For a team with high expectations largely because of what returns from last season, North Texas will have a lot of new faces in new places tonight when the Mean Green plays its lone exhibition of the season against East Central (Okla.) at the Super Pit.
Tony Benford will be on the sideline for the first time after taking over the program following Johnny Jones’ departure for LSU. Projected starting center Keith Coleman also will make his debut along with point guard P.J. Hardwick, a pair of newcomers who are expected to contribute.
Even two key veterans — point guard Chris Jones and small forward Jordan Williams — will be new in a way after they sat out the second semester of last season after becoming academically ineligible.
How Benford and those players fit in with star power forward — and potential NBA lottery pick — Tony Mitchell will go a long way toward determining whether UNT meets sky-high expectations.
UNT will get its first glimpse at how the process is progressing tonight.
“It will be good for us,” Benford said. “We are tired of looking at each other. We want to look at someone else. We will see if we can have some carryover from practice to the game. The guys are excited.”
So is Benford, who said he is looking forward to his first game on the sidelines at UNT and his first as a head coach, even if it is an exhibition. He’s especially interested to see if his players buy into his philosophy.
“We want to play hard on the defensive end,” Benford said. “That will be our identity. The guys are starting to buy in.”
UNT’s players say they are making that adjustment.
“Playing under coach Benford and dealing with his style of play, practice and competition against each other every single day, we are tired of beating up on each other,” senior forward Roger Franklin said. “We want to beat up on someone else. We are very excited. ... We are ready to show some of these new faces.”
Benford said he has several combinations of players he has tried out in practice. He especially likes the look of Mitchell, who is extremely athletic at 6-8, playing alongside Coleman, who is a powerfully built 6-10.
“One of the challenges for coach Benford is having all of these great pieces of the puzzle and deciding how to put them together,” Franklin said. “It’s here now.”
BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .