CHATTANOOGA (WRCB) -- John Shulman smiled Tuesday as he entered the media room at McKenzie Arena.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga men's basketball coach probably couldn't remember the last time that happen.
Seven months removed from the worst season in the program's proud history, Shulman has plenty of reasons to be positive about his team ahead of Friday's first official practice of the 2012-13 season.
"Are you kidding me? Yeah. There's a lot of new energy," Shulman said. "The difference right now is like night and day from last year."
Despite returning four senior starters a year ago, the Mocs sputtered to an ugly 11-21 record, which marked the first 20-loss season in program history.
This year Chattanooga must replace those four seniors, but Shulman seems excited about that challenge.
"We're going to be 'Team Redemption' this year, but really, we've got all new kids," Shulman said. "We've got a couple of core guys back, but we've got five freshmen now that have no idea what happened last year and they could care less.
"They're only excited about this year, and they've worked hard this summer to get here."
New additions Farad Cobb (point guard), Casey Jones (guard/forward), Gee McGhee (guard/forward), Eric Robertson (shooting guard) and walk-on Alex Bran have blended well with key returnees like Drazen Zlovaric, Rico White and Z Mason in offseason workouts.
Though one might not believe it by watching practice.
"As poor as the chemistry was we had last year, we're the complete opposite this year," Shulman said. "But we did have to make a rule during workouts that what happens in here stays in here because we had kids going out there and trying to kill each other, which is something we haven't had in practice in quite some time.
"But then they're best buddies off the floor. That's what you want. It's what you need. We want it competitive in practice, and these freshmen have definitely brought it."
The Lady Mocs have upped the ante as well for the new year.
Following an early exit in last season's Southern Conference Tournament, head coach Wes Moore noted his team's growing struggles against some of the league's top teams.
Too often UTC was unable to match an opponents' toughness and tempo, so Moore made it his mission this offseason to curb that trend.
"This summer we kept them all here in the second session to get us ready rolling right into the fall, so I think right now we're in better shape," Moore said. "That's going to help us because we're going to try to play a little more pressure defense in the half-court, and maybe press a little bit."
Moore also said the team will add "a few new wrinkles" and motion on offense to mix with his "four-out" scheme, and he'll find out right away just how effective those changes will be.
The Lady Mocs' will open the season by hosting national power Tennessee on November 9 in what will be the Lady Vols' first game of the post-Pat Summitt era.
"It's going to be an historic night," Moore said. "Pat is still there, but obviously in a different role so it's going to be different. We should have a good crowd, though, and hopefully we'll have a good game and be able to compete with them."
The Lady Mocs are already underway in offseason "workouts" the past two weeks, but won't officially open the preseason practice schedule next Monday.