prized recruit, forward Tony Mitchell, the No. 12 recruit in the class of 2010, hasn’t played because of eligibility issues that will keep him out until Dec. 17.

As great as this team looks on paper, the Mean Green’s promise will be meaningless if it fails to gel. Luckily, Johnny Jones and the men have made sure that doesn’t happen.

Any time a team goes through as much roster turnover as the men’s basketball team has (nine new players), it’s not easy to create chemistry. Players must learn their roles, get to know one another’s tendencies, etc., all while absorbing coach Jones’ offense, defensive scheme and so on.

After going to practice, watching and talking with the guys, they seem to have really come together nicely despite being together for just a few months.

The players have spent time together outside of basketball, which has served to build relationships among them and help them bond as a team.

Gelling as a group is an intangible, but every successful team has it. Off the court intangibles normally end up being just as important as execution on the court.

With the quick rate at which the team is gelling, it would be no surprise to see them continue the winning tradition and earn a third NCAA Tournament appearance in six years.

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