Men’s basketball holds first official practice

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Men’s basketball holds first official practice

Brooks Maynard, Reporter

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While many stayed in bed on the drizzly Saturday morning, the App State men’s basketball team was hard at work in its first official practice of the season. The Mountaineers will hold their season opener on Nov. 14 and have long been preparing for the upcoming season.

In the previous season, App State (12-17, 9-15 Sun Belt) experienced some growing pains in its first year in the Sun Belt Conference, as well as their first year under head coach Jim Fox.

While some players, such as second team All-Sun Belt selection Frank Eaves, had great seasons, the team itself simply could not find sustained success during the transition.

This season appears brighter for the Mountaineers, as senior guards Eaves and Chris Burgess return to the lineup to provide veteran leadership that is enhanced by a key addition in freshman guard Ronshad Allen-Shabazz.

Allen-Shabazz, a three-star commit from Raleigh, averaged 25 points, four rebounds and two steals per game as a junior at Knightdale High School before transferring to Huntington Prep in West Virginia, one of the most prestigious high school basketball programs in the country, and averaged 9.9 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game as a senior.

Former players from Huntington Prep include Minnesota Timberwolves standout forward Andrew Wiggins, the first overall selection in the 2014 NBA draft, and center Gorgui Dieng, also a first round selection, among others.

Fox believes that Allen-Shabazz will be a pivotal cog in the future of the men’s basketball program in due time.

“If he learns the system, he’s going to be a dangerous player for a long time,” Fox said.

A year into Fox’s tenure, he expects a lot from the Mountaineers this season.

“They’ve bought in and they’re really working hard to get better, they have a commitment to get better,” Fox said. “The biggest thing for us now is to clean up sloppiness.”

While the Mountaineers have been predicted by some to finish in the top half of the conference this season, they will have to compete with talented teams such as Georgia State, who upset Baylor in the first round of the NCAA tournament last season, and Louisiana Monroe, who finished 24-14 overall last season. Both teams return some of the best rosters in the Sun Belt.

App State will need to be well-prepared and ready to fight to improve on their performance for this season. The team will open in an exhibition against Belmont Abbey on Nov. 3. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m.

Story by: Brooks Maynard, Sports Reporter