New Tempo, New Culture, Same Cowboys: McNeese begins men’s basketball preseason practice
LAKE CHARLES – The court at Burton Coliseum is shaking with exhilaration as the 2017-2018 McNeese Cowboys are in full swing of preseason practice to prepare for the upcoming season.
Fans can expect a faster tempo, more excitement, and no lack of athleticism from the reborn, 14-man squad.
“We are very excited about being back in practice, we’re bringing back a bigger, faster, stronger team this year” said head coach Dave Simmons who is entering his 12th season at the helm for the Cowboys.
Simmons is bringing back four full-time starters and six with starting experience. Two of the Cowboy’s top scorers, sophomore guard Kalob Ledoux (11.9 ppg, 2.8 rpg) and senior forward Stephen Ugochukwu(10.9 ppg, 8.0 rpg) are sure to be making moves on the court again this season.
“It brings confidence,” Simmons says. “For those that played a lot of minutes last year, they know we have more depth this year- and knowing that brings confidence to the team.”
Other returning Cowboys with notable contributions to the scoreboard are junior guards Jarren Greenwood (9.3 ppg) and James Harvey (8.7 ppg). Harvey is returning to the court, boasting the best free-throw percentage on last year’s team, at nearly 80%.
Ugochukwu was fourth in the Southland Conference for rebounds, totaling 209 rebounds. The Lewisville, Texas native also tallied six doubles-doubles last season as well- ranking him in the top 10 amongst other conference players.
“My role is going to be whatever capacity the team needs me. We always need more rebounds, but whether the team needs defense or scoring power, I’ll be there,” Ugochukwo says. “Our first goal is to get to the conference tournament, then obviously win conference. At the end of our season last year, all of our games were close in contest, so we’re working on building up to close those out and get the win.”
Ledoux can boast impressive offensive performances of his own, dropping 20 or more points on two separate occasions last year, against Houston Baptist and A&M Corpus Christi. He’s the first freshman to lead McNeese in scoring since Joe Dumars in 1982, and he plans to carry over his success at the net into the upcoming season.
“I like to think of myself as a leader on and off the court, and I will do whatever it takes help my team win and help us succeed,” he said.
Senior LaBarrius Hill begins his final season in Lake Charles, bringing back the Cowboys’ best shooting percentage (.515).
McNeese is also bringing new talent to the court in the form of two JUCO players reigning from Moberly Area Community College out of Moberly, Missouri. The newcomers, Quattarius Wilson, and Demarco Owens are coming to Lake Charles after helping the Greyhounds finish the previous season ranked 16thin the final NJCAA national poll.
“Wilson and Owens are coming off a coming season of their own, and will play a part in our efforts to up the tempo and add rebounds to the books,” Simmons said. “Our newcomers will allow us to be more flexible with our other players. With Owens and Wilson, Ugochukwo can now act as a perimeter player, who will be a hard match up for most of our conference opponents.”
Myles Hutchinson, another newcomer for the Cowboys, comes from Acadiana High School after an impressive senior season, making the District 3-5A second team and earning MVP honors.
“Myles adds a different, quicker guard to the team. He is extremely smart and athletic and very capable of getting some minutes of his own this year,” Simmons commented.
McNeese closed out last season at 7-22 and 4-14 in conference, wrapping up the year with a home loss to Lamar, but it is taking up a new culture this season, breeding a more fast-paced game.
Ugochukwo talks about the intensity of the new culture.
“Everyone has been working really hard during the summer,” he said. “We’re coming back faster, stronger, and with more muscle mass. It’s been emphasized to keep up the pace, no walking around; keeping the tempo up in practice will translate to the game.”
The Cowboys open up their season in mid-November, traveling to the University of Houston, matching up against the Cougars for only the second time since 2004. McNeese will host Ecclesia College for its home opener on Monday, November 13 for its last season in Burton Coliseum.
“This is the closing of an era,” Ugochukwu said referring to the Cowboys last season in Burton. “I just want to come out here and close it out well.”
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