UWF Basketball Squads Ready For Season
Winter sports programs at the University of West Florida took center stage Wednesday, at their annual media day. In the first of a two-part report, a look at men’s and women’s basketball.
Six months after being hired as the men’s basketball coach at the University of West Florida, Jeff Burkhamer is preparing for what they hope is a season of resurrection. He inherits a team that went 7-21 last year, winning only three games in the Gulf South Conference.
“We have high expectations for our players, we have high expectations for our program,” Burkhamer said. “Academically we want to graduate guys. On the basketball court we want to play for championships, but we also want to be consistent with how we do that.”
The changes include new uniforms, and a pre-season workout routine that not even Norman Dale from the movie “Hoosiers” could dream up. Burkhamer calls it “Navy Seals training” that began just after midnight on the first official day of practice.
“The comments I heard were things like, ‘Never done that before, Coach,’ when we’re doing pushups in the sprinklers on the football field at midnight,” said Burkhamer. “[We] put them on a climbing wall; some of those guys are scared of heights. You talk to them about overcoming fear and doing something they didn’t think they could do. We did water aerobics with them; running on a track at six a.m.”
The bottom line, says Burkhamer, is getting the conditioning needed to run the Argo’s up tempo style – on offense, defense, and in transition. It’s also aimed at combating what could be something of a height disadvantage. UWF’s tallest players – three of them -- are six foot-seven.
“We want to play as fast as we can, efficiently,” Burkhamer said. “We’ll get up and down the floor, we’ll pick up and press and pressure some defensively. We’ll trap some defensively. But really, we’d like to have a couple of [six feet] nines that would be nice. But talking to other folks in the [Gulf South Conference], it sounds like we’re big enough to compete in the post.”
As the men’s team rebuilds in 2015-16, the UWF Women’s basketball team is re-loading. Head Coach Stephanie Yelton has four returning starters from last season’s team, which went 20-9 and into the second round of the Division II national tournament.
“We’re returning 83% of our scoring from last season’s team; 88% of rebounding from last season’s team,” said Yelton. “We only lost one senior from that team, but we’ve replaced her with some really quality players.”
The women’s team begins the season unranked, but has received 61 points in USA Today’s pre-season Top 25 coaches’ poll.
Women’s college basketball will be a different game this season. The main change is going from two, 20-minute halves to four, ten-minute quarters. Yelton was asked how that would change in-game tactics and player rotation.
“The biggest change with those 10-minute quarters is: the first time out a coach calls, becomes the medial timeout,” Yelton said. “And then there’s not another time out, as far as media stance goes, unless a coach calls another time out.”
The key, says Yelton, is February – when the Argos are in the toughest part of their Gulf South Conference schedule – and the stretch drive towards the conference and national tournaments.
“It is a total grind, minute by minute,” Yelton said. “If you can survive the month of February with a great win-loss record, you can play deep in postseason play.”
The UWF Women’s Basketball team opens on the road November 13 at Tampa; the first home game is with Young Harris on November 28. The men also start November 13 on the road, at Benedict College, with the home opener November 23 against Spring Hill.
In the second report on UWF winter sports, a look at Swimming and Diving.