North Texas Daily

Men’s basketball looks to build on the expectations for this season

Men’s basketball looks to build on the expectations for this season

Men’s basketball looks to build on the expectations for this season
November 04
13:30 2021

The 2021-2022 season is just around the corner for men’s basketball, as the team is set to open up against Oklahoma Christian University on Tuesday. North Texas is coming off a historic season, as last season saw the team win the Conference USA championship and the team’s first-ever NCAA March Madness game against No. 4 ranked Purdue University.

North Texas has several additions to the team including the hiring of former Division II two coach Andre Shaw, who coached under the late Nelson Haggerty at Midwestern State University early in his career. 

I am beyond excited to join such a championship-caliber program,” Shaw said. “The University of North Texas has a rich tradition of winning and has had much success”

The team also added five new freshmen including three-star guard Matthew Stone who had offers from Oklahoma State University, The University of Mississippi and The University of Tulsa.

“The coaching staff is why I came to UNT,” Stone said. “Their togetherness with the team is what it’s all about for me.” 

Players from last year’s team look to teach the new players what it takes to win, especially senior guard Mardrez McBride and fifth-year senior JJ Murray. 

“For the ones that were here last year, we know what it takes and we can teach the new guys what it takes,” McBride said. 

The team also added two transfers over the off-season in redshirt junior guard Rasheed Browne from Texas A&M Corpus Christi and fifth-year senior big man Hameir Wright from the University of Washington. Browne averaged nine points per game along with five rebounds per game and shot 41 percent from three in only six games. Wright recorded 135 blocks during his time at Washington and started in 80 games. 

With the addition of new players comes the loss of others. Overall seven players either left, graduated, or transferred from last year’s team. Most notable of them all is former C-USA Player of the Year Javion Hamlet. Hamlet led the team in scoring with 439 points while averaging 15.7 points per game. He also shot 37 percent from three and started every game he ever played for the Mean Green since arriving.

Murray learned a lot from Hamlet over the years while being and playing with him.

“His belief I think it rubbed off on our whole team individually and collectively,” Murray said. “His belief that we were going to win every game and his leadership is something I’ll never forget.” 

Murray, along with other players like McBride, Thomas Bell and Rubin Jones are returning players from last year’s championship team. McBride hit a three-pointer to tie the C-USA Championship game to send the game to overtime that North Texas would win. 

“It means a lot, it’s something that I’ll always have in my life, it’ll never go away,” McBride said on the game-tying shot. 

Murray said that the offseason has allowed him and the team to improve upon their weak points and their conditioning so that they are prepared for the season.

“In the off-season, you want to get bigger, faster, stronger along with working on weaknesses and improving on strengths and that’s what we’ve been trying to do over the summer and throughout the off-season,” Murray said. 

McBride and Bell are the only returning starters for this season from last year. McBride scored 215 points last season and led the starters with a three-point percentage of 41 percent. Bell scored 290 points and led the team in blocks with 33 and had the second-highest amounts of offensive and defensive rebounds. Murray was not a starter last year but was the only bench player to play in all 28 games. 

Assistant head coach Ross Hodge wants to instill the newer players with a foundation that will lead to the team creating a solid routine among themselves.

“[We have] been building quality habits,” Hodge said. “When you have a new group together even with some older guys in new roles you’re looking to build quality habits.”

Hodge had a very memorable experience in the March Madness tournament and was glad to put North Texas on a high pedestal.

“Those things you never forget,” Hodge said. “It’s one of the coolest sporting events in the country. I’m just happy for our players to be able to experience it and for the university to be on that stage.” 

The expectations for this year’s team are at an all-time high after being ranked 13 in last year’s March Madness tournament. However, they are first looking to achieve their small goals first before looking to the future. 

“It puts expectations on our program and helps spread the belief of what we can accomplish as a team,” Murray said. “[The main goal] is to improve on what we did last year, the small goals you have to accomplish to get there but we want to get past the second round of [March Madness].” 

Image source Twitter

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Kevin Walker

Kevin Walker

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