UWF Basketball Begins Soon
The University of West Florida’s basketball teams open the season on Friday. Recently, they were featured at the Argonauts’ Winter Sports Media Day.
The Argonaut men travel to Albany State in Fort Valley, Georgia to open Coach Jeff Burkhamer’s second season at UWF, which improved last year to 7-19 overall, and 5-17 in the Gulf South Conference.
“We’ve never set a numerical goal, but I really think a really good goal for us this year is to make the Gulf South [Conference] tournament,” said Burkhamer. “If we can make the tournament, I’d say we’ve really upped our program and gotten to the next level.”
The home opener is set for November 19 with Auburn-Montgomery. The Argos spent the off-season and pre-season drills, says Burkhamer, improving the culture, developing a winning attitude, and getting bigger, stronger, deeper and more skilled.
“I think it may take a little time, but we’ll be better,” Burkhamer said. “We’ve got four returning seniors; we’ve added eight new players, four junior college players, one sophomore, and then we have three freshmen that we brought in.”
Later, Burkhamer said that his recruiting strategy was two-fold: to fill existing needs and look for size and athleticism – such as seven-foot-two recruit Michael Torre from Highland, Illinois.
“You always want guys that are skilled, but you also want them to be the right fit,” said Burkhamer. “They’re not just a good player, but they’re a good kid, they’re here for the right reasons, [and] they can get the academic stuff done.”
As Burkhamer continues to rebuild, the women’s team is reloading after last year’s 17-10 overall record, and 15-7 in the GSC.
“Three consecutive great seasons for women’s basketball here; with 17 wins, 19 wins and 20 wins in those three seasons,” said head coach Stephanie Yelton. “I’m so proud of the direction our program’s heading in.”
But Yelton is quick to add that the success of the program goes beyond wins and losses.
“We’re about developing our young women, making them ‘Champions for Life,’” Yelton said. “We started a six-week “Life Skills” program for our players in the preseason. Things like social media, dining etiquette, and how to live in a multi-cultural society.”
Part of the team’s bonding process was a ten-day trip to the Dominican Republic back in August, where they visited orphanages, village markets, held clinics and played four basketball exhibitions – including one with the Dominican National Team – and were generous ambassadors.
“After we finished our fourth game, our kids are taking off their sneakers and handing them to a player off the other team,” said Yelton. “Because they didn’t have shoes. They were playing in shoes that were three sizes too small.”
The Lady Argos also open up on the road Friday at Eckerd College in Valdosta, Georgia. Their home opener is November 22 against Spring Hill. Yelton says they have some achievement goals they hope to meet in 2016-17.
“With 20 wins this season, the group of seniors that are on our team that have been here for four years, it will be the best four-year span in school history,” said Yelton.
West Florida’s women’s team is picked to finish third in the Gulf South Conference, in the pre-season coaches’ poll. The men’s team is picked to finish ninth.