"It feels great," says University of Evansville fifth-year senior forward Evan Kuhlman. "I'm ready to rock 'n roll."
"Finally getting started," says University of Evansville senior guard Juwaun Newton. Practice is for real. Excited for the season."
"It feels amazing," says University of Evansville senior guard Shamar Givance. "We get to start our first practice here today. Just having everyone involved. Ready to go."
What a difference a year makes! At this time last year, the University of Evansville men's basketball were in the throes of a 22-game losing skid. However, Todd Lickliter, in his first full season as head coach, provided the steady hand to steer the Aces back on the winning path. A path that included a 4-game Missouri Valley Conference winning streak and an 8-and-4 record at home.
"We were the only ones that believed in ourselves to prove where we're at now," says Givance. "All we can do is live up from there and keep it going."
"It was very exciting for our program," says Newton, "but we know we could have done a lot more last year. So, we're just kind of picking it up this year to make up for what we didn't accomplish last year."
"Winning's a lot better than losing, obviously," says Kuhlman. "But we're looking to have an even better year this year and I think we can with the guys we got, the coaches we have, so I think we have the pieces."
And one of those pieces is a familiar face to Tri-State basketball fans. Heritage Hills alum Blake Sisley, who is part of Lickliter's first full recruiting class at Evansville.
"Great, so far," says Sisley. "We've put in our stuff this summer, kind of taking it day by day. Really easing into it. Here on the first day of practice we're looking to really perfect everything we've done so far."
"We've got a lot of new guys," says Kuhlman. "We've got freshman like Blake, Preston, come of those guys. We've got transfers, Blaise, Antoine. We've got a lot of pieces. We're slowly starting to put it together right now. And looking forward to that opener against UC."
While there are many new faces in new places, there are also plenty of familiar faces at practice. No more so than 5th year seniors Noah Frederking and Evan Kuhlman. For Kuhlman, the decision to come back for one more go around with the Aces was simple.
"I kind of just asked myself "why not"," says Kuhlman. "Then I talked it over with my family and they just said "if you really enjoy doing it, why not?". Fifth Third Bank was gracious enough to let me postpone my offer for a year, so it all worked out. Coach Lick let me come back and I'm ready to go now. It feels like I've been here forever. Heck, if they gave me a sixth year, probably takes that sixth year. I just love playing basketball with these guys and coach Lickliter."
The Aces have exactly one month to get ready before the exhibition opener against Mount St. Joseph, which begins a schien of ten games in 24 days, as long marathon that is the regular season tips off with a sprint.
"It's a good thing," says Newton. "Get your feet wet early and get some good competition."
"Let's do it, let's do it," says Kuhlman.