The scene at North Texas on Friday morning looked like one out of mid-February, not the middle of summer.
Roger Franklin and newcomer Keith Coleman worked on their post moves at one end of the court while UNT’s guards put their heads down on the opposite end and drove straight into the paint — a new emphasis for the Mean Green under first-year head coach Tony Benford.
Summer used to be a dead time in college basketball when it came to organized practices. That has changed this summer under to a new NCAA rule that allows coaches to work with their players on the court for two hours a week.
The new regulation went into place at just the right time for UNT, which is still adjusting to Benford, a former Marquette assistant who took over the program when Johnny Jones left for LSU after last season.
“Workouts are going great,” Benford said. “The NCAA rule book is probably 500 pages and this new rule might be the best one in there, especially for new coaches. You get a chance to work with your guys, work on fundamentals and they learn your terminology. You will see guys better prepared early in the season because of the rule.”
UNT returns a veteran team with high expectations. The Mean Green lost to Western Kentucky in the Sun Belt Conference tournament title game in March and returns several of its key players, including Sun Belt Freshman of the Year Tony Mitchell.
Those players are beginning to adjust to playing for Benford, who jumped into drills to demonstrate everything from how to close out on a shooter to the proper way to cut off an opponent on the baseline.
UNT’s workout Friday was its third in a team setting. Benford also has put his players through individual drills.
“We are going 110 percent,” Franklin said. “I did my individual workout and was begging for water and sitting down at the end. Coach Benford thinks that if you are not dead by the end, he didn’t work you hard enough.”
Benford has emphasized team defense and getting the ball inside.
The time UNT has been able to spend on the court this summer should be particularly beneficial to Coleman and the team’s other newcomers, including former Argyle standout Clarke Overlander.
“The new guys don’t know how hard they have to play. We have Little Eagle Camp,” Benford said of his summer camp for youth players. “This is Big Eagle Camp. We will work on fundamentals.”
Benford carefully considered how to use the time he is allotted with his players over the next few weeks.
“The timing worked out great,” Benford said of the new rule. “I have called coaches at other schools, like UCLA and Nebraska, to ask what they are doing with their summer
workouts. I was talking with [Marquette coach] Buzz [Williams] about it the other day.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is email@example.com.