After a championship season last winter, the University of West Florida Men’s Basketball team is ready to tip off a new campaign.
"High expectations I'd say would be one way to put where we're at now" said UWF Head Basketball Coach Jeff Burkhamer as he addressed the media last week. "So we had a great, great year (last season) and we want to be consistent with our growth and our success."
Last year’s squad won the Gulf South Conference Championship and went on to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in UWF school history, where they were beaten by Barry University in the quarter finals. Coach Burkhamer says he knows that championship will give opponents extra incentive. "We know going into games this year we're going to be some of these teams biggest games of the season, and we have to prepare that way knowing that we have to go in and play well every night."
Before losing in the NCAAs, the Argos had a 10-game winning streak. Burkhamer says the returning players from last year’s team are sharing the experience of that championship run with the new guys on the team. And finding quality new players was a bit easier this off season. "I think any time you can talk about success and (tell recruits that they can) come in and be a part of a team and a program where we changed the culture and we've grown it. You guys can come in at the top of it and keep it there and maybe take it to the next level. So that was (our sell to recruits), a different sell than our first year that's for sure."
There are seven returning players from last year’s team joining seven new players. Besides practice and scrimmages, the team has been getting out in the community as a bonding exercise and maybe a little marketing.
"We try to do a lot of different things with our team. We've done Miracle League with them," said Burkhamer. "We'll go into school and do some mini-clinics. We'll go and do some reading programs. So we try to get those guys out and get them seen, let kids see them especially and then hopefully those kids will come back and watch them play on Saturdays."
The UWF Men’s Basketball team begins its new season this Friday and Saturday at the South Region Crossover at Albany State in Georgia against Fort Valley State University. Their first home game at the UWF Fieldhouse is on Tuesday, November 20 against Spring Hill College. The Argos are ranked number 12 nationally in the first National Association of Basketball Coaches preseason poll.