CHATTANOOGA (UTC/WRCB) -- Chaos has arrived in Chattanooga earlier than expected.
The NCAA's new expanded preseason schedule will allow first-year coach Will Wade to lead his team on the court for the first official time Friday as the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga opens practice for the upcoming season.
"It seems weird that it's September 26th and we're talking about the start of practice," Wade said Thursday afternoon in a meeting with the media. "But I think it's a great asset for us to be able to take this extra time to work with our team and space everything out."
In past years, the men's basketball program started its full practice schedule in mid-October. Now the Mocs are allowed 30 practice days in the six weeks before their November 8th season-opener to prepare for their 31-game regular season slate.
While Friday will mark the first full practice of Wade's tenure, his players are already very familiar with his demanding up-tempo scheme. He's been running them through grueling conditioning workouts since he arrived in April.
"The first week when we first got in, I couldn't imagine going through this for another few weeks," said senior forward Z Mason. "But we got through it and all worked hard together. We are all better because of it."
Wade said his team not only survived, but thrived through the transition.
"You can't really understand it until you go through it," said sophomore forward Casey Jones. "You're dead and think you can't give any more, but he's in your ear telling you you're not tired and it's all in your head."
To help mold that mental toughness, Wade even brought in a Navy SEAL to lead training for three days. Mason said the coaching staff joined the players in those workouts.
"That was the best part (of the offseason)," Mason said with a smile.
Ironically, Wade's "Chaos" plan is closely controlled.
UTC's strength and conditioning staff uses heart monitors to keep track of the players' calorie burn and intake, forcing changes to their eating habits to keep up with the rigorous regimen.
"They MAKE you eat breakfast," said Jones, who is built a little slimmer than many of his teammates. "I guess it's voluntary, but you have to make up for the calories you burn. I'm eating a lot more."
Chattanooga returns four starters from last season, but that number is misleading since the squad is back to square one with a new system on both ends of the floor.
Wade also said junior combo guard Rico White will miss the first part of the season while working back from an offseason hip injury. He's on track to return for the start of SoCon play.
"Everybody's brand new. Everybody has a clean slate," Wade said. "We're all learning something new. I'm learning them, they're learning me, and I think we've made great strides since we got here in the spring.
It's new for everybody, but I'm not nervous. I don't think you can be nervous if you're prepared, and I feel prepared. I'm more excited to get out that and get this thing going.
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