Despite a team overhaul, after Thursday's practice members of the UCF men’s basketball team said they're looking forward to the upcoming season and Saturday's season opener against Prairie View A&M at Addition Financial Arena.
“Everybody just can’t stay still,” redshirt junior forward Collin Smith said. “You got guys just talking at practice not focused just because they’re ready to get going, so we can’t wait for the season to start.”
Last year was a historic season for the UCF men’s basketball team as they ended the season 24-9 overall and 13-5 in American Athletic Conference play.
At the end of the regular season, UCF was rewarded with its first at-large berth in program history. A first round victory against the VCU Rams marked the Knights' first Division I tournament win in program history.
Ultimately, the Knights fell in the second round to the Duke Blue Devils 77-76.
A rebuilding period is in the works for the Knights as many players from last season either graduated, entered the NBA draft or transferred to another school.
The offseason marked a change of the guard for the Knights with the departure of Tacko Fall, Aubrey Dawkins, B.J. Taylor, Chad Brown, Dayon Griffin and Terrell Allen. Allen transferred to Georgetown University.
“Last year, it was good for us and we learned a lot from it, but that has nothing to do with this year,” Smith said. “We're looking to go even further this year. So just having that confidence and bringing in all these new guys and trying to get them on the same standard that we were on, it’s been a good experience and it’s helped me grow as a leader.”
Some of the new faces on the roster include redshirt senior guard Matt Milon and junior center Moses Bol, cousin of the late NBA player Manute Bol.
Milon, an Oviedo, Florida native, played his freshman year at Boston College where he averaged 5.4 points and 1.4 rebounds per game, according to his UCF Athletics' player profile. After sitting out his sophomore year due to NCAA transfer rules, Milon averaged 13 points per game during his two redshirt seasons for the William & Mary Tribe.
During his redshirt junior season at William & Mary, Milon shot 44.2% from the field. His 89 three-pointers with the Tribe rank fifth in program history.
“I mean, we got a lot of really good players, a lot of new faces — people that haven’t been here before,” Milon said. “But we’re all talented in our own rights and were ready to show people what we’re all about."
It will be Moses Bol’s first season in Division I. He previously played 25 games at Colby Community College, starting in 24 of those games. Bol averaged 5.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and blocked 2.2 shots per game, according to his UCF Athletics' player profile.
UCF head coach Johnny Dawkins echoed the excitement his players displayed Thursday.
“Definitely exciting, looking forward to it, I know our players are,” Dawkins said. “We’ve been playing against each other for so long I think this offseason. They’re looking forward to some new competition.”
The Knights take on Prairie View A&M in their season opener Saturday at 3 p.m. at Addition Financial Arena. The game will broadcast live on ESPN3.
“I think these guys are looking forward to leaving their legacy,” Dawkins said. “The team before them have left theirs, now it’s their chance and I think their looking forward to that opportunity."