Playing time is up for grabs at Newman. While some area college basketball teams will look to fill a void left by a graduating senior or two, Newman men’s basketball coach Mark Potter will have to fill an entire starting roster. That task is not yet complete.
“There’s a lot to be earned,” Potter said. “I have a decent idea of who might have that playing time, but some things you can’t see in practice. With our new players we still have some thing we’re going to find out. I really like this team, but we don’t have a lot of answers at this point.”
A program that went 17-13 a year ago lost all five of its regular starters and will look to fill some of those holes with a pair of NCAA Division I transfers. Senior point guard Pierre Hayden came in from Hampton and looks to make an immediate impact as a vocal leader, distributor and scoring threat in the backcourt, but 6-foot-7 senior Andre Sands from Sam Houston State may take a bit longer to contribute due to a lingering knee injury.
“Pierre is one of our transfers, and he has the largest learning curve because he’s a point guard,” Potter said. “I probably talk to him more than I talk to any other individual player. He and I have a special relationship, because I let him know when he makes a great decision but I also have to tell him when he does something wrong. There’s not a lot of time to learn everything.”
Hayden said he originally planned to transfer to Pittsburg State, but changed his mind after a campus visit to Newman in May when he met Potter and assistant coach R.J. Allen.
“When they were recruiting me, the biggest thing they said they needed was leadership,” Hayden said. “I try to lead by example and I want to be the main leader on this team, vocally and physically.”
The point-guard position often demands a certain level of leadership, and Hayden said he’s been working to craft his game away from a shoot-first mentality to fit the more traditional definition of a floor general. Newman’s typically fast-paced style works best with a guard who distributes the ball, and Hayden wants to refine that skill this year.
“I’ve been working on being more of a true point guard,” he said. “I really want to average a double-double. I want as many assists as points, and to do that I have to get my teammates involved. That’s what I’ve been working on. The main thing is being a leader.”
Helping Hayden from a leadership standpoint will be a pair of returners with more experience at Newman than any other players. Senior guards Taylor Schieber and Daniel Nwosu Jr. started seven games each last year, both seeing more minutes in the second half of the season.
Where Hayden hopes to lead, Nwosu, the top returning scorer with 10.1 points, wants to motivate with volume.
“I’m a different type of leader,” Nwosu said. “(Hayden) is more of the vocal-type guy. I’m always the loudest person, but I’m not the type of person to get on guys. I’m more of an energy, motivator guy. What I’m really trying to do this year is to be the loudest person on the court every game. My goal is to bring the most energy to the team every game.”
High-energy is a good description of a Newman program that averaged more than 83 points last season. But the pace required to maintain such a mark demands coordination and a fluidity that may not yet be there at the beginning of the season.
“One of the things we like to do is get the basketball up and down the floor,” Potter said. “So for the possibility to score we’re trying to perfect each offense we have. We hope we have guys ready to take over, but any time you have a situation like we do you’re going to have a learning curve, and I think we’re behind offensively right now.”